WHEN Elon Hayden Mayo came face to face with two gun-toting thugs standing over his mother in the yard of their Arima home nine months ago, he did not think twice about his own safety as he charged at one of the men.
One of the gunmen fired several shots, hitting 30-year-old Mayo and his 60-year-old mother who had just returned home from church around 9.30 p.m. on December 1, 2010.
The gunmen's goal was to rob the woman of her Mitsubishi Lancer car.
They left empty-handed and, to this day, remain at large.
Mother and son were rushed to the Arima District Hospital and later transferred to the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex (EWMSC) at Mt Hope where they were warded in critical condition.
Both survived and Mayo, at Wednesday's National Awards ceremony at Queen's Hall, St Ann's, on Independence Day, was awarded a Humming Bird Medal (Bronze) for gallantry.
In an interview with the Sunday Express on Friday, Mayo said the experience was a humbling one.
"You don't really expect to be recognised for something personal like that," Mayo said.
"To me it was just me saving my mom from nefarious individuals. It was not something I thought people would take notice of, much less get a national award for."
Mayo said his mother's wounds have healed but she is still very much traumatised.
"On the other hand, I am not really going to let such an incident interfere with my life. I am turning 31 this month and I still have a lot to offer in this life and life still has a lot to offer to me.
"I am a lot more vigilant now than I was ever before and I encourage my friends and my family to be also very vigilant but I am not going to allow this to change my life in a negative way. I am not going to be afraid. I am a firm believer in God so I know I am protected."
Mayo, who is a research and development specialist at the Ministry of Public Administration, said the family moved out of their Reid Lane home shortly after the attack.
Of the award, Mayo said his mother was proud of him but also concerned that the perpetrators were never apprehended.
Also receiving a Humming Bird Medal (Bronze) was community and social activist Chaitram Kapoor Rampersad who is the co-ordinator of HEAL—a drug rehabilitation centre at Couva.
Rampersad said he has dedicated the last 38 years of his life to community service.
He is one of the founding members of HEAL which has been in existence since 1990.
"It was a joint venture programme between Caroni (1975) Ltd and the All Trinidad Sugar and General Workers' Trade Union," Rampersad said.
"At that time there were a lot of drug-related and alcohol-related incidents in Caroni so the union and the company came together to come up with a solution to the problem.
There was no industrial policy that would assist workers who were found under the influence and had incidents of drug and alcohol related accidents and so on. They used to be fired and suspended. So we decided to create a programme that would assist the employees instead of them being suspended or fired."
Rampersad said the programme was heavily subscribed and very soon even members of the community, who were not employed at Caroni, started showing up at the centre.
"At that time, from the banks of the Caroni River right down to South, there were no rehabilitation centres. There were no facilities to treat alcoholics and drug addicts. So because of the need, we had to extend the services to the rest of the national community."
To date, we have had more than 2,000 clients pass through the residential programme while approximately 700 to 1,000 clients have been enrolled in the outpatient programme."
Rampersad said the nongovernmental organisation, at Milton Road, Milton Village, Couva, receives an annual subvention from Government but he says it is woefully inadequate.
"The building we are using is one of Caroni's old bungalows which is almost 100 years old. The building is in great need of expansion and repairs."
Rampersad said the award he received is a tribute to all the men and women who continue to work in the field of drug and alcohol rehabilitation.