Canada supports a “technology safe space” for youth to learn and excel

Youth from the impoverished community of Mon Repos, Morvant now have access to the latest in information technology, and a greater chance at success in school.

The community of Mon Repos is located on the outskirts of the capital Port of Spain — an area that is both impoverished and crime-ridden. There are no pre-schools, primary or secondary schools in the area. There are few facilities for youth activity, no recreational sports grounds or play parks for the children and youth of the community.

His Excellency Gérard Latulippe, (left) High Commissioner for Canada to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago cuts the ribbon to open the Kalifa Andrews Computer Lab in the community of Mon Repos.

Members of the community have been branded as part of the “criminal element” and deemed one of the "hot spots" that law enforcement watches closely. The youth in the area are surrounded by a dismal neighbourhood with little opportunity to escape or little encouragement to stay on the straight and narrow.

Thanks in part to a grant from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, the newly outfitted Information Technology (IT) centre of the Mon Repos community centre is now up and running. This safe space was designed specifically to assist youth with homework and other support activities in after school programs.

This new community space is a lighted beacon in the lives of the young people of the area. It is a dedicated space where they can focus on their education, which is the key to their success as it offers them a constructive alternative to getting involved in crime and self-destructive behaviour.

During the official opening of the centre, High Commissioner for Canada Gérard Latulippe commended the community for taking this bold step to ensuring a future for the youth in their area.

“Too often we forget that it is not only the responsibility of the Government, but also of the community to lay the foundation for the future of its youth. The success of a country must not only be measured in dollars and cents, but the solid community and societal bases must also be counted in the victories.”

- High Commissioner Gérard Latulippe

Mr. Terry Woodsley, Chairman of the Mon Repos Action Committee was proud to announce that the IT Centre would be named after a young lady from the area. Ms. Kalifa Andrews, in spite of her humble circumstances, has gone on to be leading sportswoman in her

Kalifa Andrews tries out one of the computers in the new community IT centre while other children from the community look on.

school in Shot-put, Discus and in the game of soccer. Mr. Woodsley hopes that Kalifa will be an inspiration to all the youth in her area so that they too can rise above their circumstances and excel.

Thirty years ago, the Mon Repos Community Centre was burnt down and was never rebuilt. In the absence of a central, accessible location to plan and coordinate activities, several community based entities such as the Village Council have become inactive.

In 2010, the Ministry of National Security’s Citizen Security Programme supported the creation of a Youth Friendly Space to provide a range of accessible and affordable pro-social and developmental services to residents of the community, with an emphasis on children and youth.

This space is now a vibrant hub of community development and provides a space for public and special meetings, training, and currently serves as the site for an after school programme and a parent education programme.