By Lara Pickford-Gordon, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Twitter: @gordon_lp
The St Therese Centre for Education and Training Saddle Road Maraval will be a “welcoming space”, a community centre for migrants, refugees and others. The Centre is named after St Therese of Lisieux ‘the Little Flower of Jesus’, a French Catholic Discalced Carmelite nun, who died at 24 years.
There will be an emphasis on programmes for children and youth, said Rochelle Nakhid, coordinator of the Living Water Community’s (LWC) Ministry for Migrants and Refugees (MMR) at a small opening ceremony for partners and stakeholders Tuesday, July 30.
She said the primary focus will be education and training initiatives via ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, vocational skills training and other education opportunities and skills training for youth in particular. A diploma programme will also be offered for migrants and refugees. Nakhid said, “We also hope to offer social events particularly for our unaccompanied children” of whom there is a growing number.
LWC also hopes the space can be used by partner organisations for training, faith-based communities and the private sector. Support groups for LGBT+ persons, single women, new mothers, families are other possibilities.
“The options for this space are limitless; we really want it to be a community centre with a lot of community initiatives and just a welcoming space. We plan to put a library and have more art therapy workshops,” Nakhid said. She drew attention to the large mural which was the backdrop explaining it had been created by participants of a recent workshop.
Archbishop Jason Gordon commended the resilience of the LWC in working for migrants and refugees. Alluding to LWC’s partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for more than two decades, he said the work done for the “long haul” has allowed the “the crisis not to become the crisis it could have been”. He added, “There was so much happening and so much already in place especially the work you did with UNHCR and all your other partners that has brought Trinidad and Tobago to where it is when the crisis actually happened.”
He prayed for progress to be made in caring with dignity for those who have come. Archbishop Gordon said this will not happen easily with xenophobia and “push back” but the moment provided an incredible opportunity to also educate citizens of the kind of people they need to be.
“We have an opportunity because of our size and how young we are and the traditions are not set yet, to build traditions of hospitality and traditions of welcome to people who come to us from everywhere else. Education for children is such an important part of the right of a child,” he said.
Archbishop Gordon pledged his support and urged the LWC to “keep going”.
UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) Chief of Mission Leila Jane Nassif, was gratified to see the centre being put to important use helping many children and the “community that so desperately need it”. She thanked the LWC for the hard work to make the centre happen.
UNICEF Education Officer Daniela Uresty said UNICEF, its colleagues from the UN and LWC have worked hard together.
“It has not been easy but all our mandates are being put on the table and we are trying to move forward to do something that is really important which is the rights of the children so we have to make sure the rights of the children are being accomplished regardless of the nationality of the children.” Also delivering remarks was Chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice Leela Ramdeen. Archbishop Gordon offered prayers and blessed the building.
LWC co-foundress Rhonda Maingot was thankful to God for the building which was made available through arrangements with the owner. The site previously housed a furniture store.
The LWC school of Hope for migrants and refugees had too many children so the education programme had to go out to communities. She said the Centre will be a hub for education and blended learning. Maingot said 24 teachers are being prepared. They will support migrant ministries in parishes as well as provide access to education on the compounds of Catholic and Presbyterian schools.
“If we can’t get space, some of the schools will give us a shift system and we will work with them in the afternoon so the programme we are designing for children will be blended learning so it will be online but you have x amount of hours to interface” she said.
The LWC Ministry for Migrants and Refugees http://lwcrefugee.org provides a range of services: registration of persons seeking asylum, case management, programming, cash-based interventions, psychosocial unit, legal assistance.