The Siparia Youth Steel Pan Orchestra, a branch of the Siparia Police Youth Club, is embarking on a tour to Virginia, USA, from August 14-28.
Invited by West Indian United Ltd, producer of the Virginia Carnival, the youth band has been contracted to play at a number of events.
Sgt Roger Worrell, who is in charge of the group, told Newsday the tour will cost upwards of $370,000 – and to date the band is still short of $$200,000-plus.
Forty people are in the travelling party, 34 of whom are children. Worrell said the pans have already left TT, since the band was able to pay for them to leave the country on Wednesday night by sea.
Worrell said the group is trying to raise some of its own funds, most recently by hosting a barbecue. Organisers have also sent letters to various ministries in the hope that within the next week or two, something positive will come out.
“But at this time, like any other organisation that is hoping to go abroad, we are getting nervous that the time is getting close and we are still so short on funding,” said an anxious Worrell. So aGoFundMe account has been set up to which people can donate at (https://www.gofundme.com/f/gillian039s-campaign-for-living-water-community-inc?fbclid=IwAR2Dt-8D6OGeUMJQ5h_bqnIkrDbjXWp5b6cdJZxQuAIKwLmsaI_pTjanjg4).
Worrell issued a stirring plea for help.
“We are calling on corporate TT, on behalf of the youth, to support something that is positive. As we all know, police youth clubs are a crime-fighting initiative by the TTPS where we are of the view that the more we get the young people involved in positive activities, supervised by police officers, is the less issues we’ll have to deal with down the road as it relates to crime when it comes to young people.
“So this is a great opportunity, I think, not only for the national community but also for the media to sell this type of activity in promoting young people, because once they get that kind of exposure we all know that we are almost sure of minimising the social problems that will exist down the road.”
He said he has written for assistance from the Sports and Culture Fund, which falls under the Office of the Prime Minister, but there is a little snag, in that the board is a member short and is waiting for that member to be appointed so the board can sit.
He explained, “Several applications to different organisations are outstanding at this time. So it’s only when that board sits then some of us , the groups who have applied for funding, will know what assistance we will be getting. We are very hopeful that it can happen within the next two weeks, because the cost of tickets for the children’s travel is escalating.”
Asked if the band had approached Pan Trinbago and the Culture Ministry, Worrell said: “We really fall under the TTPS (TT Police Service), where we are encouraged to get the young people involved in different types of community and cultural activities. So pan is just one of the avenues we are using to keep the young people out of trouble. And the exciting thing for some of these youths – it will be the first time some of them will be even going to Port of Spain, much less to be going to Virginia in the US.”
He praised Patsy Joseph, ACP, community relations, and CoP Gary Griffith, who he said are both making every effort to see the trip come off.
In spite of challenging domestic conditions, he said the phenomenal and exemplary youths of the band have demonstrated resilience and the spirit of empowerment through their talents and are practising extremely hard.
“I can tell you, they are going to make TT proud. It is not just a little feel-sorry that the police youth club want to go – the type of music they are playing is going to surprise a lot of people.
“While they will be playing all facets of music, the main thing is our music, because people don’t want to hear their music, they want to hear what you have to offer as relates to a Caribbean island.”