Undercurrents in Trinidad and Tobago

Undercurrents… Our society is teeming with them. What are they?

Undercurrent: a hidden feeling or tendency that is usually different from the one that is easy to see or understand.

An underlying feeling or influence, especially one that is contrary to the prevailing atmosphere and is not expressed openly.

Trinbagonians are known for handling rough situations with a swig of beer and some soca, and have been ranked in the world among the “happiest alive”. Lately though, our repulsion for the negativity embedded in our social fabric has not been so hidden. People have begun speaking out on issues and aggressively drawing them to the attention of our leaders.

The reasons that these issues have been allowed to fester and the reluctance to address them even to this date, are deep-seated and complicated. It requires a deep evaluation of our harmful cultural habits and decisive (and no doubt, unpopular) action to change them. Too often even our own citizens who travel abroad and are exposed to progressive and mostly law-abiding societies, upon return are shocked and disappointed by our people’s antiquated behaviours and close-mindedness.

In noting the need to thoughtfully articulate our issues with a view to churning out creative interventions, some of the social issues faced are hereby listed:

  • Inequality and inequitable distribution of resources
  • Discrimination (economic, racial, physical, etc)
  • Larceny and armed robberies
  • Poor criminal detection and solving rates
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Child abuse and pornography
  • Failure of the judicial and prison system; overpopulated jails and tardiness of hearings
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Violence and murder
  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual offences
  • Kidnapping
  • Youth disobedience and school violence
  • Road carnage; ineffectiveness of Traffic Policing
  • Littering; ineffectiveness of environmental laws and policing
  • Inefficient Government processes
  • Ineffectiveness of existing communication channels

It is useful to note that businesses which address and provide solutions to social undercurrents tend to be wildly successful . They alleviate day-to-day frustrations in highly bureaucratic and often very corrupt systems. Ian Alleyne’s televised Crime Watch programme is widely perceived as a much-needed intervention against criminal elements in Trinidad and Tobago.

To be fair, some progress has been seen;

  • Government Ministers now utilize social media as a public relations tool to showcase the work being done in their Ministries and to answer the questions posed by the public.
  • Most trending issues on social media tend to be picked up by news stations and discussed on a national level.
  • Online petitions are now used to illustrate a unified stance against unpopular government decisions and less-than-appropriate comments made by persons in positions of leadership.

Can we develop other interventions to combat the issues faced in the listed areas?





Proposed Activities for Seniors in Arima

Across the country there seems to be a shortage of senior-friendly activities, especially in rural areas. It is not surprising that such activities are becoming increasingly important as the extended family model becomes a rarer commodity, and elderly folk are left to their own devices during the workday/workweek.

Lest you overlook the realities of being a senior adult in T&T, I’ll point out some possible features:

  • Loneliness & Depression – Close friends and family members of their generation have passed on or are ill. Few recreational activities in which seniors can socialize which can cause feelings of loneliness and depression.
  • Limited mobility – physically unable to partake in activities they may have been accustomed to, which require a wide range of movement. Transportation services for disabled/elderly persons are limited and pavements for walking are not user-friendly.
  • Neglect – Family members may be heavily occupied managing children or with their own lives and consider elderly care burdensome.
  • Health matters – Deteriorating vitals negatively affect hearing, sight and mobility. Complex health monitoring requirements needed. Dietary restrictions limit the kinds of food and drink they can consume.
  • Financial constraints – Pension increases not commensurate with increased cost of living. Difficulties faced in purchasing the basics needed to get by.

These are but a few of the challenges experienced by the elderly. Though there are national associations for the elderly, a community-based approach could be helpful in facilitating participation in group activities due to proximity. The identification of sub-groups within Arima’s population to concentrate outreach efforts and coordinate the utilization of key social services (such as ELDAMO transportation services) for this age group, could drastically improve the efficiency and success of programmes/projects for senior citizens.

Drawing upon activities already available for the wider population, some activities can be tailored to senior citizens, and include the following:

  • Aqua-aerobics
  • Yoga & Meditation
  • Adult Beginner Computer Courses
  • Dancing Classes
  • Writing memoirs (reading and writing classes)
  • Game of Memory with family photo cut-outs
  • Painting
  • Music and Movies
  • Video games
  • Chess/Checkers

Anything missing? Any comments? Message below!

Baby Box versus Baby Grant

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar launched the Baby Care Grant programme on 22nd April 2015, after announcing the initiative in the 2014-2015 budget last September. It will cost taxpayers over $100 million to implement. Families with an infant (0-12 months old) with a combined income of $3,000 per month or less are eligible to receive this one-off $500 grant from the Ministry of the People and Social Development.

Some complained that the $500 grant could not remotely cover the expenses associated with raising an infant but others have commended the Government for attempting to provide any relief possible, amidst rising living costs.

It is interesting to note that the Government of Finland provides a maternity package to expectant mothers containing, inter alia, “bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress”, as explained in this article entitled “Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes” (thanks for the referral Shilohna!).

In Finaland, this maternity box is now an established “rite of passage” of motherhood and though originally only offered to low-income families, is now offered to all expectant mothers.

Could local manufacturers and cottage industries in T&T come together to create basic infant necessities with a ceiling value of $500/box, and simultaneously stimulate local entrepreneurship and business activity as opposed to presenting new parents with a relatively unregulated cash grant? Maybe.