Past Activities

  • International AIDS Candlelight Memorial
  • World AIDS Day commemoration
  • Implementing components of our programme “choice, not chance, determines destiny”
  • Annual benefit concert
  • Annual verbal, visual and dramatic expression competition,
  • Training of Trainers workshop
  • Research on social issues
  • Symposiums
  • Drama productions
  • Radio, Television, and Newspaper, features, interviews and programmes
  • Sports and Family Day
  • Meaningful participation at national and international conferences
  • Developing and Implementing “community action groups”
  • Assessment of knowledge, attitudes and skills of persons infected and affected by HIV and AIDS and Substance Abuse by means of a survey (Jun Nov 2006)

HIV Sensitization for Sugar and Energy Festival 18-06-2010

Two thirds of all new HIV infections are among our youth aged 15-24. Females in their late teens are six times more likely to be HIV infected, compared to males of the same age group.

An estimated eight in every ten people infected with HIV do not know it.

A survey conducted by us (VON-OC) in 2006 highlighted our populations, in county Caroni, vulnerability to contracting HIV. Approximately 65% of our sample size has never been tested for HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease, and they have multiple sex partners.

Nationally our HIV prevalence exceeds 2%.

Reports coming out from the national surveillance unit states, that there are just about four new cases of HIV reported every day and the epidemic continues to grow most rapidly in both sexes in this age group.

To date HIV has infected an estimated 36 million people and claimed 22 million lives, globally.

What are your life chances of not contracting this disease?

To avoid this from happening requires the capacity to ‘”control “ones action, and “critically” analyze information and the environment, this is key to avoid infection.

The many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS, is fuelled by, a proliferation of information and educational programmes, supported by the powerful influences of various influencing institutions; for example; ones culture, religious conditioning, economical status and educational background.

The question is then asked, what is HIV?

It is a sexually transmitted disease or a sexually transmitted infection.

Sexually transmitted diseases also known as STDs – or STIs are infectious diseases like:

(1) the human papillomavirus which is the cause of genital warts, also known as condylomata acuminate or venereal warts, which infect the genital tract of men and women. These warts are primarily transmitted during sexual contact.

(2) Genital herpes, another STI, this is a viral infection that causes clear blisters that form ulcers on the skin of the sexually exposed area.

There are two types of herpes viruses that are associated with genital lesions; herpes simplex virus -1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2).

HSV-1 more often causes blisters of the mouth area while HSV-2 more often causes genital sores or lesions…

(3) What is HIV…
The acronym stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and no, it is not a homosexual disease.
It is a sexually transmitted disease; the group where this disease was initially identify, perhaps is merely incidental.

Infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens the body immune system and can possibly increase the body’s vulnerability to other bacterial or viral infections.
Although there are no specific symptoms or signs that confirm HIV infection many people will probably develop nonspecific illness some time after they have been infected.

This initial illness may be characterized by fever, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle and joint pains, headaches, sore throat and or painful lymph nodes.

On average people could be ill for up to two weeks with the initial illness. In some cases it is possible to become infected with the virus without having recognized the initial illness.

To date two types of HIV have been describe, type 1 and 2.

HIV-1 has, at least 10 different viral variants or subtypes at the world level which are designated with letters, from “A” to “I “and group “0”. These subtypes presented a regional pattern at the start of the epidemic.
Apparently HIV transmission is differential by subtypes, with the predominance of the E and C subtypes for heterosexual transmission and the B subtype for homosexual transmission and through intravenous drug use.

Remember STDs are spread from person to person through intimate contact. STDs can affect male and female of all ages and backgrounds that are having sex, it does not matter if they are rich or poor.
STDs are easily spread because you cannot detect whether someone has an infection.
In fact, some people with STDs do not even know that they have them. These people are in danger of passing an infection on to their sex partner or partners without even realizing it.
Once you are sexually active you are vulnerable to contracting this disease.

