Last update: 05-Dec-2013 3:57 pm
Thursday, December 05, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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New mag making a vibes connection
Rhonda Thomas wanted to showcase T&T to the world.
Her ideas to highlight the culture, traditions, business, music, culinary delights, stories about victorious people—those who’ve overcome the odds and unsung heroes —have coalesced into a magazine called Country Vibes.
In an interview with the T&T Guardian, Thomas said the goal of the quarterly publication is to connect the people, business, products and services of T&T with each other both locally and around the globe. In fact that’s written in the magazine’s vision statement.
“We aim to appeal to a range of socio-economic groups, within the rural and urban communities throughout the T&T diaspora,” said Thomas. “It’s an organic global product by the people and for all the people.”
She said T&T has quite a strong diaspora. “It’s true what they say, you can find a Trini anywhere you go in this world.
“There are so many T&T nationals living in various parts of the globe, and some, if not a great majority have done well for themselves. Some have even been founders of institutes, businesses or cultural events that keep the essence of their national identity and promotes T&T, but we never really hear or read about them.
“We are hoping that through our readership more of these people’s stories can be told,” she said.
Growing up in a close knit community in Moruga, Thomas was taught how to be her brother’s keeper from early and it was this upbringing encouraged her love for social work.
Thomas went to England at 22, leaving behind her two children, to pursue studies in social sciences at Kent University, England. When she returned to T&T in 1999, Thomas enrolled at UWI St Augustine, where she completed a degree in social work with a major in human resource development and a minor in psychology.
She worked in various governments departments within the government, and became one of the first counsellors to work with the 800-SAVE hotline. Later, she counselled HIV and domestic violence victims at Rebirth House in Carenage, while also volunteering her services to various NGOs. Social work also took her into schools as a welfare officer and gave her the opportunity to sit on the monitoring committee of the Family Court and the committee which helped formed the National Youth Policy for the then Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs (now the Ministry of Gender Youth and Child Development).
Before leaving the government to set up her own business, Thomas rose to the rank of director of the Social Help and Rehabilitative programme (SHARE), which introduced the Smart Card—a government assistance programme for those in need.
In the early 2000s, however, while still working with the government, she took on the role of youth officer and was stationed in her home town of Mayaro where she developed youth programmes that included counselling, literacy and photography. Instinctively, it was here she had the bright idea to start a magazine to promote “Caribbean-ness” and forges relationships with the wider world.
Now in her 40s, the editor-in-chief at Country Vibes, who also holds a master’s degree in project management, said she was happy her dream came to fruition. She says her company Marpe Centre, has been successful because of partnerships formed with organisations like the Ministries of Tourism and Arts and Multiculturalism and the T&T South Florida Chamber of Commerce.
In her editor’s note of Country Life’s first issue in July, Thomas said having lived in London, England for several years, she can identify with Trinidadians living abroad who have the need for a taste of home.
“Now living within the islands, the need for positive stimulation, to support innovative efforts and to gain external inspiration is very evident for all our people, as we continue our journey towards increased development.
“With bases being established in T&T, US (New York and Florida), London England and Toronto Canada, Country Vibes Magazine is uniquely positioned to bring the broadest audience to advertisers, along with pleasurable and relevant information to millions of readers globally,” she said.
Country Vibes Magazine is available at selected book stores nationwide. It can also be accessed online, through mobile phone downloads and Kindle. For more information on availability and content visit: www.marpelimited.com
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