Two Trinidadians have been selected for the Queen’s Young Leader award, which recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.
Among the regional winners are Jean-Claude Cournand, founder of the spoken word group 2 Cents Movement, and Benedict Bryan, founder of the Humanitarian Association of the Republic of TT (HARTT).
HARTT focuses on providing humanitarian assistance to refugees. Its programmes have included an initiative which taught refugees English and extra-curricular activities to help them integrate into their new culture. Bryan also sits on the committee for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in TT.
Bryan told Newsday via e-mail he is humbled to have been selected.
“I look forward to receiving it as it represents our ability as youths to have a positive impact. I hope my work in community development, human rights and public policy can contribute to the progress activists, youth advocates and community leaders have made to shape the world we live in by protecting the most vulnerable, while creating a sustainable future.”
Bryan said he looks forward to meeting other Queen’s Young Leaders from around the world and joining this legacy. Past local winners of the award were Teocah Dove (2014), Siddel Ramkissoon and Matthew Batson (both 2017). Bryan said this country has had five exceptional youths awarded, but there are those who continue to do fantastic work without recognition and he called on them to continue.
“We need you.”
He said the team at HARTT is excited for the platform and hope this encourages young leaders and any other young person interested in making a change to join them as they work towards developing our community.
“I also want to encourage persons from my home town, Couva, to continue doing your best, focus, and build our community, we never know where life will take us.” Cournand founded the 2 Cents Movement, which uses spoken-word poetry to raise awareness of social issues and to encourage young people to address them. Cournand and his team, which includes 12 young people and ten poets, have led workshops and performances at more than 70 secondary schools and 30 primary schools. In 2017, the team’s focus was on gender-based violence and Cournand partnered with the University of the West Indies Institute for Gender and Development Studies to train poets on the issues, before they took their messages into schools. The group has also hosted two annual national spoken-word events in which 25 secondary and 17 primary schools participated. Each year more than 40,000 young people in TT engage with the programme.
Cournand, in a Facebook post, said he was honoured to have this amazing opportunity.
“Thank you, The Royal Family and Queen’s Young Leaders for this platform. Above all, I look forward to amplifying the work being done.”
Cournand said while he celebrates, the reality is that most genuine work goes unrecognised.
“Big up to those doing the work because the cause matters – full stop. Too often we wait for international validation to value what is being done locally.”
He said too often one individual gets the majority of credit, and took the opportunity to thank his 2 Cents co-workers.
Winners of this prestigious award, which was first given in 2014, will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK, during which they will collect their award from the queen.
For 2017, from the Caribbean and the Americas region, Canada had three winners, TT had two and Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica and St Vincent and the Grenadines each had one. The awards ceremony will be held in June next year.