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Friday, April 18, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Bringing Christmas joy to children
While some children are abused, raped and murdered in some parts of T&T, there is one businessman in south Trinidad who is using his wealth to bring joy to the young ones during the Christmas season.
That man is Wayne Ali, the owner of Superb Caterers, who for 31 years has been dressing as Santa to distribute toys in poor villages across central Trinidad.
Ali, whose Secret Santa identity was revealed exclusively by the T&T Guardian last year, said it was important to protect the innocence of children. Noting that there was so much violence against children, Ali said he was continuing to do his part to make children happy.
Every year, he converts his St Joseph Village, San Fernando, home into “Santa’s wonderland” and invites children from all parts of the country to visit.
Every corner of his house—from the rooftop, courtyard to the poolside—has been adorned with Christmas ornaments. Santa and his reindeer straddle the roof, while elves, crèche, snowman, carousel, electric trains, candy canes, wreaths and stockings adorn the courtyard.
“Santa encourages children to be nice, not naughty. While there is so much violence against our children, I will try my best to make as many as I can happy. Children bring so much joy to this world,” Ali said. “Do not take away the fantasies from childrens’ lives, let them enjoy it while they can.”
Ali’s stint as the Secret Santa started when he was 27 years old. At that time, he worked with the Water and Sewerage Authority but went into the toy business to earn extra cash.
“As a part time businessman in the early ’80s after selling toys I remained with 120 extra pieces. Having already made a profit, I decided to donate the toys. My brother, who worked with Caroni Ltd, told me about Korea Village, where there was a lot of underprivileged children. So dressed like Santa, in my red panel van, I went there and delivered toys to these children,” Ali said.
So moved was he by the level of poverty in the community, he vowed to visit again the following year.
“This started a tradition which continues until present. I became the Secret Santa and within two years, I extended my journey to other villages—Brickfield, Wireby, Roopsingh Road and Cassava Village,” Ali said.
“After three years, I was giving toys to over 800 children, and by 1995 I extended it to Mc Bean Village squatting area, where another 400 children received toys.
“I never revealed my identity and remained the Secret Santa,” he added.
The children of the five villages know that Santa makes his appearance every Sunday before Christmas.
“Sometimes they line the road waiting for me. I never let the people know when I am coming but they just know, and on my arrival they say ‘Santa, we waiting since morning for you,’” Ali said.
The businessman said he could not part with his red van which has a reindeer, snowman and Santa perched at the top.
A man of humble means, Ali grew up in Mc Bean, Couva, with his eight brothers.
“We always celebrated Christmas in a humble and happy way with joy and family love. Christmas was my favourite time, and I always believed in Santa Claus, that’s why today I am Santa,” he said with a smile. In my time, we looked forward for the school’s Christmas treat when we got a whole apple and soft drinks. The toys were not too expensive.
“Sometimes it was just a caps gun,” he said.
He recalled one year while attending Exchange Presbyterian School, he got a Cisco Kid Two guns and sack.
“I was in total glee,” Ali said. He later passed for ASJA Boys College and later attended Presentation College, Chaguanas.
“Over the years, I started to decorate my home in St Joseph. I said to myself that my house must look like Santa’s home.
“My live 80-feet pine tree, which I planted 26 years ago, is decorated with 18,000 lights and a lit star at the top. Over the last 12 years, I have opened my home to the public. The joy I see on the children’s faces is worth every cent I spend,” Ali said.
The decorations take about three months to prepare, but Ali is not deterred by security threats or additional work.
“People ask me about security and safety, but I say God is good and he keeps me safe,” Ali said.
One of Ali’s fondest memories was when a few years ago, a relative who is a teacher asked her class to write a composition on their Christmas vacation.
“One little boy wrote that he went to this house in St Joseph Village and it was the best day in his life. This is the type of happy memories I want to give children,” Ali said.
However, his most treasured Christmas memory was when he was living in a two-bedroom apartment in Marabella with his wife Rosemarie and three children—Stacy, Darryl and Adon.
“One Christmas morning at 4.30 am I heard noise coming from the hall and I got up thinking it’s a burglar. I came out with a cricket bat in my hand to defend myself only to find my four-year-old son Darrell under the Christmas tree with his gift opened. His eyes were wide open and his face lit up with joy when he saw his big helicopter. Tears came to my eyes,” Ali recalled.
Since then, he has made a pledge to carry on his Secret Santa mission as long as he can. He also said he had no wish to enter politics.
“Over the years, I have seen politicians come and share toys and then disappear, and they never continue.
“People ask me if I’m into politics, I tell them I believe that 90 per cent of all politicians are selfish and crooked, and I do not want to have the difficult task of trying to find who the chosen few in the ten per cent are. So I stay as far away from politicians,” Ali said.
He said his reason for distributing toys was to make children happy.
“In early years, I was not in a sound financial position to do the distribution, but I took a loan and got it done.
“Now, thanks to God’s blessings, I can do it easily. Secret Santa and Santa’s wonderland go hand in hand and will continue to bring joy to the thousands of children,” he said.
He called on parents to allow their children to experience the magic of Christmas, saying children must never be denied their childhood fantasies.
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