17th Anniversary

17th Anniversary Presentation 2018-September 29th 
I pray that these questions would be answered in my brief presentation on this dynamic organism: The Voice Of One – Overcomers Club
• Who is VONOC as an organisation
• Why does VONOC exist
• What does VONOC do
• Whom do we serve.
Where this organism started seventeen (17) years ago – it’s no longer at that point, and where it is presently – it is definitely not our destination. Moreover, as founder and foundation I am fully aware that the destiny of this institution demands meaningful action and meaningful partnership.
From the genesis of this organization one thing was very clear to me, and this I shared with a small group, comprising 4 individuals, coming from different backgrounds, different denominations and having overcome different challenges. What was common among us? We all just wanted to make a difference in the lives and living conditions of the challenged and vulnerable in our nation; thereafter, we occupied ourselves as servants of the people, ministering to their needs as capable mentors, coaches, educators and psychosocial support providers.
Of the many issues confronting people, one stood out, as it still does today, and that is the problem of illiteracy, and in my humble opinion this is a major challenge to our society. I will add that some of our major social challenges come from educated-illiterates. However, note this fact, illiteracy makes people vulnerable to misinformation and manipulation. This injustice motivated the establishment of our in-house and public education campaign for the purpose of erasing illiteracy. We envisioned fostering the overcomer’s mind-set in everyone.
As recorded in the Trinidad Express dated Thursday November 22nd 2001, in a full page article on our very first media interview—with many radio and television interviews, as well as programmes following, quote: ‘To be an overcomer you have to be able to rise above your challenges – whatever your circumstances’ end quote. Those words were spoken by Ms. Antoinette Glasgow.
Today the aforementioned desire for making a difference in the lives and living conditions of persons is much more knowledgeable, discerning and intensely committed to the mission that evolved from the understanding of our calling and the greatest of all gifts, life; it is the ultimate and most precious of all favours; Life does not just happen, as some would say, the circumstances we experience are the results of our foolish mistakes and strategies of a cunning opponent, or carefully considered choices; however, today we can say with confidence, that we are a catalyst for establishing firm foundation for resilient lives to be built upon.
VONOCS’ projects promotes with conviction that the outcome of one’s life is derived from the carefully, and in some cases not so carefully considered choices one makes.
All choices have consequences – positive and or negative, hence our programs name-sake: Choice, Not Chance, Determines, Destiny; call it our motto if you wish. However, we are convinced, should this motto, this programme be grasped by the national community, its outcome will be evident of the power of this principle for effective and sustained behaviour change, for transformed attitude and true success. To not embrace, to choose not to make full use of this fundamental law is to foster, in my humble opinion, a definite choice to remain unenlightened.
From the birth of this establishment another vital precept has been to ensure that the target population is stimulated for upward mobility in such a way that they will understand and appreciate that to change is important, and that they must knowingly avail themselves to the process of change. Furthermore we understand the impact and power of proper networking; this is a key formula to successfully facilitating change: we aligned ourselves with persons and organization who are of the same mind-set and purpose, holding on to the same moral values, advocating as one voice, hence our name: The Voice Of One – Overcomers Club.
We have been through a series of larval stages, some of which have caused us to shed tears; like our interaction with a particular stakeholder who gave the go-ahead to engage suppliers for the items necessary for an educational activity, then that stakeholder pulled out at the last second, leaving us in debts and shame; but by God’s grace and HIS timely intervention we survived that storm. We have experienced individuals who function like the waves of the sea, subjected to the forces of the wind – these fish-people are subjected to the influence of outer and inner forces – gate-keepers who took-up crafty counsel against us, consulting together, forming their confederacy against us to destroy us, to possess what God has blessed us with, but today I just want to thank God Almighty, for the vision that was deposited has not been lost, it may have been stymied, physically challenged, but it has all worked out for our good and Gods glory. We have been given the run-around, experienced the blocking tactics. However, it has caused us to appreciate our importance and premeditated placement, even among those who are inclined to believe in and spread vicious lies about us. We are encouraged, motivated to work smarter for us to succeed, for we understand clearly and are fully committed to our success, as it is for the benefit of the people and our country. Today I want to say thank God for a resilience Spirit and a couple of faithful persons who have held-up this transformative medium known as VONOC – the National Centre for Learning and Psychosocial Support, which now has to function as a private business offering psychosocial-support and educational coaching and mentorship, to primary school students, other individuals and organizations.
Although we have faced many injustices, such as: the true value of our work and services not being duly rewarded, and our ideas being ignored and or rearranged without our inclusion, we stand fast as a pillar of education in our society, from among the other pillars that shape and support our society. We believe that education is the process initiated by God by which the individual, the family or the society procure and then transfer values, knowledge, habits and skills. The competence achieved through the official or unconventional expertise brings learning of facts and awareness to assist individuals in achieving their academic goals, becoming better citizens of our society, and understanding the root causes of issues around, like illiteracy, drugs, crime and sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and progress towards sustainable betterment for the benefits of the future generation.
