It is with ebullient ecstasy that I offer my sincere congratulations to my mentor, Fr. Gerry Pantin and all the staff and volunteers of SERVOL as they celebrate their 40th birthday! SERVOL has done more for my personal development than I could ever do for them. The year 1969, cricket-wise, was a disastrous year for me. I was working for West Indian Tobacco Company (WITCO) on a coaching programme throughout Trinidad with the Wes Hall Cricket League and was due to return home to Barbados in three months. It was at that point that Fr. Pantin approached me and asked whether I would join him in a humanitarian project in Laventille, which was to upgrade the standard of living of the young people in particular and the people of Laventille in general.
I was in the middle of one of the curious paradoxes of society which was to be famous but poor. I had come from the plantation world–the world of the early 20th. Century — the adage of high moral values — the age where the village raised the child.
I was torn between the morality of the village and the disenfranchisement of the people. I had seen both worlds and I don't know if Fr. Pantin knew this at the time, but I was a prime candidate to accompany him on this mission. I gladly accepted.
Laventille and the Service Volunteered for All idea captured my imagination and I wanted to do everything to help in the short time I had left in Trinidad. The idea was marvelous and the time had come for its execution.
Walking up that hill with Fr. Pantin was a memorable experience. We were cognizant of the fact that many had tried before and failed .
We had no press-men or cameras. We were just two men who told the people we wanted to help. The idea was Fr. Pantin's and I was the facilitator. This resonated with the people and immediately we were given an office and Fr. Pantin convinced some volunteer-ladies that it was okay to walk up the Laventille Hill and do some work.
I was tremendously impressed with the great talent in the area and what greater examples to follow than the West Indian Tobacco Gay Desperadoes Steel Band of Laventille, the greatest exponents of the art-form and this was a great motivational factor.
Rapid expansion started. The programmes spread to various communities across Trinidad as it now evident in today's T& T's telephone directory. There was an increase in volunteers and I was heartened by the fact that the day I left Trinidad, twelve members of the Defence Force were seconded to work with Fr. Pantin.
This experience of working with SERVOL was uplifting and stimulating and I knew from that moment on, I would commit my life to Service. I went immediately to study Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management at the Industrial Society of London. On returning to Barbados I was appointed Regional Staff Welfare Manager for Cable and Wireless.
I gave 23 years of Service in Politics and served as a Cabinet Minister of the Crown and one of my portfolios was Community Development. I gave the Feature Address at the culmination of a Training Programme for Community Leaders, which was facilitated by none other than Trainers from SERVOL who received rave reviews for their excellent training methods. It was indeed a great joy and a rewarding feeling to witness that the work of SERVOL was spreading, not only in Trinidad, but throughout the region.
After all that I had done in my corporate and political careers, the crowing experience was completed when I was ordained as a Minister of the Gospel in 1998. My life prior was that of giving service to the social, physical and political needs of my communities but now I have a higher calling and that is to give service to the spiritual needs of my fellowman. This, I am a sure, has been influenced by my association with SERVOL and following the example of Fr. Pantin.
I wish God's continued blessings on the work of SERVOL and may this organisation grow in strength and uphold and surpass the vision set by Fr. Pantin 40 years ago. Happy 40th anniversary!