You are here
War survivor helps ‘hot spot’ residents
With her well known reputation as a fashion plate, Rosamonde Montano may not on the surface appear to be the sort of person familiar with trauma, loss and displacement. Montano’s eye-catching signature hats and elegant figure have graced many an opening of Parliament (and fashion page) alongside her husband, former senate President Danny Montano. Presently, however, Montano might not be wearing any high-fashion hats or stiletto heels when she heads to depressed “hot spot” communities alongside PNM MP Nileung Hypolite in an outreach assistance initiative which began yesterday in Beetham. Montano would be on a different mission, well removed from Parliament functions or social events— a mission which takes her back to a place in her own life that many may not know about.
Montano has called T&T home for almost 35 years. Her three children have grown up here. Her first husband was also Trinidadian. Montano, however, was born in war-torn Algeria, North Africa. And in the life journey she’s made from that country to T&T, she has learned enough along the way to help her empathise with depressed communities including those like Beetham, and try to help them. “My family, we lived through Algeria’s war for independence, it was a lot of turmoil, harsh, harsh—there was great loss of life,” Montano said in a musical French accent yesterday. Not all of her family survived the war.
Montano added, “I lost my mother, who disappeared. Many family members disappeared. I had no notion of time, when it was 12 o’clock or 2 pm. It was a total nightmare.” She added: “My father took me away from there when I was 12, but it left—how do you say—a picture. It was all of those things that helped to build me. “I had people around me who believed in democracy, good education, justice so I grew with those—as you say—social values engraved on me.” PNM Laventille East MP Hypolite asked Montano and other professionals to visit “hot spot” residents, starting yesterday, to help them cope with what has resulted from the state of emergency (SOE) after a number of Beetham residents were detained.
Hypolite, starting the initiative yesterday afternoon, said, “Beetham residents often say they feel nobody cares for them.” “In these circumstances particularly, we decided to provide counselling, medical help, legal assistance etcetera which may be necessary following removal of income from the community after some residents were detained.” Hypolite, who had always dreamed of such a plan even before he entered mainstream politics, said: “Currently, it’s an intervention to deal with anti-social patterns that have pervaded Beetham for some time.” Montano is already acquainted with Beetham. She had worked with depressed communities since 2004, from Laventille, Beetham and Sea Lots to Montrose, Chase Village and Chaguanas.
Montano said, “I stopped since I fell ill. But I am now well. I have always been awed by the goodwill of people here. When you go to these communities despite everything they suffer, they are still noble, polite and good to you. “When I worked in communities, people would always offer you a piece of cake or a soft drink, when often they hardly have enough for themselves ...it is a measure of the people of this country, your heart melts when you speak to them.” Montano added, “The people here educate me...I learn from them. So I have to give back too. And so now I return to the trenches so to speak to help where is needed. “Poverty comes to you with many faces—for healthcare, education— and it’s not just funding that’s needed.”
Along with Montano, other members of Hypolite’s SOE “trauma team” included a former senior police officer, a doctor, a psychologist, a businessman and PNM senator Penny Beckles, an attorney. Hypolite said, “They will help residents with needs, on starting businesses, writing job applications, legal advice, education, relating to the police or just someone to share their frustrations with.” Hypolite has also received communication from a security company willing to employ people. Hypolite said that a similar team of professionals who are “giving back” to Laventille residents was launched recently in honour of another son of Laventille, late Express editor, Keith Smith. “That team’s advent has been timely and could also assist with the effects of the SOE. It includes doctors, lawyers and businessmen who were born in Laventille,” Hypolite added.
Another Laventille born, US resident Anselm Le Bourne has also given presentations in T&T, Hypolite noted. He said Le Bourne was the first person of African descent to ring the bell for Wall Street trading years ago. Hypolite said, “If we don’t implement systems now to form a direction and assist people, it will be worse after the SOE ends.” Montano added, “When I worked in communities previously I found self-esteem was the main problem. In this SOE, we have to try doubly hard to reintegrate youths into society, help them pull mind, body and soul together and build themselves for the country’s future.”
“I’m not here to complain or crucify anyone, who did right, who did wrong. This is the present: it is a guide to build the future.” She continued: “Everyone has rights. It’s time to put our arms down and raise the intellect and goodwill in T&T together.” Montano added: “Sometimes we fall... I’ve fallen time and again, but you learn to stand again. I’ve learned. We who can stand, have to do what is possible to help others stand on their feet again—the right way.”
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.