Opposition complains about ‘army of street children’

Abused and abducted children have been shamefully neglected by the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) as it is yet to proclaim legislation created eight years ago to protect them, says Opposition Senator Dr Jennifer Jones-Kernahan.

The package of children’s legislation was originally laid by the Opposition United National Congress Alliance (UNC-A), when it was in office as the UNC, in 2000.   

"What we have in this country, Mr Vice President, is an administration that is guilty of the most unconscionable, cynical neglect, shameful neglect of the children of this country over the past seven years," Jones-Kernahan said.

She made the assertion during Tuesday’s sitting of the Senate as the Government sought the passage of a bill that is meant give The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction the force of law in Trinidad and Tobago.

Jones-Kernahan said the issue of international child abduction in itself should be dealt with in separate legislation but should comprise a package of bills to address serious issues regarding the welfare of children in Trinidad and Tobago.

Her fellow Opposition Senator, Mohammed Faisal Rahman, agreed, "We have a growing army of street children in this country," Rahman said.

In laying the bill, Attorney General Bridgid Annisette-George laid the case that specific legislation is needed to deal with cross-border child abductions, especially those carried out by parents in custody cases.

The bill seeks to establish a Central Authority to Child Abduction, the functions of which would be discharged by the Attorney General.

"Several thousand children are the victims of international parental child abduction each year. In fact, Mr Vice President, we in Trinidad and Tobago have not been spared such a development," Annisette-George said.

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Help street children, says Fay-Ann

Help street children, says Fay-Ann

By RHONDOR DOWLAT Thursday, February 7 2008

It has been a bitter-sweet Carnival for Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez who won the 2008 Road March title but placed third in International Power Soca Monarch competition, which went to her husband Ian “Bunji Garlin” Alvarez.

But Lyons-Alvarez is ready to put the season behind her and yesterday expressed greater concern about the growing number of street children, deplorable road conditions and the lack of airplay for fellow soca-artistes who, she said, “did their best just like myself and Bunji did.”

While celebrating the victory of her song “Get On” which DJs and music bands played 331 times on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Lyons-Alvarez took the opportunity to call on the Government to establish homes and not shelters for street children.

“This issue is closest to my heart. I wish that the Government use some of those dilapidated buildings throughout the country and restructures it to homes for homeless children,” she said at her Roystonia, Couva home. “We need so much for social workers to go to house to house and check out families and provide counselling where needed. We also need counselling in schools because the youths of today seriously need a sense of direction.”

Lyons-Alvarez said she had spoken to three female students of Debe Secondary School who had thought about dropping out.

“After that talk I learnt that they had changed their minds from dropping out of school and I want to applaud them for being positively focused.”

Lyons-Alvarez also expressed disappointment that the media, both electronic and print, failed to give fair press coverage to soca artistes and air play to their songs. “You can’t just accredit one person because he or she won a major title but all of us worked hard the same way and deserves fair play.”

The couple was watching television when the NCC announced the results of the Road March.

“I was sitting next to Bunji on the couch looking at the television and when the results were announced he and I began running in excitement around the centre table of the living room. Then one of my cousins called and I told her to come over. The rest of the day would be spent at Bunji’s mother’s place in Arima where we will have a big cook and lime,” said Lyons-Alvarez. This is her second Road March win, as she won the title in 2003 with “Display”.

In spite of this victory, Lyons-Alvarez insists she won’t return to the Soca Monarch competition next year. Although he won, Garlin had previously said he felt his wife had beaten him. “This year definitely was my last year in entering the Soca Monarch, so my focus is to continue progressing in music and otherwise. In two weeks time we tour to Guyana, from there, to Orlando, New York and in May, Germany. So Bunji and I have a lot in store for this year and well, we will see for next Carnival, this is something we cannot plan, it just falls into place.”

‘Govt must care for street children’

Homeless and unsupervised children have been at the forefront of most criminal activities as a means of having their basic needs fulfilled, the Small Enterprising Business Association (SEBA) said in a statement yesterday.

