Members of bpTT Renegades Youth Steel Orchestra (RYSO) made history last Sunday (February 19) when they won the Junior Panorama Final contest in the Elite category with a rendition of Calypso Rose...
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Shane’s on a mission to help those in need
Maraval resident Shane Rojas Hamel-Smith plays local semi-professional soccer with The Texas Dutch Lions, at Houston. But he’s also known for another feat—he’s on a serious mission to help people in need.
While attending University of St Thomas, (UST), Rojas Hamel-Smith and his friends— including business partner Guatemalan Otto Kevin Valdez—created a business project GroupRaise. GroupRaise has now evolved into a business enterprise GroupRaise.com
In a nutshell, it’s about connecting groups and organisations with restaurants to host fund-raising events for a percentage of its sales. For example, a mission group might wish to raise funds for people affected by a natural disaster like an earthquake or someone who’s in dire need of surgery. They select a restaurant to host the fund-raiser and the money which they raise is from part proceeds of the sales.
Coupled with raising monies for a worthy cause, the “Good Samaritans” enjoy delicious food and drink, engage in conviviality and develop and nurture a sense of community. At the heart of GroupRaise.com is the sense of sharing and community spirit which is second nature to a Trini. Its tagline is about Connecting Local Community with Restaurants Who Care.
Bringing GroupRaise.com to T&T
On Wednesday, Rojas Hamel Smith, 25, spoke about his plans to bring GroupRaise.com to T&T by July. It targets schools, churches, university groups and other non-profit groups looking to connect with restaurants for fund-raisers.
Reverting to its genesis, Hamel-Smith said, “It was just an idea. It started as a project. And we decided to run with it. The mastermind was Valdez.”
Before leaving for Houston on Thursday, he had busied himself meeting with former Independent Senator Diana Mahabir-Wyatt, NGOs, businessmen and concerned citizens about the prospects of launching GroupRaise.com in July.
Rojas Hamel-Smith said, “I am gift wrapping the idea. I want to bring GroupRaise.com here to my homeland. Apart from it being a great idea, I truly believe Trinbago is losing its way. I feel from crime to the political corruption, the once peaceful and harmonious twin island state has seemed to have strayed from its roots. I hope to bring GroupRaise here to help bring communities together. Not only will it help a lot of struggling businesses, but more importantly it will help bring Trinidad and Tobago back to the beautiful place it truly is. I am very patriotic.”
To date, Rojas Hamel-Smith was buoyed by the response. “I am hoping to work with NGOs. I am not a competitor. I want to be seen as a partner for groups like Red Cross and other NGOs. I met with Diana Mahabir-Wyatt. It was truly an awesome experience talking to her. I met with businessman David Mowser and I spoke to Mary’s College. I hope to return in July for a launch.”
How GroupRaise.com works
Rojas Hamel-Smith explained the modus operandi of GlobalRaise.com Zeroing in on its business aspect, Hamel-Smith explained, “Let’s say we have an arrangement with a restaurant, the bill goes into a receipt box. A certain percentage goes into the box as incremental revenues. It comes at little cost to everyone. They are providing food. The restaurant’s overheads like its rent, water and lights are not affected. Labour is not affected. What is being affected is the incremental revenue.”
He also said the percentage was debatable—from 50 to ten per cent. “The restaurant sometimes gives as much as 30 per cent or all of it. It’s a win win for everybody.”
He explained the enterprise targets slow periods in a restaurant.
“We help them bring in customers during the slow period. If the fast period is 12 to 1 pm, the charitable group might want to have their event from 3 pm to 5 pm.”
Their intervention takes the hassle from organising an event; employing social media.
Hamel-Smith said, “At the click of a mouse, they have no problems because GroupRaise.com simplifies every step of orchestrating and managing community efforts. The group or restaurant does not have to send emails to various social groups, issue monthly newsletters about locations and release press about fund-raising stories. “In America, it helps to fund partnerships with national charities like the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association.”
Rojas Hamel-Smith, explaining how the group works, said, “The restaurant gets a flat rate charge when they accept to host the mission. One for saying ‘yes.’ They charge another flat rate that is directly related to the number of people who come to the fundraiser. They make more money during that time than they would otherwise.”
On his intervention, Rojas Hamel-Smith said, “I don’t expect it would change the society overnight. But I want to give back something to sweet T&T.”
About Rojas Hamel-Smith
Born in San Fernando, Rojas Hamel-Smith had a very humble beginning. His elder brother Jason Rojas encouraged him to develop his love for sports.
He said, “You are not the brightest cookie in the barrel, and grandpa is not here to support you, so you are going to have to get a scholarship. You have to get good at a sport; play football. The rest is history...” His love for sports was ignited at St Mary’s College (CIC). From CIC, at 18, he attended an international soccer combine in Florida for university recruitment. He was recruited to Houston Baptist University an NCAA D1 college for a year before transferring to UST.
In May 2012, he graduated from UST with a Major in Finance and Minors in Economics and Psychology. Upon graduating in May 2012 with Honours, he accepted an offer to get involved with the UST community as the assistant men’s soccer coach. He accepted graciously.
“Being very family oriented and having an undying love for soccer I very much welcomed the opportunity, which I currently hold,” said Hamel-Smith.
He paid kudos to his mother Frances Hamel-Smith and his father figures/uncles like Acting President Timothy Hamel-Smith for their guidance. His sisters Daniela and Kristin have been a pillar of support. He still misses his late grandmother, Edna Rojas, who passed on at 105.
Rojas Hamel-Smith cherishes another secret ambition.
“I want to play football for my country. I admire Ryan Riggs; He is the best football on the planet. I’m a fan of Russell Latapy...the magician.”
His Honour Roll
• Intercollegiate Soccer Team; assistant coach (2011-Current)
• Intercollegiate Soccer Team; co captain (2008-2010)
• University of St Thomas Athletic Scholarship recipient
• University of St Thomas Academic Scholarship recipient
• Dean’s List
• Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society, (2009–current)
• Cameron Business Honor Society; (2008– current)
• Student Alumni Association; student leader. (2009–2012)
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