Some of the things that increase a person’s chance of contracting an STD are as follows, but not limited too:

– Early Sexual Engagement: the younger a person starts having sex, the greater his or her chances of becoming infected with an STD;

– Multiple Sexual Partners: people who have sexual contact – not just inter-course, but any form of intimate activity- with different partners is more at risk than those who stay with the same partner…

The following is a true story, with names changed. Jenny met Ben when she was 20 and he was 24. He was very ambitious, religious and good-looking, and when they became sexually active he refused the use of condoms, saying that he knew he was HIV free. After living together for a year, Jenny became pregnant and did the routine HIV test, she was informed that the test showed that she is HIV positive. Later, Ben’s brother told Jenny that Ben had known that he carried HIV for two years before she met him, and that he had previously infected another young woman.

– Should Ben be punished in any way for his actions since he knew he was HIV positive?
– Should Ben be quarantined? Should his other known sexual partners be informed?
– Should Jenny be quarantined? What about her possible future sexual partners?
– What about her child?
– If Ben had not known in advance that he was HIV positive but did live a high risk lifestyle would he still be held liable for infecting Jenny with HIV?

This information and story has been researched and complied by Mr. Anderson Figaro…the visionary, founder and lead facilitator of the of “The Voice Of One – Overcomers Club” and its mechanisms:
– Your Choice and your life Chances, Determines your Destiny…
– Dialogue…together we are the solution (News letter)
– Central Trinidad Civil Society Network
Mr. Figaro is a trained counselor and motivational educator and can be contacted via phone: 868-679-6747 or e-mail: von_oc@yahoo.com

Overview of 2009 with a briefing for 2010.

Report for 2009 and projection for 2010 and beyond…decade
I am delighted to have this opportunity to inform you all about our successes, challenges and plans for the future. I’ll be reporting to you today in my capacity as founder, visionary, and programme creator of “The Voice Of One-Overcomers Club.” With me at the head table are Ms. Antoinette Glasgow, Secretary of the organization and Ms. Maria Mervyn Director.
Today as we are faced with numerous situational and environmental challenges for our daily existence we are obviously faced with the decision to make intelligent choices to ensure comfortable living and a better social environment.
The double standards, callousness and blatant hypocrisy displayed by so many of us are cause for great concern, especially as it relates to the social fact, that our children, the future of this country and residence of this global village, live what they learn, and learning is an adaptive process by which the individuals experience produces long-lasting changes in the environmental guidance of behaviour.
We are their mentors, what are we teaching them?

For those here unfamiliar with VON-OC, let me briefly introduce the organization and say a few words about our work.
Establish date: September 29th 2001…One year later September 2002 we became a bona fide community based organization, registered with the Ministry of Community Development, Caroni Division.

On February 21st 2003 we became a bona fide non-governmental organization, incorporated under the companies Act of 1995, Ministry of Legal Affairs.
We were leased this property with two dilapidated buildings from the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago in July of 2003.

Our focus is to build the internal capacity of individuals and communities to respond more intelligently and effectively to situational and environmental challenges.

The name of our programme: Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny…it is designed to facilitate the development and sustainability of integrity in character, it postulates that we, human beings, are not hapless victims of our environment, or heredity, but rather that we can influence , to a greater degree, our environment, our life and our future, ensuring a better “social environment”. It is a multi-faceted life enhancement and enrichment educational programme. It comprises a couple of components, they are,
– Verbal, Visual, and Dramatic Expression Youth Forum
– Understanding and reducing the impact of the factors of vulnerability
– Positive Vibes…it is more than just a cliché
– Establishment of “Community Action Groups”…to ensure the spreading of the seeds, concept…
– The Ambassador Project a component of our programme in which we place responsibility on a youth…an exemplar, role model, and facilitator of the programme “Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny”… this person will first be trained for three months, at the end of the training the individual will serve the organization for twelve months, promoting by word and deed our programme, “Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny”, through its various components….within the last three months of service, the ambassador will assist in training the person to whom the responsibilities of ambassadorship will be transferred to continue the process, creating a cadre of youth exemplars, change agents, empowered to facilitate the transforming process required to ensure a better social environment…

VON-OC is the visionary and management organism of “Central Trinidad Civil Society Network”, the mechanism made up of “community action groups”…individuals and groups who have taken the conscious responsibility to influence positive change to our environment and situations that affect our lives and living conditioning.