It said the children were also being used by adults who exploit their homelessness and lack of supervision.

"We wish to suggest that in Government’s plan to establish a Children’s Authority, part of the mandate of this new body should be to eradicate the problem of street children and unsupervised children who have so become either through death or separation from parents, perhaps by crime or imprisonment," SEBA said in its call for a special protection programme.

"These children, who become young people, do so without any sense of purpose or value to their own lives or the lives of others, thus making this growing population of street children and incubator for the development and nurturing of criminal activity."

SEBA said everything must be done to generate a sense of pride and self-esteem in these young individuals.

"They may not reach out to us so we must reach out to them, redirecting their youthful energies into positive activities, thus allowing all sectors of the population, with specific reference to the small business sector, to enjoy a crime-free country and to be able to ply their trade in comfort with the only threat to the success of their business being the effects of the competitive environment in which they operate."

Strengthen social services in Budget

Strengthen social services in Budget

By RHONDOR DOWLAT Monday, August 20 2007

DWARIKA BOODOOSINGH, Chair-man of Operation Rescue Street Children, made an urgent plea to Prime Minister Patrick Manning to remember street children in his Budget presentation 2007/2008 in Parliament today at 1.30 pm.

Boodoosingh claimed that presently, there are 18 children living on the streets of Port-of-Spain, many of whom have been abused both sexually and physically by adults.

“There is a significant number of children living on the streets and it seems nobody cares about them,” Boodoosingh said.

“We need to have a permanent place to put these children so they can be fed, counselled and nurtured. Most homes take them in but send them back out on the streets at the age of 16. We don’t need those kind of homes because they are not helping the situation,” he added.

Street children who range from the age of three to seventeen spend their days begging. At nights, they go to any of the parks in and around the city, including Victoria Square and other open spaces, where they huddle together for warmth as well as protection from sex predators.

This country signed the World Declaration for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in 1990.

Boodoosingh challenged Manning to make provisions for the street children and homeless in the Budget especially since one of the areas expected to receive significant funding in the Budget, is social services.

Gospel singers come out for street children

Gospel singers come out for street children

By SEETA PERSAD Friday, March 30 2007

THE DEEPLY religious and spiritual singer Rev Peter Regis will head a team of gospel singers for a Judah Promotions fund-raising event this weekend.

The show takes place at Lion Cultural Centre, Fitzblackman Drive, Woodbrook, tomorrow at 5pm. All proceeds from the event will be used to provide food, shelter and clothing for street children in Port-of-Spain. Other gospel singers to perform at the event are Michele Modeste, Pastor Gumbs, Samuel Dyer, Christine Balbosa and the Chris Academy for Dance.

According to Allison Joseph, managing director of Judah Promotions and Catering Services (JPCS), the organisation is a Christ-centred business company based at 71 Long Circular Road, St James. It was established as a youth ministry to assist street children and young adults from broken homes.

“Through the two years we have been in existence, the JPCS has been able to provide counselling, as well as accommodation and basic needs of the many teenagers and other children who were found wandering on the streets of Port-of-Spain and surroundings,” Allison said. They have also been able to employ a number of youths who have skills in baking and cooking.

Allison emphasised that because of the increasing number of street children, she has since dedicated all of her time and effort toward bringing relief to those who have lost their way in life.

“There is a home in God’s world for all of his children and we must see that all of them are allowed to grow up in a proper home where they will learn how to pray and how to become good individuals,” Allison said.

After opening her catering business, Allison decided to give back to society annually through fund raising concerts. She has hope of opening a transition home for street children and is working with the Divine Outreach Ministries to achieve that objective.

The board of directors includes Allison Joseph (managing director); Pastor Daniel Parks (deputy chairman); Ancil Joseph (accountant); Pastor Mark St John (chairman /accountant); Rhadica Boyce; (secretary).Tessa Moses, Allysha Joseph and Jeanette Samuel are event co-ordinators.

