Sunday, February 25, 2018

Keeping the Ark afloat


donation to pre-school: Children’s Ark board members Kathy Ann Waterman, left, Simone de la Bastide, right, and principal Wayne Jordan, centre, among pupils of the Each One Teach One pre-school at Beetham Gardens. The pupils received gifts of educational books and working tools from the Children’s Ark.

Mark Fraser

At a time when most people are tightening their belts financially, the members of the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Children’s Ark are happy to know that there are those who still opt to be their brother’s keeper.

“We only came together in October and the support from the general public has been encouraging — to say the least,” said Simone de la Bastide, president of the Children’s Ark.

“A recent commitment of over $200,000 was given to us by a generous and wonderful support of the Children’s Ark. ACOS Energy Consultants (Mark Haskell) out of Alberta, Calgary will also be contributing.

“In my 15 years of doing this work I never once experienced such a response from the general public as far as Pepper Village, Caroni, all the way to the east, all over the country people have been sending us contributions small and large.

“They recognise what we are doing as necessary. They recognise what we have been doing as needed.”

The profile of the Children’s Ark board members de la Bastide has put together has also worked in the NGO’s favour.

They are Kathy Ann Waterman (vice president), Carolyn Hart (secretary), April Bermudez (treasurer), Vicki Assevero Mottley, Michael de la Bastide, Dr Kongsheik Achong Low, Gillian Lucky and new member and former first lady Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards.

His Excellency, President Anthony Carmona is also patron of the NGO.

The goal of the Children’s Ark is to improve the lives and living conditions of the nation’s marginalised children; whether they are challenged, underprivileged, abused, abandoned or addicted, according to its mandate.

“It is accepted that children and young people generally are most at risk of being neglected or abused in a society which is quickly losing its moral fibre and prone to criminal activities which target children,” said Lucky.

In its four months of existence, the Children’s Ark has assisted the Margaret Kistow Home for Children in Arima, the Each One Teach One school, Beetham. The Goodwill Industries , Wrightson is the NGO’s latest project.

“We are very proud to be working on three projects simultaneously in such a short time of existence,” de la Bastide said. That’s a great achievement, not just for us but for any NGO.”

For the Each One Teach One school, with a roll of 54 pupils from Sea Lots, Trou Macque and Beetham areas, the Children’s Ark donated educational books and furniture.

The organisation has also secured a promise from the Ministry of Education to assist the school with the necessary infrastructure needed on the building, a yearly subvention and teaching assistance.

Contribution to the Kistow Home has been tremendous, de la Bastide said. The Children’s ark has also contributed a significant amount of funds and is currently assisting the Home in its organisational structure.

“We felt that area was lacking” Dr Achong Low said.

“Apart from just giving money we find other ways to make a difference. To make the place better forever — as it were.”

Children’s Ark also contributed towards the upgrade of the facility with a $25,000 ceiling .

The Goodwill Industries project is the most recent on the NGO’s table. One of the greatest need of that organisation was a bus to transport its special children from the Wrightson Road, location to its point of pick up to get home.

According to Achong Low, the Goodwill Industries students encountered a number of issues en route to their transportation points.

“People on the route were taking advantage of them,” he said.

The Children’s Ark was able to secure a new 30-seater bus for the organisation at a reduced cost.

Given the interest in the NGO by the ordinary man and woman in the street to the professional, the board is also toying with the idea of having a Friends of the Ark to accommodate those who are willing to assist in different areas.

“There are 52 children’s homes in this country of 1.3 million people - that speaks volumes. Something is lacking some where,” de la Bastide said.

“It shows that organisations like ours and others need to get together and make a difference.”

All projects taken on by the Children’s Ark are researched thoroughly

“Since we are a non-profit group all the funds , every penny we raise goes into projects we are committed to,” said Waterman.

“We don’t put cash into anybody’s hands. And we steady our project because we don’t want to take on too much too quickly.”

Waterman is happy that there are lot of people involved with the group whose expertise they can draw upon including psychologists, doctors, bankers, event planners and business executives.

“The work of the Children’s Ark must be viewed in the context of much more than assisting vulnerable people but also helping institutions, homes and schools which provide shelter, support and learning for young people,” said board member Lucky.

“In that regard we ask all those citizens who genuinely want a better future for all our young people to come on board through donations and sponsorship of projects of the Children’s Ark.”

Contributions to the Children’s Ark can be done through RBC Royal Bank Trinidad and Tobago Ltd A/C #110000002218777