VON-OC Vision Statement: A major effective, efficient, influential, capacity building, character development, psychosocial support mechanism for behaviour change, where necessary for all citizens and communities of Trinidad and Tobago and by extension the world.

VON-OC Mission Statement: To effectively and efficiently provide psychosocial support, advocacy, and training for our specially targeted “Vulnerable Youth Population” and “Community Action Groups” challenged by strife, diseases, drugs and poverty.

Aims of VON-OC: To effectively and efficiently manage “The Transformation Centre” as a:
– Therapeutic Community…for psychosocial development throughout the lifespan
– Youth and Adult friendly information, education, communication and resource centre
– Consultancy (edutainment events) and Capacity building for creating a better social environment

Our Core Values: professionalism, transparency, accountability, compassion, commitment, advocacy and personal enhancement for the good of the community, the country and by extension the world.

Our Value Statement: VON-OC believes that all human lives are precious and valuable. We will work towards our mission and vision as professionals having integrity influencing positive, equitable sustainable development of our environment.

Our Patron: Her Excellency, Dr. Jean Ramjohn-Richards, First Lady of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Our Achievements:

– Acquired this property in a lease agreement 2003.
– Received the “Community Service Award” from the Ministry of Community Development, Caroni Division, 2005…for excellent work in the area of pro-active, preventative health education…
– Received Appreciation Awards for our Sterling Contribution from:
– Miracle Ministries Institute of Ministry,- July 2007;
– Ministry of Social Development, – March 2009
– The National World AIDS Day Planning Committee – December 2009
– Created and produced four docu-dramas – Understand This; Pandora’s Box; Consequences Of…, and Who doh hear go Feel…showed on various television stations such as; CNC 3, Gayalle, WINTV, TV #6
– Hosted Miss World 2007 – Zi Lin Zhang at our candlelight observance edutainment event in 2008
– Created and published our first issue of our Newsletter “Dialogue…together we are the solution…” it is the creative space for proactive solutions to any social challenge…this medium seek to educate the public on the impact of social issues, social institution and other actors and factors that seeks to influence our behaviour…10,000 copies were printed and distributed in Trinidad…they were distributed via mail, to corporate companies, government ministries and community and non-governmental organization…they were also distributed to persons on the streets and in the malls…
– Produced and printed professionally VON-OC information booklet…that was the third edition
– Produced and printed in draft our Sexually transmitted diseases information booklet…
– Stimulated and facilitated the first community knowledge fair produced by the World AIDS Day National Planning Committee 2009.
– Successful implementation of our Youth Camp… The project promotes that our individuals’ lives have no ultimate value unless we contribute to the lives of our fellow human beings, including those yet to be born.
Life is viewed as the most precious of all treasures.
It promotes, stimulates and facilitates communal conviction and commitment geared to transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows, by addressing the underlying social facts that facilitates poverty, sexually transmitted diseases, drug addiction, deviant behaviour and other human developmental challenges.
The objective of the camp is aimed at stimulating the further development of essential characteristics in an individual such as integrity through meaningful participation of the youth from various walks of life.
They are taught that it is not just “to know” and “to do” but “to become” as we seek to create a better “social environment”, a better world for all.

Upon reflecting on our work over the years, proliferated by blood, sweat and tears, what stands out in my mind is the understanding of the importance of investing in people as the foundation of any successful humanitarian endeavour, and it is on this backdrop we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the J.B.Fernandes Trust 1 for believing in our contribution toward ensuring a better social environment and for giving us the opportunity to build our internal capacity needed to respond more effectively to the social issues affecting the development of our precious resources, the youth.
Their assistance has been timely and much appreciated as together we worked to find new and better ways to empower our staff and volunteers, and through them, our beneficiaries.

