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National pride amid bacchanal
Posted: Friday, February 13, 2009

By Derren Joseph
February 13, 2009

Just two weeks to Carnival, and we can feel it in the air. Various corporate sponsors have started putting up banners around Port-of-Spain proper and in St James. These are now an expected part of the Carnival landscape–similar to lights during Christmas time.

Banners from our more responsible corporate citizens have thoughtful messages that remind us to have fun, but also to be careful.

In the midst of the bacchanal, it is satisfying to know that there are some bandleaders who see the bigger picture beyond just making money.

Adele Bynoe, from St Mary's Children's Home in Tacarigua, was telling me that a children's Carnival band has made 50 costumes available, free of charge, for their children this year. This band is Rosalind Gabriel's, whose presentation for Children's Carnival 2009 is National Pride. This gift to St Mary's Children Home has been going on for about 20 years or so, and this year it is made possible through support from the good folks at Nestle, as well as Beacon Insurance. Kudos to Nestle, Beacon and Gabriel!

Inspired by our national anthem, Gabriel's presentation, National Pride, has ten sections, four of which are already sold out, according to the Web site The theme and the sections that follow from it are designed to make us feel even better about being from sweet Trinidad and Tobago–and they definitely do. The sections are Man of Steel; Love; Liberty; In the Fires of; Hope and Prayer; Destiny; Side by Side We Stand; Blue Caribbean Sea; Our Native Land; and Every Creed and Race.

Another nation-building and consciousness-raising presentation comes from Trini Revellers. Its 2009 presentation is called A Tribute to Trinidad and Tobago. I have always praised Trini Revellers for its ability to find a balance between tradition and commerce. They have costumes with meaning and that are, at the same time, appealing to those of us who do not mind the Las Vegas-type mas. Its Web site:

Its 21 sections include Angostura Bitters, Caroni Swamp, Folklore, Maracas Bay, the Splendour of Buccoo Reef and Sunday Morning Market. For me, this band is a must-see on Carnival Tuesday. Trini Revellers' Enrico Rajah reminds us that, "We are a people, a resourceful people. Our language is colourful; our people are colourful; our history and culture is colourful; even our sport is colourful." And yet, in every activity in this little nation, there are so many people who can stand tall, and be proud of their achievements for the contributions they have made to this country. And it is these achievements we must salute. But to salute these achievements, we must salute the people who produced these achievements which we now enjoy.

These are the people who have helped produce "Mother Trinidad and Tobago." Like Gabriel, Trini Revellers also recognises that there are less fortunate people to consider at Carnival time. Part of the profits goes to various charities. Bandleader David Cameron mentioned Corpus Christi School and the Agape Training Centre. Cameron is also in touch with various children's homes, but, as he says, he avoids the popular ones in favour of those that do not normally get much attention.

It is always helpful to remember that not all of us could afford to engage in the festivities. It is also helpful to remember that not all of us want to engage in the bacchanal. I was talking to Nicole Thomas from Kids in Need of Direction (Kind). Kind describes itself as a non-profit, charitable organisation that has been providing assistance to disadvantaged children for the past 13 years within the parameters of education, nutrition, medical assistance, vocational training and emotional counselling.

I was asking whether Kind would be interested in having some of their children being sponsored to play mas. Thomas explained that the young people in her programme did not necessarily see playing mas as a priority, given their other concerns. Kind has a programme called Sponsor a Child, which allows individuals and corporate citizens to help a disadvantaged child attend school on a regular basis.

There are more details on its Web site, or you can ring 626-5463 or 626-6333 to find out more. This programme has given hundreds of children the opportunity to acquire a sound education, while instilling in them a sense of self-worth.

As always, I end by saying that despite our challenges, we are so blessed to live in this beautiful country. We need to remember and acknowledge just how much uplifting work is being done. Let us continue to have the audacity of hope in our country, as we move towards Vision 2020.

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