Moruga youths take community award

‘Express’ picks St Vincent Ferrer Society for work with vulnerable in T&T

By Innis Francis

The Express has chosen the  St Vincent Ferrer Society (SVSF) of Moruga as the Com­mu­nity Group of the year 2013.

The Society believes Trinidad and Tobago is in moral crisis and there is a level of selfishness and entitlement that segregates the rich and powerful from everyone else.

The majority of citizens are too busy trying to keep themselves safe to care about those around them, and it’s a matter of survival of the fittest in dangerous times, the group feels.

Then, there are those who engage in risky behaviour, pursuing decadent lifestyles, unaware or uncaring of the consequences of their choi­ces, living  fast and dying young, the group says.

The biggest losers are members of society who are most at risk—the poor, elderly, sick and homeless, and it appears to be a hopeless situation, without any solutions.

However, the SVSF says it has for the past six years been doing its part to tackle these issues and bring Trinidad and Tobago back from the brink. 

And they are doing it by focusing on young people and by helping the most vulnerable citizens. And if you have never heard of them, it’s because this group seeks nothing for itself, expect to serve others, using the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The group was founded  by Moruga resident Eric Lewis and American citizens, siblings Ryan and Katie Corcoran, whom Lewis met during a mission trip to Aruba in 2007.

Lewis, a youth leader at the Moruga Roman Catholic Church since 2005, said this core group shared the same vision of responding to the needs of at-risk people in a holistic way. 

And despite objections from some elders, the group persevered, with the young members becoming involved in wholesome activities. The group grew to become international in scope, and members went to California, USA, in 2007, spending time caring for the homeless and dispossessed.

The work also continued in Trinidad with the homeless and at orphanages and hospitals while contact was made with like-minded youth groups across the country.

In 2009,  members Takiyah Marchand and Appolonia Mar­chand-Stollmeyer became actively involved, organising outreach programmes and caring for the homeless in the capital while hosting retreats, camps and lecturing to at-risk young people in Port of Spain and environs.

The SVFS also pursued a project involving Crystal Sylvester, Avionne Sylvester, Sta­ron Timothy, Antonio Geof-

­frey and Aliya Mata, spreading the message of good values at primary and secondary schools. And in 2011, the SVFS began pursuing developmental projects in Moruga, the hometown of Lewis.

The Society, with branches at The University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and The University of the West Indies (UWI), hosted a mission trip to Trinidad in 2012, involving members from the US, Hawaii, Canada and Italy, with a street youth concert in Gran Chemin.

SVFS assisted in the revitalising of the St Peters celebration, in collaboration with the Grand Chemin Fishing Association and the Mo­ruga 500 committee, and assisting in organising the celebration of the Columbus Day and Emancipation Day events annually, in collaboration with the Moruga 500 committee.

In 2012, SVFS commissioned and constructed a 30-foot St Peter’s Monument on the Moruga beachfront and  collaborated with Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Clifton De Coteau, Councillor Phillip Gonzales and the Princes Town Regional Corporation in a clean-up of the Moruga beachfront. As a result, Moruga is now open for tourism.

Lewis, who has discovered several Amerindian archaeological sites in  Moruga, also commissioned and construc­ted the Columbus Monument at the Punta De la Playa (soon to be Columbus Park and Square). And on November 30,  another project, the Moruga Mu­seum, was formally opened.

Lewis said SVFS would continue this year to impact po­sitively on youth through sport, history, culture, religion, the environment and social gatherings. And he said the group is not tied to politics, class or religion but worked with  all for the better development of society and the region.

On the Express award, Lewis was humbled. If the recognition meant more persons would become aware of the message of the group, this was enough, he said. And the message is simple:  people can be wealthy financially but poor in spirit; serve others as you would want to be treated; and teach young people good values and ethics.

It may be the only chance the country has of changing its course, he said.

The Society can be contac­ted at 320-3108

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