Allison said each member of the board is equipped in some area or the other to assist these children. Some members are pursuing degrees in social work and psychology.

This is being done to ensure that qualified persons are on board to guide the children emotionally and professionally.

Outpouring of love for ‘Smiley’ and ‘Kicks’

Outpouring of love for ‘Smiley’ and ‘Kicks’

By RHONDOR DOWLAT Friday, December 15 2006

NEWSDAY’S Chacon Street, Port-of-Spain head office was inundated with telephone calls all of yesterday as dozens of emotional readers poured out their love for the three street children whose heartbreaking life stories were featured exclusively in yesterday’s edition.

The lead story titled: ‘Street Children Dream of Love for Christmas,’ led to readers both at home and abroad, calling to extend heartfelt best wishes and the hope that the street children story has a happy ending. There were even offers made by some to adopt the children, others stated their willingness to give them jobs while others promised daily baths, clothing and meals for them.

Some of the callers mood switched from sorrow to anger as they asked what was the Government doing to protect the less fortunate in society especially children.

“I cannot deal with this. This situation is so heart rending. Can’t the relevant authorities do something… these are only children, they are our future generation. They really need mothers, loving parents as a matter of fact,” stated Carol from Palo Seco.

Stephen Homer, from Youth Against Crime volunteered to raise funds for these children. Homer even offered to provide a full Christmas meal for them.

In Wednesday’s article, Newsday highlighted the plight of two street children “Kicks,” 14, and “Smiley,” 18, who both wished for their mothers on Christmas Day.

They also described the hard street life — having to fend for themselves and not knowing where or when their next meal will come.

Upon receiving the Newsday readers’ words of love, the boys expressed their happiness. With broad smiles on their faces, one of them said he didn’t mind moving into a new home. He even promised to “behave mehself”.

In response to the concerns raised, Communiciations Specialist in the Ministry of Social Development Carol Ann Mc Kenzie disclosed that there are several institutions established to accommodate these street children but admitted there were many challenges.

“We have the National Family Services and the Socially Displaced Unit to house these children. But for some reason or the other, when they (the children) are placed there, they run away,” she said.

Mc Kenzie revealed that the Ministry has launched a full-scale investigation as to why these children are being allowed to run away from these institutions.

All I want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas

By RHONDOR DOWLAT Thursday, December 14 2006

“All I want for Christmas is my mummy, but unfortunately I can’t get that because she died about seven years ago,” 14-year-old “Kicks” said yesterday.

Since Kicks was seven years old he has roamed the streets of Port-of-Spain. He ventured out after his mother died of cancer. His father, Kicks said, was not able to raise him and six other siblings.

“After my mother died of cancer my father got another woman leaving us behind. It hurt me so much that I could not stay home, I had to go out there (the streets) to fend for myself and my brothers and sisters,” Kicks said.

“I wanted so much to go back home but I couldn’t. It was so much pain. I felt like my heart was bleeding especially every time I think about my mother. Ever so often I would go to her grave side and cry because I miss her so much,” he said.

Kicks described living on the streets as hard, but said that “at the end of the day” he and the other street children he made friends with, over the years, were left with no other choice.

“Yes, I too got caught up with the wrong. I was introduced with smoking weed at age eight and ever since I do it. I do not abuse it but I still do it, I really can’t help myself, at least that allows my mind to be peaceful just for a moment,” Kicks said.

“I really do wish to change but I desperately need help and I see other children my age that also need help. I also tried to kill myself once because I could not stand the pressure,” he added.

During this Yuletide season, seeing Christmas decorations along every street and hearing Christmas carols and Parang music ringing out from boom boxes carried around by music pirates, Kicks described the season as an emotional time.

“I wish sometimes that everyday could be Christmas, the music, the toys, the decorations and most of all the food. I sit on the pavement sometimes and look at children my age or younger with their moms — hand in hand — I would then close my eyes and imagine I am that child holding onto my mother’s hands walking down the streets,” Kicks said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

“Too much pain, all I want for Christmas is my mummy, that is all I want. I want to be held by her, hugged and kissed. Having her in my heart is ok but I want her back from her grave,” Kicks said.

