School van driver Enal Ramsaroop and his group, Welcome Action Group (WAG) and Friends, have become a shining ray of light and hope in the once depressed agricultural communities of Welcome Village, Cunupia and Esmeralda.
They assist the less fortunate with food, clothing and other necessities, are always ready and willing to lend a hand where needed, and bring cheer to villagers with fun activities. All they want in return is a smile, Ramsaroop, 43, founder of the group, said.
If there is a death at the home of a less fortunate resident, Ramsaroop calls on members who promptly organise tents and chairs for a wake. They have already planned to clean up the premises of a handicapped man who lives with his bedridden mother in the village.
On the last Eid holiday, WAG and Friends went around the village with 250 cups of sawine, giving to anyone they met. Residents know they can expect something good from Ramsaroop and his friends whenever any holiday comes around, be it Divali or Christmas.
A father of one, Ramsaroop earned the name Uncle Santa Claus from the children in the village because he dresses as Santa at Christmas time and goes around in a truck distributing toys.
"Sharing love in a tangible way is our way of giving back and saying thanks for what we have been blessed with," he said.
"We want nothing in return. We are just satisfied with the smiles we receive. That's our reward. Nothing compares to that feeling you get when you see the smile of someone you give something to."
The group is about to launch its first clothing drive in Welcome and Esmeralda, and will be extending helping hands to neighbouring communities like Enterprise, Jerningham and Chin Chin Road.
"We have already identified about 11 or 12 families in need," Ramsaroop said.
With the assistance of Councillor Ryan Rampersad of the Couva/ Tabaquite/Talparo Regional Corporation, WAG joined with T&T nationals in the United States for the project.
"Rampersad helped us link up with people abroad who want to donate clothing and toiletries to the less fortunate in Trinidad. They have already sent down one shipment which is awaiting clearance at the port."
Ramsaroop said his group will pay all the freight expenses.
"If this project goes well we will see how we can make it bigger next year to include schoolbooks and stationery for the needy," he said.
The group constantly lobbies for infrastructural development in their communities through links with government ministries and various state agencies.Flooding is a problem and when residents' homes are flooded out they can rely on Ramsaroop and his group to help them.
"We got flooded out the last time it rained heavily, including me," he said.
"Some cesspit tanks were covered in water. We contacted the regional corporation and made arrangements for them to come in the area to attend to this problem."
Ramsaroop said he started doing community work 14 years ago but WAG and Friends was launched only within the last two to three years.
"The friends refer to people from the neighbouring village of Esmeralda who joined with us," he explained. "There are about 12 teenagers in the group and more are asking to join."
No particular race, religion or status defines WAG and Friends.
"We have people from all races and religions in our group. There are no boundaries here."
Businesses including Eventsland Ltd of Ragoonanan Road support WAG's efforts, supplying, without charge, bouncy castles, tents, chairs and generators for their activities.
Ramsaroop's wife, Hannah, is his "backbone, he said, and his son, Enrique, who just graduated from CIC, is a loyal supporter of the group."
Welcome Village was never fortunate to get a community centre where the group can meet. In the meantime, however, Ramsaroop graciously throws open the doors of his home to members.
"We meet every month or so in a big shed at my home and we open every meeting with a prayer," he said.