Thursday, February 22, 2018

The beautiful struggle

Volunteer group makes its mark


MEMBERS OF ‘THE BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE’: From left, Machel Richardson, Sheena Sookdeo, Marisa Jasmath, Stacy Goodings, Anatascia McMeo, Kieara Khanhai, Kezia Daniel and Javier Forrester.

Mark Fraser

It has been said that life is an upward battle, a struggle even, but for eight members of a community-based organisation, the difficulties encountered in life can be described as a Beautiful Struggle.

The Beautiful Struggle Foundation (BSF) has been in existence since 2002 and is a Christian-based group of young professionals in Trinidad and Tobago, which focuses on youth and those living in the daily struggle.

Previously known as the Children’s Crusade, the foundation in 2011changed its name to BSF.

The Children’s Crusades have been the hallmark events of the foundation. It was the children’s crusade which sparked the formation of BSF.

These events began in 2002 and in 2012 a decade was marked. The crusades started off with a puppet show being put on for children across the country in several communities and churches.

The BSF executive members are Javier Forrester, Kieara Khanhai, Anatasicia McMeo, Narisa Jasmath, Machel Richardson, Michael Pierre, Sheena Sookdeo and Bellina Barrow who have a passion for assisting those in society.

The foundation also has nine volunteers and its honorary member is attorney Veera Bhajan.

Since 2005, the group has made its presence known in various churches and has hosted a plethora of activities which uplift and guide young people.

Speaking with the Express, Forrester said: “The aim of the group has been to motivate in the context of promoting various life values and survival skills uncanvassed in a reverence for God.”

Forrester further explained: “It is our belief that sharing essential skills such as positivity, preparation, organisation and patience, we could help provide people with the tools necessary to defeat the challenges posed at each stage of life.”

He said the mantra of the BSF is that not all struggle is ugly, “but inherent in many personal struggles is that deep will to survive. Struggle means life, it means hope and it means strength.”

Forrester said the embodiment of a survivor exceeds the exception of them “that soak in passivity as trees wrinkle and the youth grow tired. Survival breeds on knowledge, acceptance and strength and is stifled under the heat of ignorance and evasiveness,” he added.

Stating that an important weapon in the battle of survival is accepting that life has its challenges, Forrester said rarely are individuals trained to face pain and fear.  “If we can truly grasp the concept that all emotions are necessary and a part of the human existence, then we can catch a glimpse of something great,” he said.

Since the change of name in 2011, the foundation, according to Forrester, has gained a broader focus by expanding beyond youth and children towards all communities with a special focus on vulnerable groups in society.

The foundation has so far done work in St Kitts and Antigua.

Funding for the foundation is done by collection drives, cake sales, donations from members of the public and even winnings from any awards received.

“We got most notably the national youth awards which gave us $4,000 in units last year and also out of pocket by the members and sometimes the volunteers,” Forrester said.

Stating that some plans for the group within the next six months will include planning the next wheelchair basketball event and having lunch time sessions with the visually impaired as part of BSF anniversary celebrations, Forrester said: “ We want to have a Blind Touch III at the Santa Cruz School for the Blind and we would like to be given the opportunity to work with the Rev Dr Derick Forrester and the new Life Inspirational Ministries in Tobago to form a small youth singing group. Hopefully we can achieve all three in that time frame.”

Within the next three years, Forrester said the foundation hopes that corporate sponsors would get on board and that events hosted by the foundation such as Blind Touch and the wheelchair basketball will be bigger.

“We would also like to expand by assisting poverty-stricken families in need of housing materials and supplies, whether it be food or school supplies. We don’t want to be heavily dependent on corporate society, we want to take the initiative and assist ourselves as we have been doing,” he said.

Adding that BSF has sold shirts with the foundation’s logo, Forrester said part of the revenue derived from the sales goes back to assist in offsetting expenses for various community-based projects. 

Achievements of the BSF 

On December 1st, 2013, BSF along with the Tobago Region of the T&T Chapter of the Disabled Peoples International hosted a wheelchair basketball challenge.  Teams from both islands gathered at Shaw Park showing off their skills.

According to Forrester, “The event was designed to raise awareness about the difficulties which the differently abled still face in this country and also in the Caribbean.

“Through sport, we hope to raise the awareness about the challenges encountered. “It is our sincere hope and wish to invite President Anthony Carmona to one of these events and we hope that he accepts”. 

National Youth Awards 2013

On August 24, 2013, BSF was awarded second palce at the National Youth Awards in the category of Volunteerism  in the Community. The Ministry of Gender, Youth and Child Development awarded the group $4,000 in units. These monies went to the purchasing of new equipment for the next wheelchair basketball competition 

Cyril Ross Charity Drive

On January 28,2012, the foundation made its way to The University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus with the aim of raising funds for supplies for members of the Cyril Ross Nursery and Home. According to McMeo: “The response was great, having received tins of food and monetary donations. Most importantly, the foundation gave out blank pieces of paper so people could write positive messages. The messages provided words of wisdom and motivation and were given to the children at the Home”. 


On December 22, 2012, the foundation visited the Cantaro Geriatric Home. According to public relations officer of BSF Kieara Khanhai: “The Rocksteady was designed around more elderly members of our communities. Two musical instruments - steelpan and saxophone - were used and a motivational speech was given by Anastacia McMeo”. 

Blind Touch

On October 9, 2012, the foundation embarked on Blind Touch.

Machel Richardson said: “The idea behind this event was centred around attorney Veera Bhajan.

“Veera’s story is not one that is in need of introduction. Neither is the plight of those who are visually impaired in our society. While Veera cannot physically touch someone, we knew after this event, she touched the hearts of everyone gathered”.

The following year, according to Kwesi Ventour, the foundation again visited the South-based Blind Welfare and delivered motivational speeches which were greatly appreciated.