“The time for broken promises is over!” That was the charge of National Security Minister Jack Warner, as he delivered the feature address at the ministry’s Hoop of Life Media Launch, held at the St Barbs Laventille basketball court yesterday.
Warner said because it has been the way of past governments to make promises and never deliver, people have lost confidence in governments and the public sector and have developed an attitude that when the government speaks—it is just old talk. He said with the hard work by Hoop of Life’s administrative team, the initiative has reached delivery stage since its launch by the Prime Minister in June.
This he believes, has restored some level of confidence in the people as they are recognising the People’s Partnership stand for something positively different and they are walking the talk.
“When the Prime Minister stood up next to Shaquille O’Neal and told the country that we would be bringing this programme, it was heavily and negatively criticised by those with particular agendas. They said no one would be bouncing ball in Laventille in their lifetime—but today ball is bouncing!” said Warner.
He also praised security forces, the various ministers and councillors from across the country who showed up at the launch to show their support for the initiative.
“Look around you and see what many thought was impossible is possible because of this initiative. Look at councillors from all over the place coming here today in St Barbs. They also said it would be impossible to bring Despers (Witco Desperadoes steel pan orchestra) back up in Laventille—look they are here today providing sweet music for you. That is what this Government is about—bringing back restoration,” said Warner.
Understanding Hoop of Life
Warner said the Hoop of Life Initiative is a project that is a collaborative effort between the Ministries of National Security; Local Government; Sport; Housing, Land and Marine Affairs; The People and Social Development, Community Development, and Food Production along with stakeholders such as the National Basketball Federation, the Association of Basketball Officials of T&T (ABOTT), the National Basketball Federation of T&T (NBFTT).
He said the opportunity was created for young people from within each community to build friendships and camaraderie, to work together and support each other towards a common goal—a chance for them to make friends across the “border lines”.
He said the programme will involve over 60 teams from 60 communities across Trinidad and Tobago which will be divided into 12 sectors—ten in Trinidad and two in Tobago. Each sector comprises of five communities with participants being ages 16 to 35.
They will be training to win $1.75m in prize money. Each team will comprise 12 players and each player will get $1000 per month. The winning team will receive $1m, runners up $500,000 and third place winners—$250,00. Half of the prize money will go towards the players and the other half toward a community project within the various communities involved.
All of these persons, including the 720 players, will receive a weekly stipend of $250 during training and will also be exposed to various life skills programmes.
Warner said the programme is also designed to recognise and develop other talents besides basketball in these communities, hence all involved in the initiative are trained professionals who will be interacting with the players.
He emphasised that because of the magnitude of the initiative and the fact that it would be continually under scrutiny by a local and international audience, the ministry has taken a very strict approach in dealing with indiscipline by any player involved.
“If you are arrested and charged you are out!” warned Warner.
“I am not waiting for it to go to court and take four years. You are charged…you are out,” he reinforced.
The Hoop of Life, Warner said, is just one of several social interventions aimed at making a positive impact on the crime situation in so-called “at risk” communities.
He also called on the parents of these communities to take on more active roles in the lives of their children saying while the government and law enforcement agencies are doing their part, responsibility also lies in the hands of individuals.
“These initiatives are for you and your children. And therefore as a community you must band together and you must partner with the law enforcement agencies so that we can achieve our common objectives,” said Warner.
“You have the choice to turn right and live within the law or turn left and live outside the law.
“This is a fight we cannot do alone. It is a fight that can only be won by the collective effort of all of us.”
Warner said as part of its series of outreach community programmes, the ministry will host a grand family day at the Queen’s Park Savannah where 26 communities will be brought together.
The event which was originally carded to take place at a location in Laventille, but was reconsidered due to the size of the venue, will also provide participants with the opportunity to meet and speak with recruitment agencies on site.