Had it not been for their financial support in 2009, VON-OC would not have been able to reach thousands upon thousands of persons and families via the various mediums, such as print, electronic, television and our edutainment forums, held at various points and communities.

We were able to also train 254 persons in the areas of project and administrative work, personal enhancement and the ability to deliver the principles of our programme Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny…these persons are the direct beneficiaries of our programme, they are now seen as “agents for change”…they are the ones to strengthen the ripple effect necessary for this programme that influence behaviour change…this was accomplish via our in-house training, youth camp, collaborative work with other stakeholders in the development of youth, such as the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.

Lessons Learned:

– Working in an environment and situation that is micro-managed takes away from the substance of our contribution designed to ensure a better social environment.
– The non-governmental organization is seen and treated as a subjected entity, dependant upon the hand-out of state agencies and corporate agencies…not as a meaningful contributor toward creating a better social environment…
– It is not seen as a business having the responsibility to pay the necessary bills to provide its services
– The callousness of financial support and reimbursement from various state agencies negatively affects the operation, inclusive of delivery of services of the NGO to it clientele…
– Having to constantly look for financial resources to cover basic overheads such as, staff salary, utilities, negatively impacts on the performance of the NGO….

Our Sustainability Plan: We will have to implement a fee for the services we offer. These services include,
– counselling,
– motivational lectures, and
– capacity building workshops
– We will seek out covenant partnership. These will be financial partners who will invest in our programme ‘Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny’. We would also seek out persons and organizations to advertise in our newsletter, ‘Dialogue…together we are the solution’.

We would follow up on proposals we have sent to various state agencies, since 2004, included in those proposals is the request for Government subvention. Follow-up will also be made to Corporate Bodies to whom we have sent proposals since 2008.

We will strengthen the capacity and add members to our staff to ensure the effective and efficient operation of our organization and the professional and excellent service delivery to our clientele, our beneficiaries.

Our focus for 2010 is to:
– Strengthen our network…the “Central Trinidad Civil Society Network”, the mechanism to advocate and influence the creation of a better “social environment”…
– Host three edutainment events…this would be community sensitization and stimulating projects…
– Work in three schools, making them the direct beneficiaries and further adding to the cadre of community agents for change…
– Host our youth camp, another method to train and add to our cadre of community agents for change.
– Continue the production and distribution of our newsletter, ‘Dialogue…together we are the solution…’
– Finalize and print professionally our booklet on sexually transmitted diseases
– Screen and appoint members to our Board and also
– Screen and appoint members to our working committee, for effective operation of the network…
– Do motivational lectures across Trinidad and Tobago, specifically design to stimulate and facilitate individual change…
– Host two workshops on character development as a method for proactive preventative education for social challenges.
– Youth Ambassador Project… a component of our programme in which we place responsibility on a youth…an exemplar, role model, and facilitator of the programme “Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny”… this person will first be trained for three months, at the end of the training the individual will serve the organization for twelve months, promoting by word and deed our programme, “Choice, Not Chance, Determines Destiny”, through its various components….within the last three months of service, the ambassador will assist in training the person to whom the responsibilities of ambassadorship will be transferred to continue the process, creating a cadre of youth exemplars, change agents, empowered to facilitate the transforming process required to ensure a better social environment…
– Develop the capacity of our staff by attending workshops and seminars, nationally and internationally…
– Establish our Training and Conference facility on our compound.

You can choose to be a part of this personal, situational and environmental transformation that ensures a better social environment for all. Contact us at 868-679-6747.

Stimulating a better social environment

There are many challenges confronting equitable human development, but Illiteracy is the most destructive ingredient of them all. This disease is nurtured by the individual(s) who desires to be infected by it.
It gives the individual that false sense of being better than other people and in fact stimulates the creation of the various scenarios we are presently experiencing. This disease is a present and very vibrant fuel for the continued spread of sexually transmitted diseases like, human immunodeficiency virus, the addiction to drugs and other detractors made possible by egocentric persons, but most importantly accepted by persons who eventually become victims by choice, but blame others for the consequences of their choice.

