PRESIDENT Paula-Mae Weekes said charitable organisations must do much more than tending to the sick, feeding the hungry and caring for the poor.
The President said while it was commendable to give a leg-up to those in need, that by itself would not secure the country's future or pull TT out of its present slump.
“I believe every programme aimed at young people should aim to incorporate a heavy component of citizen building,” she told the gathering at the Rapidfire Kidz Foundation’s 8th Annual Gala Dinner on Saturday night at Achievors Banquet Hall, San Fernando.
Rapidfire was founded in 2012 by attorney Kevin Ratiram, to assist underprivileged children in education, health, sports, culture and other areas.
Weekes said, “This component cannot be incidental but must be deliberately integrated into programmes in order to have maximum impact and produce the necessary change in the young people with whom your organisation comes into contact.
“I want, and hope you want our young people to reverse the trend of the diminishing sense of social responsibility that runs through this nation.”
To do so, she said, “It is imperative that we prepare the upcoming generation to face and overcome, the problems which have made our society unrecognisable from a decade or two ago.”
She observed that the country seemed to be on an increasingly slippery slope and told Ratiram, as he invests in the next generation, to ensure that his programmes and strategies were equipping young people to contribute meaningfully to national development.
In the last year, the NGO has provided 739 pair of eyeglasses to underprivileged children, books, bags and toys to others, including children of migrant Venezuelan parents. It has also held career fairs to direct children’s paths and built a play park at Palmiste Park, San Fernando.
“We can help people achieve financial stability, career success, but without specific intentions of building individuals who understand and honour their civic duty, all that sincere effort is doomed to be largely futile over the long term.”
Weekes suggested that organisations such as Rapidfire keep the ideal of building good citizens at the forefront of their endeavours, inculcating the national watchwords discipline, tolerance and production.
“It falls to us, Rapidfire Kidz and others, to inculcate in the heads and psyche of our children, the absolute importance of being a good citizen and the need to be industrious and fruitful members of the national community."
She said few are in positions to directly influence or implement policies that can address many of the problems that beset the nation, “But we are not powerless.
“Our determination and concerted action to equip our children for the future can make a dent and many dents can make a hole big enough for us to pull our youngsters through to the light.
“I am confident if we as a nation are relentless in our pursuit of these goals and instil in our young people a sense of civic pride and responsibility, we will create a generation of industrious committed young people who can propel our nation’s journey forward and are committed to taking ownership of the country and future.”