Last update: 10-Dec-2013 1:42 am
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Shining a light on poverty
To see a family living in absolute squalor, children unable to attend school, no money, no food—just extreme poverty and hopelessness is enough to make anyone with a heart cry.
Touched by witnessing this reality during a recent visit to a family’s home in Sangre Grande, CEO of Starlite Pharmacies Gerald Aboud, decided to start a new NGO called the Starlite for Humanity Foundation, dedicated to assisting people who are in chronic poverty and who are living in derelict situations. It will be launched on November 17.
Aboud, 38, said it was always in his heart to start such a foundation, but after meeting with that particular family and seeing the unbelievable living conditions, he was prompted to launch the foundation much earlier than planned.
“I feel privileged to have so much and I just want to be able to give something back. I won’t admit to having some big heart or something but I just believe that I have to help in some way. I am trying to find that way to help and hopefully this can be it,” he says.
“Maybe I am doing it for myself…maybe not. I am not really sure exactly. I just know I have to give some meaning to my life and so if I can help, I want to help. I am tired of just living for me. I mean I have so much and when I saw how sad those kids were living, I just don’t feel right living the way I do. So, maybe this is my way of justifying having more than I should have. So, I am going to help.”
Aboud said the foundation, which is self-funded, would be a conduit for change and aims to build or repair dwelling structures for needy families after a screening process and an assessment.
Co-founder and vice-president of the foundation, Sherna Alexander-Benjamin, who was also interviewed by the T&T Guardian, said although the foundation won’t reinvent the wheel, as there are similar NGOs already in existence, it will try to do its part in nation-building by enhancing the lives of those less fortunate.
She also stressed the need for corporate T&T to get on board with such NGOs as all “hands must clap,” if T&T is truly to become a better place.
Alexander-Benjamin, also the president of the Organisation for Abused and Battered Individuals (OABI), and no stranger to charitable work, said she was happy though, that so far all of whom the foundation had reached out to for help, have been willing to collaborate.
She said the NGO would not only assist with building homes but would also provide basic necessities such as food, clothing, educational supplies and counselling and social development to families. Some of these tasks it has already begun with the help of other NGOs like the Canadian Women's Club, the Jericho Project and the Glorious Environmental Foundation headed by Dayne Harford of Daynco Limited.
"Our desire is really to work with the Ministry of the People and Social Development as well as the Ministry of Housing and the Environment. And, let me just assure people that it is not about politics but solely about helping people and giving them a chance to live a better life," Alexander-Benjamin stressed.
She said the foundation would also aim to restore family values and family life in various communities across the country by working with individuals to become more self-sufficient—creating an environment which empowers them to become more responsible and accountable citizens, rather than being continually dependent on society.
In the coming months, the foundation will embark on the building of homes for seven families.
"The family that we are currently building the home for is a family of six—four children and two adults, ages six months to eight years old. One of the children is brain-damaged. The eldest two are attending school, but barely doing so.
"What we want people to understand is that nobody loves poverty or homelessness. Nobody aspires to become poor and homeless. But it is because of various situations and circumstances people find themselves in poverty."
She said while the foundation would not be able to help every needy family, it will help one family at a time.
"The foundation will not eradicate poverty. However, it will reduce it. And it will not eradicate abuse, as poverty often goes hand-in-hand with abuse. However, it aims to touch lives with hope and a ‘starlite,’ while building a future for the nation's children who have been left behind."
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