Isaac and I were there to meet with the US Army teams on the ground, the US Embassy country team, local nonprofits, and members from the Trinidadian government to discuss ways to unify and enhance existing counterterrorism efforts in the country.
Our first stop was a meeting with Vision on Mission (VoM), an NGO recognized by the Trinidadian Ministry of Defense as one of the best, most effective nonprofits in the community. For the past decade, VoM has worked diligently to rehabilitate ex-inmates, deportees, and delinquent youth and reintegrate them into society. Efforts like this are particularly important as this small country grapples with the largest number of returning ISIS fighters (per capita) in the western hemisphere. Today, their outreach programs visit schools, halfway houses, and prisons.
As a result of their success, VoM was recently asked by the Ministry of Defense to develop a social reintegration program for inmates set to be paroled in 2017. Working with a US Army team, VoM identified audio-visual equipment as their greatest need for implementing this program. With the right equipment, they will be able to host classes of more than 100 people.
SoA responded, and thanks to our supporters, we were able to provide a sound system and projector to make the program a success. Isaac and I even had the opportunity to visit a women’s prison where the equipment is being used. While there, we heard testimonials from deportees who overcame many life challenges. VoM impacted their lives and gave them opportunities and, in turn, they are giving back by sharing their stories and promoting a more enlightened path.
Vision on Mission has made solid progress in introducing its “Preparation for Release” program and has established a strategy to provide direction for the further development and delivery of re-entry initiatives in Trinidad and Tobago. It was an invigorating and rewarding experience to be able support such an impactful program.
During our second stop, we met with another nonprofit positively influencing the community. Ryu Dan Dogo (RDD) provides youth programs, such as karate classes and an after-school curriculum, with the goal of preventing vulnerable youth from falling victim to extremist recruitment.
Isaac and I sat down with the leaders of RDD to discussed pressing local issues. Just days before, several murders had taken place only blocks away from where we were sitting. Sensei, the leader of RDD, said, “The challenge with all this crime is the lack of mentors. These kids give into peer pressure, but they need to learn conflict resolution, and we need to implement it.”
In March, RDD participated in a peace walk to stop the momentum of violence in the area. The overwhelming positive response they received from the walk led to the decision to host a sports day and job fair for the youth in the area. SoA donated t-shirts in support of the event. You can read more about that project here. The event was a success. People who had been locked in their homes for days in fear came out to participate.
Small-scale, targeted assistance, such as providing the audio-visual equipment and t-shirts, goes a long way. Because of your support, the US Army team was able counter youth recruitment by extremists and promote entrepreneurial skills and positive life choices. Check back soon to see how we can continue to help to address the challenges of crime, extremism, and violence in Trinidad and Tobago.
Until next time,