There are many ways in which this tool of the destroyer is implemented. Ethnic wars that are visible at all levels, even among members of the said ethnic group. It is visible among religious practitioners, even though they may be using the same manual for living. It strengthens greed, jealousy and envy ¬¬¬- the main seeds of oppression, deceitfulness and crime. However, you know what is amazing; the conditioned, oppressed and most challenged humans remain to be subjects for further conditioning for the benefit of the egocentric. At the end of the day it all boils down to hording money, and property, deliberately creating the haves and the have-nots. With the egocentric, ethnic and other elements of illiteracy are just strategies implemented by him/her to remain in their positions of power.

As we observe World AIDS Day 2009, we stand in solidarity with the persons that are infected and give thanks to persons who are genuinely engaged and actively involve in the prevention of the continued spread of HIV and the care and support of those persons and families who are challenged by this viral infection. When you think of HIV infection, think about licensed drivers on the road. They all went through the process to acquire their license to drive on the road, but do we not still have accidents occurring? Some of the victims in these accidents were not the stimulants for causing the accidents, but they are victims, it is unfortunate, but that is also a reality.

For a decade now “The Voice Of One-Overcomers Club” has been facilitating and stimulating social consciousness in the minds of the residents of the County of Caroni and by extension the country for the prevention of not only HIV, but also the initiation of and eventual addiction to mind altering substances, detractors to sustainable human development. However, these detractors are coping mechanisms used by the poor and vulnerable in our society, foolish response to your challenges, because you must realize that your sorrows never go away when you drink or whatever illusionary coping mechanism you choose to try and drown your sorrows and you know why, sorrows are extremely great swimmers they cannot be drowned. Taking control and avoiding negative influences, you can do.

We know that individuals who take control of their lives, emotionally, and spiritually will not become subjects of their environment, irrespective of how powerful the methods or mediums of influence may be. We know that the above mentioned diseases have brought only abnormal behavior in most instances. In the context of HIV and drugs, the big question is why within the proliferation of all the information disseminated, by Government agencies and non-governmental organizations does HIV and drugs continue to strongly co-exist? I can only assume that the scenario I am painting from County Caroni will be easy to relate to anywhere in this country and the world for that matter because illiteracy, in this context exists every where.

In 2006 we did a survey in the County of Caroni. Our sample size was 6320 subjects. They were all between the ages of 16 – 25. County Caroni has a 62% Indian population; the greater part of the remaining 38% is African with a sprinkling of dougla, chine’s and others. The instrument created sought to gather data on people’s knowledge, their concern and participation in the sexual and drug world. The results showed that 64.8% of the population are sexually active with multiple sex-partners and have further never been tested for HIV or any other sexually transmitted disease, irrespective of questionable acts of copulation with their chosen sexual partner, and having the freedom to choose, there are mixes of sexual orientation. Over 65% of those persons use drugs and from the said sample 10% are already addicted. Literally, on almost every other street there is the availability of drugs, from tobacco to crack-cocaine. With the indulgence of drugs come the consequences. What is amazing is the fact that persons in these challenged communities fight down any person or organization that seeks to ensure sustainable healthy human growth and development. They resist any programme that seeks to develop sustainable characters of integrity. The enemies of character development for ensuring a better social environment employ strategies of racial war, political war and others fight war, built on the foundation of envy, greed, lust and the facade of the turf war. These are all elements of illiteracy, and detractors to positive social development – the main ingredient in the battle against stigma and discrimination. As humans beings we all need food, cloths, shelter and someone to love. No one is better than another. Think for a moment how your neighborhood would be if the garbage collector does not collect your garbage and instead the dogs have a day at salvaging through your personal garbage, the diapers of your baby, the sanitary pads of your women folk, think! Do you respect and appreciate the contribution, towards a healthy life style? Unless we come together as human beings respecting and appreciating each other’s contribution we will not be able to create a good social environment. I am saying all this to say that our culture and conditioning, our beliefs, our motives can be very destructive ingredients. Once our motivation to do things is purely to be rewarded tangibly, we cannot be our brothers keepers, what we will continue to be are mercenaries.

