By Kaelanne Jordan, firstname.lastname@example.org
During her time as an expat in T&T, Curaçaoan Solange Kohinor observed several gaps in certain communities locally. While there are a plethora of non-profit organisations (NGOs) working in T&T, she believed more could be done to close the gap of inclusivity for the deaf community, empower women and girls, and ensure that children achieve their full potential.
Together with current Vice President Jillian Jones-Smith, Kohinor, a member of Quota International and Quota International of Curaçao cofounded Quota International of Trinidad and Tobago (Quota T&T) in April 2017—the first Club established in the English-speaking Caribbean to join Quota International.
Quota International is a global NGO which advocates empowering women, ensuring child development, fund deaf resources, inspire future leaders and deliver world service. More than 5,000 Quotarians—women, men, and youth—are Volunteers in Action, known for their outstanding enthusiasm and service in 260 communities in 14 countries: Aruba, Australia, Canada, Curaçao, Fiji, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, St Eustatius, Suriname, the United States and now, T&T.
In an interview with Catholic News, Quota T&T’s second President Michelle Low Chew Tung stressed that their specific focus is on three of the most underserved communities—the deaf and hard of hearing, disadvantaged women, and children.
She further added while from inception the Club was known as an organisation served by women, for women since its incorporation on February 6, 1919—in Buffalo, New York by its founder Wanda Frey Joiner and four other business women—gradually men and youth became part of the wider community.
Currently, Quota T&T comprises women of varied backgrounds: corporate executives, business owners, attorneys, retirees, teachers, consultants and more.
The Board of Directors include Low Chew Tung, president; Kohinor, immediate past president; Jones-Smith, vice president; Patrice Johnson, treasurer; Hanifah Mohammed, social director and Sherene Ramnath-Williams, secretary.
Quota International celebrated its 100th year anniversary February 6 this year.
As an NGO, Low Chew Tung explained, funding is generated from hosting yearly fundraisers, projects and activities.
She listed some “foundational” activities including a back-to-school initiative for students of the Cascade School for the Deaf and the Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf; the Christmas Market Fundraiser which funds their Educational Scholarship Awards for deaf students and working with the Mary Care Centre.
Projects in the pipeline
In terms of new projects, Quota T&T in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Association for the Hearing Impaired (TTAHI) and other government ministries will roll out their Ear Plug Distribution project as part of the Protect Your Ear campaign for Carnival. Low Chew Tung explained that the project is not unique to Trinidad and Tobago, as many Quota clubs in Aruba, Suriname and New Zealand have implemented same.
Moreover, it is critical in raising awareness about the effects of being exposed to loud noise over prolonged periods can lead to permanent hearing loss. This year’s campaign which culminates with World Hearing Day on March 3, will involve the distribution of ear plugs at school and other events to children and young adults.
In March, Quota T&T will launch its Educational Scholarship Awards for students in the deaf community. This initiative is jointly administered by a committee comprising representatives from Quota T&T and TTAHI. A total of three scholarships will be awarded each year beginning 2019—two awards targeting primary school students advancing to secondary school, and one award provided in aid of tuition expenses for post-secondary study.
Low Chew Tung told Catholic News that Quota T&T will also launch the SheRises Empowerment Initiative— a two-week programme during July/August aimed at disadvantaged women and girls. It will focus on areas such as life skills, self-esteem, entrepreneurship and business and leadership skills among others.
“By supporting young women and girls learning in a variety of life areas, we are building the next generation of confident women who will become leaders in their communities,” Low Chew Tung said.
Another project in the pipeline is the Loud Shirt Day initiative to raise awareness for children in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. This fundraising event will be carried out during International Week of the Deaf in September.
“This is a great way to educate our community, to understand hearing issues and to spread the message that deaf children can learn to listen and speak through early intervention,” she said.
Working with the Church
As it relates to the work of the Catholic Church, Quota T&T has been assisting the Mary Care Centre. In March 2018 during Quota Cares month, members of Quota T&T visited the home, provided care packages for the girls and their babies, food, and other items.
Last October, Quota T&T delivered seating in the form of two benches to assist with the overall comfort and recreation at the Centre. Further assistance, Low Chew Tung said will be provided to the home on an as-needed basis and the residents are expected to participate in the SheRises programme later this year.
Low Chew Tung further stated that indirect collaboration with the Catholic Church came through the joint hosting of its Signing Santa/ Christmas Comes to TTAHI project in December which included key stakeholders taking part in an initiative hosted for children in the deaf community for the first time.
Quota T&T’s role included the provision of toys for over 120 students, Christmas stockings, entertainment and food and beverage, décor and Signing Santa costume.
“The concept for Signing Santa came about where deaf and hard-of-hearing children found a Deaf Santa to be more relatable to their needs because he signs and can communicate with them on their level. This is a signature project for Quota and will be implemented yet again in 2019,” she said.
Now almost two years in existence, Low Chew Tung maintained that Quota T&T will continue to develop strategic partnerships with key stakeholders and institute educational and workforce development projects in order to achieve its mission in the local community.
The development of a strategic plan for the organisation and member recruitment and retention are part of its primary focus in this current term and the next. Quota T&T also intends to develop a youth arm within the next three years.
Interested in Quota T&T? Send them an email: email@example.com or call (868) 789-7713. Persons are also invited to visit www.quotainternational.org or on Facebook @quotatt and on LinkedIn and Instagram.