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The power of one

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Paula Lucie-Smith

I used to think that once I got Alta up and running, certain things and people in place, it would get easier. I would have time for all the other things in life. Yeah right. If you have followed this Guardian series for any period of time or have seen the 20 years of Alta magazine you might understand why. 


Alta’s clients can’t pay, so the struggle for funding is never-ending. Alta’s voice through this series called Reading, It’s Life, is but one voice if readers do not read and share with others. Spreading the Alta word, maybe sponsoring a student or sponsoring a class, are the things that amplify our voice to reach the ear of those who need us.


As an organisation of individuals with a common purpose, Alta does much more than pass on skills. In the words of one Alta tutor, “Alta is a social movement.” It brings people together who would not otherwise meet: not just our volunteer tutors and students, but tutor and tutor, student and student. Each comes to look at the other with a greater understanding of their differences and their difficulties. 


I have seen many students when they first come to Alta—heads down, beaten by life. I know Alta is working when that same person walks in looking at me, standing proud, with self-belief shining through. 


Going back to, “For every action, and inaction, there is a consequence,” I want to leave you with a thought on the state of our nation. Why do politicians in the UK resign as soon as there is even a whiff of inappropriate behaviour, whereas our politicians feel free to openly serve themselves and their friends? The difference is not in the character of the politicians, but in the character of the people they serve. We tolerate that behaviour—from a PM mansion to billion-dollar contracts to friends. Our inaction enables corruption and injustice. 


Look at people who have taken action. In my time in a Port-of-Spain drain for hours under the blazing sun as Wayne Kublalsingh wasted away, I was surprised by the apparent scant support. A clue was the number of people who told me I was brave to join with the Highway Reroute Movement protest. For me, when the stakes are government accountability and transparency, inaction is not an option. I consider the consequences. 


I am a firm believer in the power of one. Each of us often underestimates our individual power. When I met with a handful of women in October 1992 to create Alta, did I think that I would be managing 50 classes with over 300 volunteer tutors and 2,000 students? No way! No one sets out to change the world. You do it one small act at a time, and the starting point is choosing action over inaction. If Alta is anything to judge by, the power of one becomes the power of many—and then, and only then, does the world change. 


Become a part of Alta. Volunteer, donate, sponsor a student. Alta volunteers are unpaid. Call 624-ALTA (2582) or e-mail or find us on Facebook: Alta Trinidad.