The foundation upon which the destruction of the human nation stands is in fact the facilitating, stimulating and nurturing of these pillars of illiteracy – It results is the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the use, abuse and eventual addiction to mind altering substances, the core elements of destruction of the fabric of our society. Von-oc is here to help you, to bring balance. In your suffering you accept the guile of the destroyer, knowingly. How long will you accept the wrong for the right knowingly? The right I speak of is not religious, or ethnically grounded. I speak of universal truth, principles that would and have stood the test of time, like true love, not infatuation.

Anderson Figaro
Founder and Visionary of VON-OC

Ageing Gracefully

What have you been able to acquire in your journey through life that natural process of maturing and growing old? Do your associates appreciate your qualities? Are you looked upon as a role model to the younger generation? Have you acquired the mellow wisdom and inner beauty that you should have at this period in your life? Do you think you are ageing gracefully?
“What does it really mean, to age gracefully?” you may very well ask. Theoretically speaking, ageing or the process of growing old implies that there has been some kind of physical and emotional growth noticeable development of your faculties from birth to this present time. Perhaps you are in the life review state, where you are reflecting and evaluating how your journey was thus far. Questions may be asked: What have I done? What have I put in place for these times which can become lonely? How can I possibly avoid further loneliness? Can I really make amendments, where necessary, to improve my life and my living conditions? Do I have the capacity to share life lessons and experiences, to ensure a brighter future? Or am I satisfied with the present scenario? Am I able to make a difference?

Know this, “You can make a difference!”

Perhaps you might be overwhelmed by the fact that there are more questions than answers, but let me assure you that there is a place or rather a door that will lead you into places that will give you the desired joy, peace and satisfaction acquired through association, movement and expression. There is a common meeting place where you can be assisted, where you can exchange and enjoy the company of others, while building trust, respect and love. A serenity place that gives you the opportunity to really enjoy your golden years. We assure you that you can “age gracefully”. Experience peace, love, enjoyment and that feeling of accomplishment as you participate in the various components of our “Ageing Gracefully” Programme.

When you become part of our fraternity, we will explore the following areas together:

Emotions and Ageing
Beauty and Ageing
Nutrition and Ageing
Relaxation and Ageing
The young and Ageing
Ageing and Exercise…
Outdoor field trips…
Ageing and socializing, games, dance…

In the midst of this struggle to survive, in these trying times, you may be asking yourself this question: HOW CAN I SEE AGEING GRACEFULLY?

For more info, please contact us at 868-679-6747 between the hours of 8am to 4pm or e-mail atvon_oc@yahoo.com. We’ll be happy to serve you.

Complied by Anderson Figaro

Central Trinidad Civil Society Network

Whenever an individual, family or even an organization finds itself confronting a social ill like crime, sexually transmitted disease or drugs, the first reaction is not always an effective response to the challenge. In many cases, that initial counteraction is nothing more than a knee-jerk response spontaneous but with no real effect. Given the rapidly increasing number of social ills we face on a daily basis, those of us who are involved in social work know that it is time to move from a simple reaction to more true and meaningful response.Social workers at ground zero have all realized that the problems we are trying to address at this stage in our history are trying to address at this stage in our history are far too complex and strategically connected to other “social facts”, for any of one of us, be it an individual or an organization, to tackle them single-handedly. We need help, we need encouragement, and we need to feel that we are not alone. The help we are looking for is not moral or even psychological. The ethical, technical and managerial demands of the social challenges we face are on such a scale that the only way we can address them is by cooperating. And this is what the CENTRAL TRINIDAD CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK (CTCSN) is all about cooperating and networking to effectively resolve the numerous social development challenges we encounter from day to day.

