The son of a murder victim says his father’s death has spurred him to give back to the communities to help disadvantaged youth.
Akili Joseph, of Vance Trace, Point Fortin, said his father was shot dead in 2016, and the event changed his life.
He subsequently formed Strong Tower Rescue Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), designed to help disadvantaged youth.
Joseph’s father, Rodney, was gunned down while on his way to work in Orange Field Road, Chase Village. He was killed as part of an ongoing war between two communities.
In an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, now 19-year-old Joseph recalled this as a defining moment in his life.
“I remember very vividly because it was the 14 of August - it’s not something that you forget. I woke up on that Sunday morning and one of my cousins, she ran upstairs and she was crying and she told me your father was just murdered in Chaguanas,” he said.
For the majority of his life, his mother raised him but despite this, he still had a relationship with his father who remained a part of his life.
“I knew him and I loved him and to lose a father. It traumatizes you, especially being the 16-year-old child that I was,” he said.
Following the incident, Joseph had difficulties coping with his loss as he began to fall behind in school and withdrew from social interactions.
“I fought to overcome it and when I look back to where I was, I have more of an understanding and more of an appreciation for those people who are in that place. So I decided to do something or put together something, or be a part of something that would be able to assist youths who are in that place and that is the purpose of the Strong Tower Rescue Foundation,” Joseph said.
He began laying the foundation for the NGO last year and the group was officially launched in March this year.
Joseph, along with some 20 youths ranging from ages 12 to 18 regularly engage in community-based activities such as building and maintaining drains as well as assisting the elders of the community by cleaning up their surroundings or even helping them with home repairs.
These activities, he said, worked two-fold to firstly make a difference in society as well as to develop within the youth a strong work ethic and commitment to their community.
“In every community, there is that back area where there is only broken down houses, where the crime and the drugs passing…and you would look at that and say, not me and them. That’s where we want to target. That’s where we want to make a difference. That’s where we want to pull those youths out of so that we would be able to have an impact on their lives,” he said.
Asked what he thinks his father would say if he could see the work that he’s been doing, Joseph said: “My dad grew up in one of these very communities and his death was as a result of no one being able to reach out to him and point him in the direction that I am pointing these youths in, so I think he would be very satisfied.”