Scrap iron dealers launch mentorship programme to reduce crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Embacadere residents line up to collect hampers from TT Scrap Iron Dealers Association president Allan Ferguson at the launch of the association’s community mentorship programme on May 15 in San Fernando. – Photo by Yvonne Webb

THE Trinidad and Tobago Scrap Iron Dealers Association (TTSIDA) launched its Community Mentorship Programme at Embacadere Basketball Court, San Fernando, on May 15, which aims to turn people away from a life of crime and into productive enterprise.

At the launch, TTSIDA member Samuel Sankar declared “WAR” on crime, which he explained was an acronym for residents who were willing, able and ready to defend their communities.

TTSIDA’s president Allan Ferguson said he had no political agenda and did not come asking for affected residents to vote for him.

“I have come here to ask you to let me help you work with us for a better quality of life for yourself, for a better community and a better TT.”

He said the programme, which seeks to reduce crime and bring about a better quality of life, will be rolled out in other depressed communities.

He said through the mentorship programme, TTSIDA will assist in getting jobs for those qualified in academic and other disciplines.

There are many government programmes available,  he acknowledged, but some people are unable to fill out forms or access these programmes.

TTSIDA will help in this respect and assist artisans, those with skills, cultural and sporting abilities, to start their own businesses.

While government had a part to play, he underscored that people had to make the effort to help themselves, and called on those involved in crime and gang warfare to put down the guns.

“Stop the hating, backbiting, fighting down one another and make a change for a better, stronger community.”

Ferguson said he did not have a single racial bone in his body, as a woman of East Indian descent raised him from age 12, when his mother died.

“But it is people who look like me causing problems, and we have to understand and make a change. People don’t like when I state the facts, but 95 per cent of people who are in jail look like me.

“Eighty-seven per cent of the people in the madhouse look like me and the majority of the people who are smoking and ranting all over the place look like me.

“My race has a problem, and we need to fix that. Help me to help you,” he pleaded with the many residents who turned up for the launch, including mothers and their young children.

They were each presented with hampers.

“We have to work together to build a better Embacadere,” he said, stressing that if the community is known as a hot spot, when residents seek employment, they are judged by potential employers on where they come from and are discriminated against.

“You are giving your community a bad name.”

Using himself as an example, Ferguson told the audience even though he was born and raised in the ghetto, he was a businessman, and others could aspire to do the same.

He said his ghetto experience was the impetus for rolling out this programme, as he understands and can identify with the challenges people in Embacadere and other similar areas endure.

“We could open hardwares, we could open drug stores, clothing stores.

“Stop the mentality that you could only open parlours,” he said using as an example the fact that some Syrian immigrants who came here are now among the wealthiest in the country.

This can only happen, he saidd, if they first change their hearts and mind.

Residents of Embacadere welcomed the initiative, saying they needed a lot of help in the area.

A register of those attending was compiled to begin the training and assistance.