The Central Trinidad Civil Society Network is committed to finding the ways of gaining greater prominence, nationally or internationally, to the activities of CBOs, and other social development organizations. We provide the mechanism for individual development and institutional strengthening, backed by training opportunities and other relevant services.

To become a member of CTCSN, an organization must provide proof of its registration status, preferably under the Incorporation Act of parliament 1995, or in the case CBOs and FBOs, a letter from the umbrella organization. Individuals seeking membership must have an impressive record of positive community involvement and would be subject to an interview by a CTCSN panel.

Members of the CTCSN would benefit from opportunities for in-depth training in organizational psychology, project management, good governance, proposal and report writing resource mobilization and event management. In addition to personal/individual development, these training opportunities would assist in ensuring the sustainability and validity of member organizations. With a clearer understanding of the roles and responsibilities peculiar to the work of a social activist or a community agent for change participants would develop greater confidence in their tasks. Other benefits include the use of our computer lab and research library, located at our Head Quarters at LP # 56 Railway Road Dow Village, California. The building has been designated “The Transformation Centre”.

The most significant benefit to be derived, however, is the opportunity to be part of the building of this network. Networking at its best is a dynamic, creative process. You can choose to be a networking partner and further be involved and exposed to the key steps that will build ad sustain our network.

Happiness, empowerment, human living conditions and environment can be obtained through organized collectivism. Our reality and the reality of our communities are governed by educational and economic needs. The present methods we use to facilitate our social efforts must be relinquished for more relevant methods and solutions. It is in taking this bold step that a better social organization can be achieved.

Become a registered member of CENTRAL TRINIDAD CIVIL SOCIETY NETWORK (CTCSN) today.

For further information please contact us at 868-679-6747 and 868-781-1257 or via e-mail atvoiceof1tt@hotmail.com. or von_oc@yahoo.com.

Choice, not chance, determines destiny.

Complied by Anderson Figaro

History of The Voice Of One – Overcomers Club

VON-OC is an acronym that stands for “The Voice of One Overcomers Club” – a non-profit, non-governmental organization located in Dow Village, California. Established since 2001, now under the distinguish patronage of her Excellency Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards – First Lady of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. We have been transforming individual lives and communities by stimulating and facilitating human growth and development. From humble beginnings at a rented office space in Cunupia and with a loan from NEDCO to purchase the necessary office equipment, we embarked upon what can aptly be described asa labour of love.This labour of love took us through good times and bad times. There were moments of utter embarrassment such as the time when the landlord of our rented office space in Chaguanas denied us entry into the premises because we were absolutely unable to pay the rent. Then there was the convoluted system of bureaucracy and red tape which we were forced to endure in order to access the use of the Chaguanas Community Centre. The good thing that emerged from our singleness of purpose and “stick-to-itiveness” was the strength we consolidated along our journey of advocacy and the pride we felt when we secured the refurbishment of the Chaguanas Community Centre.Despite these strides, the need for a place to call home was our greatest desire. We dreamed of a centralized, spacious, strategically placed office from which we could serve our constituents more effectively and efficiently. It was this ambition that drove us to lobby government for an appointed space.

During those initial years of struggle, while we were in constant battle for our survival, we were also passionately sensitizing the population of Central Trinidad. Our primary target was and still is, the youth.

As motivational educators we stimulated personal action and facilitated numerous community for a on the impact of mind altering substances and sexually transmitted infections. The experience gained gave a clearer understanding of our programme’s theme and slogan “Choice, not Chance, Determines Destiny”. Our programme was strongly influenced by behavior change concepts and theories, inclusive of the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs concept. We worked tirelessly in schools and other secondary socializing institutions in central Trinidad without financial assistance, rewards or support from similar existing organizations. From early stages in the struggle, we were forced to confront the onerous reality that the desire to facilitate human growth and development was not going to be an easy one. There were and there will continue to be, detractors to sustainable development. Financial and technical supports from corporate bodies have been meagre and sporadic …but that never stopped our moving forward.

