The Ministry of Sport will begin working with young people from 33 at risk areas throughout the country as part of its new outreach programme, LIFEsport. This was revealed during the initiative’s formal launch at Queen’s Hall in St Ann’s on Monday afternoon. The event was attended by stakeholders from the government and private sectors, who were screened a short documentary featuring interviews with young men from the Laventille area. Addressing the gathering, Minister of Sport Anil Roberts said the aim of the programme would be to counter the country’s crime problem by giving neglected young people more opportunities to make something of their lives. “They want to be on track,” he said. “It’s just that they’ve never been taught that the track was made for them. “The concept of LIFEsport is to change that philosophy and to let our young people know that those who did not come from privileged backgrounds and those not lucky enough to have two parents and a stable family, that there is a place in T&T for them.”
He added that the programme would involve “using the passion, the excitement, the love, the adrenaline of sport to bring young people in and then keep them on the right path. We will attract them to sport, pay them a stipend, train them, make them healthier, get them off the ground, get them off the drugs, make them use their time productively and then develop whatever skills they have.” The former television show host first developed the concept in 2007 while he campaigned for the Congress of the People in the Sea Lots area. “I walked into a football game with some young boys and I sat to watch them and two of them, aged about eight and ten, came up and asked: ‘Sir, what somebody like you doing in Sea Lots?’ At eight years old, somehow he had a concept that he was inferior and that I should not have been where he lived.”
He added he had also been inspired by the success of the sporting programmes in Cuba. Later, Minister of Works and Transport Jack Warner called on the public to assist with the ongoing crisis. “Crime is not the responsibility of the Minister of National Security alone but rather it is the business of all of us and therefore, we must take a lead in a sport-based strategy to reduce crime and this must be done to steer the youths away from negative social activities,” he said.
“Putting youths in prison has failed, community service hours and boot camps have failed...It is not a time to lose hope. However, it is time for us to devise new plans.” Warner also cited the previous administration’s “mashing up” of community grounds in Diego Martin and Santa Cruz as the catalyst for increased criminal activity.