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At least 19 men have put down their guns and joined Belmont’s Life Sport centre to turn their lives around. Confirmation came from the centre’s co-ordinator Maurice Auguste on Thursday. Of 20 gunmen, Auguste said, 19 have since moved on and no longer associate themselves with criminal elements and crime. “Only one man could not give up the gun and he has gone back on the streets,” Auguste said. “But the others have done well. They are now part of the solution rather than the problem.”
Auguste said this was the kind of impact the programme had been having on its participants, despite the negative publicity it was facing. Auguste said, at first, the 19 participants felt that the monthly $1,500 stipend they were receiving was far less than what they made in a day as criminals.
“They were accustomed to making fast money and the high life. This was their first wake-up call. I had to tell them it was not about the money, but about making a change—a change for the better. This is the best thing Minister of Sport Anil Roberts could have done for us.| “The success of this programme is essential to save these young men from a life of crime and other delinquent behaviours,” he said.
Since graduating from the programme, Auguste said, the men have held down jobs at supermarkets and security firms and are now giving back to society.
‘It’s a new beginning’
Before joining Life Sport in 2012, Anton Williams, 19, wasted his life away at home. His entire day was spent sleeping, watching television and hanging out with his friends. Unable to land himself a job after graduating from Malick Secondary School with three CXC passes, Williams said, he was unproductive, lazy, and demotivated. Passing in front of the programme’s Belmont centre every day, Williams said, curiosity got the better of him.
“I just stopped by to see what was taking place inside and went in. I could not believe that behind these walls there were sporting and educational activities for young men.” Since joining the programme, Williams has been taking classes in order to resit his O’ level maths examination. He also found himself a part-time job at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital in 2013. “I could not have asked for anything better. It has given me a second chance...a new beginning.”
Williams said the programme taught him “there is a solution to everything and disagreements can be settled.”
From hasty to friendly
Dwayne Mc Lean has been transformed from a “hasty” person to the most friendly individual at Life Sport. Mc Lean admitted that his attitude often kept him back from socialising and interacting with others, but his signing up with the Belmont programme has opened up a whole new world for him. A graduate of Belmont Intermediate School, Mc Lean wants to become a solider and defend his country, but first has to obtain O’Level maths, which he is now pursuing.
The most valuable lesson Mc Lean said he has learned from the programme was that of being disciplined and interactive. Mc Lean said his hastiness stemmed from growing up in a single parent home. His father walked out on the family when he was a child. “This made me hasty. I was always ready to fly off the handle. My anger management classes taught me how to control my temper.”
Unearthing new skills
Nkosi Williams joined Life Sport to become a professional basketball player. As a participant in the Hoop of Life initiative, Williams felt he needed to hone his basketball skills and so he registered at the programme’s Belmont office. His passion for the sport unearthed one skill Williams never knew he had, that of motivational speaking. Williams said he always saw himself as “nobody” because most of his day was spent “on the block doing nothing productive.”
Many viewed him as a criminal because of the people he associated with at East Dry River, Port-of-Spain. Williams said he felt compelled to do something positive and signed up with the programme two years ago. “One day I just started speaking to the participants, giving them words of encouragement and advice and realised I was capturing their attention. I didn’t know I had this hidden talent.”
Even Williams’ coach was blown away by Williams’ words of inspiration. Today, Williams said, when it comes to lecturing the participants about right and wrong, he leads the way, while his coach would just listen and smile.