Today VON-OC’s efforts have borne fruit and we stand proudly as the owners of former Government quarters previously known as CQ23 and CQ24- situated in Dow Village, California. Today VON-OC comprises motivational educators and social activists who understand clearly that individuals and communities make choices. Taking into consideration the experiences we have had over the years, we have come to appreciate the fact that these choices are, more often than not, informed and/or constrained by social, historical, cultural, political and economic factors. Acknowledging these variables singularly as well as collectively is what has successfully impacted on our efforts to change the social landscape. We have faced many challenges on this journey to serve, empower and ensure the positive growth and development of lives of fellow human beings even those yet unborn.

The desire to transform lives and enhance communities still continues. Our early community participatory assessment highlighted the urgent need for psychosocial support in and for a community challenged by neglect and denial. Central saw and participated in its first sensitization forum, drama and street parade on December 1st 2002. One of the schools that participated was the Chaguanas Senior Comprehensive. The youth arm of VON-OC was birthed with many of the students of secondary schools, such as this one, leading the charge and becoming the pioneers of HIV peer education for the central district. Working with the youths has provided the opportunity for theatre to be utilized as edutainment. Drama in Education remains our most effective medium for population sensitization. Despite our dire lack of sponsorship and other finical support systems, we have still been able to produce three video docudramas about the realities of drugs, HIV and other STIs, its incubation period, testing and the consequence of lifestyles chosen or pushed into as well as the issue of stigmatization and discrimination and the impact they have on people living with HIV/AIDS. The three docudramas are entitled Understand This, Pandora’s Box and Consequences Of.

All the work that has been done over the years, including the restoration and refurbishment of an old dilapidated building lease to us by the government, has gone into hundreds of thousands of dollars these expenses represent the sacrifices of the poor, the vulnerable and the affected. Unfortunately, we have received no real finical support from the Government although we applied more than four years ago for a subvention. What we have been told to date is that our request was passed on to the Minister of Social Development. Our work continues as we await a positive reply from the Minister.

In the interim, we continue to give thanks to various supporters who have assisted us in ensuring that healthy people remain healthy; in reducing the impact of ever-increasing social problems; and in ensuring the support and respect for infected and immediately affected family and community members. Remember… CHOICE, NOT CHANCE, DETERMINES DESTINY!

Complied by Anderson Figaro

Introducing Dialogue – Newsletter of The Voice of One – Overcomers Club

The goal of DIALOGUE is to stimulate and facilitate the well-being of communities and individuals with innovative and alternative interventions.

This is designed in meaningful collaboration with the membership of the Central Trinidad Civil Society Network.Experience has demonstrated, time after time, that this face to face process of verbally working things out provides the space for proactive solutions to any social problem. DIALOGUE will keep its focus on social issues, social institutions and other factors that influence families, groups and organizations and the very individuals operating within them. It is a social fact that individuals make choices but their choices are constrained by social, historical, cultural, political and economic factors.

The concept of DIALOGUE, as a newsletter, is the product of the founder of The Voice of One – Overcomers Club. The desire to see and experience harmonious human relations has given birth to this medium of resolve. DIALOGUE seeks to be proactive rather than reactive. Treatment of a social problem, more often than not, comes too late in the intervention process. It is usually provided long after the problem has developed into epidemic proportion, and for this reason, it is often ineffective. One needs only to take a cursory glance at the impact of, and increase in, sexually transmitted diseases, lawlessness and the abuse of mind alerting substances, as well as other social challenges, to appreciate the debate in question.

This DIALOGUE project is a component of our programme, “Choice, not chance, determines destiny”. It intentionally targets the unaffected in their resolve. In addition, it also embraces components of secondary and tertiary prevention. You can be an integral part of this resolve. Join us. The change we want to see in our community starts with us!

For more information, or a copy of this newsletter please contact us at 868-679-6747 and ask to speak to the editor of this newsletter DIALOGUE or e-mail us at von_oc@yahoo.com. We await your call and your membership. Together we are the solution.

You can make a difference: Volunteer, Donation, Advocacy

This news letter is complied by Anderson Figaro