One of Kicks’ friends, “Smiley” said that he always looked out for Kicks’ welfare and a few others.

“I am the oldest out here on the streets and I think that I ought to act like a brother for them because I too don’t have anybody. Well, I have a big brother but he is much older than me and he lives his own life,” Smiley said.

Smiley’s mother died of AIDS when he was just three years of age. From what he understands she had contracted the disease from his father. “My father left while I was still a baby and my mother died when I was three years of age. From that tiny age you can say I went out on the streets. I really don’t remember how I reached out there but I reached,” Smiley said.

“Ever since up to today I am only 18 years and I am still on the streets,” he added.

Smiley revealed that he, Kicks and some of the other boys are employed by an arcade to do handy work. He said that they are paid enough to get around with.

“We also do a little hustling when the day comes — begging for food, money and clothes. I know it is bad but that’s how the life is, that’s how we have become. People try to help us and when we do ‘give in’ they betray our trust — both emotionally and physically. That is one thing I don’t want to get into right now, but trust me,” Smiley said.

When asked what he wanted for Christmas, Smiley replied, “I want you (Newsday reporter) to adopt me. I want somebody like a mother-figure and you look like that type. No one has ever talked to me so nice like you did today. You were not afraid to stand close to me and to speak to me with a soft nice voice and a loving smile. I wish I can have you as my mom for Christmas,” Smiley said.

“I often prayed and asked God for some kind of sign that some people out there are genuine and today (yesterday) I can see that at least my prayer has been answered. My mother is dead and I really don’t know her but for some strange reason I thought I saw her today (yesterday),” he added.

Both Smiley and Kicks said that they would spend Christmas Day as an ordinary day. “I know it is a special day. But usually I don’t have anywhere to go. I may be able to find some relatives but they always run me. I still going by them this year, it better to try and fail than fail to try,” Smiley said.

“I think I may go to my father’s house. I don’t know if he would welcome me but I will try maybe I can get a Christmas meal. If not I will spend the day by my mother’s grave,” Kicks said.

Newsday cycle classic, fun run today

Newsday cycle classic, fun run today

Sunday, September 24 2006

THE stage is set for the fourth edition of the Newsday Cycle Classic Fun Run at King George V Park and the start of a rivalry with the Tobago International Cycle Classic is expected.

Among the competitors will be road race king Emile Abraham who completed a credible second place finish last week in the sister isle.

But the Tobago-born Abraham will have a tough challenge when he comes up against his Angostura/ Toshiba teammate Bruno Langlois today in the feature 30-lap circuit grind.

The race pedals off at 1.30 pm and will be followed by the Newsday 5k Fun, Run and Walking race. Participants will be required to pay an entrance fee of $30 while company teams of ten persons will cost $200. The race is an ongoing venture by Newsday to assist the nation’s street children.

All proceeds of the race will go towards the “Save the Street Children Fund” — a gesture Newsday started, and is asking corporate Trinidad and Tobago to join in the fight to save the street children. Among the cyclists in today’s ride is another Canadian Phillip Cortes who made his debut on local soil at the Tobago classic, and will be hoping for a better finish this time around. He finished third overall then in a time of 13 hours 36 minutes and 52.6 seconds, eight minutes behind Langlois.

Langlois who finished the fifth and final stage of the race in third position, recorded an overall winning time of 13 hours, 28 minutes and nine seconds. Abraham had a 13 hours, 33 minutes and 16 seconds finish after winning the final stage, dubbed the Palatuvier Stage.

Another big threat to the “big guns” will be local boy Guy Costa who produced a series of good rides to be fourth overall in Tobago.

The day’s event which for years produce a gathering of families, will also see a quick one-lap sprint for international cyclists.

This will be followed by other cycling events for juniors and BMX races, and races for veterans and other categories.