We are the foremost and first organization in central Trinidad to seriously address the social problem of HIV and AIDS. We promoted then and do so even now that sexual activity should follow “research” of the intended sexual partner, but moreover that knowing one’s personal status is of great importance, further taking cognisance of one’s life-style, one’s values. The joy of sex should not be derived from thieving a chance – but a conscious choice, furthermore, it should be respected and appreciated for what it is, a covenant relationship between a male and a female.
Now the reality today for the HIV infected person is prolonged life, thanks to the life-saving medication that has transformed HIV infection from a death sentence, to a serious, but largely manageable chronic condition. However, the normal challenges associated with ageing should be seriously considered for persons who are now ageing with HIV. Moreover, HIV remains to be a daily challenge to every fibre of our society.
All our projects are derived from observation, interaction and the knowledge that we all have goals, desires, things we wish to accomplish. We all want a better life for ourselves and our families, but every day, as human-beings – from the youngest to the oldest, we face tough situations, difficult people and temptations. I can assure you, in order to maintain your sanity, in order to keep striving to be successful, to experience the good life, you have to be patient, strategic, strong, and courageous, while trusting in God Almighty, because the task ahead would not be easy.
How can you convince a seeing man that he is blind; how can you influence, convince a drowning man that what he is holding onto is sinking, how can you convince a man who is satisfied and comfortable in his self-destructive state – where he is vulnerable, open to manipulation that there is a better way?
As a dedicated people to our mission, which is to facilitate personal empowerment to the vulnerable, the challenged, the illiterate, this was our process: we endeavoured to understand and reduce vulnerability; we established the United Youth Voice, we promoted the principles that could change the ways of working among community groups and individuals – we promoted the formation of community action groups and we promoted the formation and effective operation of a network, for the purpose of caring from within. Overall we were and are seeking to lift standards of relationships, we desire to see and experience the rendering of meaningful and useful service. All of this came out of and is laid upon the principle “Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny”, which is challenged by competing influences, but note this fact: To achieve anything, the demand, the prerequisite is discipline, self-control, focus – it requires a changed attitude and habits, a change in behaviour, and that, behaviour change is the outcome – your results. Your desired goals would be challenged by outer and inner forces, competing influences via influencers, you the individual must decide you must become an “Agent of Change” first to yourself.
This very concept backed with experience has birthed this remarkably highly successful initiative for primary school children from Standard Three to Standard Five: Leaders are NOT Chameleons. It is an all-inclusive coaching and mentorship programme that teaches the keys for academic and social success within the educational environmental journey. Over the years we have seen conventional-teachers write-off, achieving overall grades of above of 80% in secondary entrance assessment. In fact over 95% of the students whom we have worked with have achieved either their first or second choice school. Further, they have been among achievers within the first 10% of the overall population of students writing S.E.A. in any given year from the start of this life-changing, system for academic and social success. A fundamental law we instil in children is that they are the ones responsible for doing the work, they are the ones responsible for their future, for achieving their school of choice. We teach them that possession of the knowledge of what we should do is of little value unless they make use of it in their daily lives. It is of no advantage to learn the science of arithmetic or writing, unless they put their knowledge into practice. However, we have recognised that when the different variables, that is, the parents, the teachers, the student and the auxiliary service provider work as a united unit, focused on the benefits for the child and by extension our society we will achieve greater success, and demonstrate our understanding of what it is meant by the old African proverb –‘It takes a village to raise a child.’
Parents, guardians, adults, it is your right and your responsibility to desire only the best for our nations’ youth. There is the responsibility of nourishing their growing bodies, minds, and spirits. Individuals with integrity seek the best investment of their time, talent and money. In every area, to settle for less would be wasteful, foolish, and irresponsible; do you agree? Then ‘Leaders are NOT Chameleons’ S.E.A. coaching and mentorship programme is the opportunity you want your child, your friends, children to be meaningful participants in.
These years have been for us a training process to equip us with the traits, skills, courage and strength to function as the catalyst for training, teaching, counselling and networking – Collaboration among individuals and families and within community benefit organisations to enhance lives and living conditions. We will continue to work with faith in our God, as we recommit to the challenge to care for, educate and liberate individuals, families and communities to live without fear, for I have learnt that it takes courage to triumph over fear. By constantly reminding myself of my dream and fighting for it to be manifested I have learnt further through victories I have had over fear, that there is only variable that could make my dream impossible – the fear of failure. What I have gained is strength, courage and confidence by every experience I have encountered along the way. I am not there yet, but I am getting there, VONOC is not there yet but we are getting there; with what I have learned I am able to encourage myself and confidently take the next step that comes along – my God is able – He who has started this great work has promised that it will be completed. I encourage you here today, let us create value, and take responsibility for uplifting our environment and to living compassionate lives. I thank you.
Anderson Figaro
© September 2018