WHEN one thinks of a patriot, diplomats, national award winners, and athletes, who represent TT on the big stage, often come to mind.
Who may not come to mind – as crucial a role such a person plays in society – is someone like Deryck Dhanie, who runs the Ambiance Project, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), with a focus on promoting and creating a cleaner, healthier, and more beautiful country.
A simple man from Gasparillo, the part-time coach and full-time father is the managing director of TAP and is steadfast in his mission to create a liveable future for the children of TT.
The surname Dhanie is uncommon in TT, but may be recognisable by some, as his daughter is national archery athlete Priyanka Dhanie, who holds several national records in the sport.
Dhanie, speaking with Newsday in a recent interview, said, "What was initially a family concern grew into a bigger vision."
He gathered a clean-up crew of ten and got to work in February and incorporated the NGO by the following month. The second, he said, had about three times the number.
The idea of launching the NGO stemmed from an initial concern for the environment among the Dhanie clan, his tight-knit family, including his wife Nirmala, his younger of two daughters, Sandhya, his mother Malawati, his sister Donna and his nephews Satyaan and Navaal.
There was always the concern about the environment, but the 51-year-old said he only realised this as his calling last year.
Eventually, even the councillor for Reform/Mahambre, Chris Hosein, got on board, as did several corporate bodies and businesses, who remain supporters of TAP's various clean-up drives.
It now has among its personnel a public relations officer and others, whom he describes as all technically sound, good people and hard workers, who love the environment. There are eight members of its staff.
"But we have a number of people who consider TAP to be a part of their life and are willing to volunteer," said Dhanie.
He wants a sustainable NGO and one with a lasting imprint on the psyche of citizens.
"I have an all-encompassing vision for TAP, which means not only cleaning up TT, but impacting our nation where everyone understands the effect of tossing their garbage out the windows and into the rivers and stream.
"We need to have a mindset where TT nationals can return to visit our beautiful beaches and rivers," Dhanie said, "and not see tonnes of trash, not see the corbeaux everywhere you go, not be overwhelmed by the stench of the decaying refuse from poultry depots, not see the huge fires of burning tyres, not see the swirling funnels of plastic arising from landfills as they rise from the thermals (rising air currents) alongside the vultures."
Dhanie is undoubtedly genuine in his passion for a cleaner country, as he keeps the public aware of TAP's clean-up drives via social media and broadcast messages. He shares educational material with the NGO's supporters and partners daily with the hope that they share the message.
Asked why he saw it necessary to create an entire NGO for such a purpose, instead of simply volunteering on a regular basis, Dhanie responded, "The entire country is covered in garbage. Throughout the country, trash pervades every corner, crevice and sanctum.
"It is clear the agencies responsible for ensuring our environment is well-maintained are unable to perform their duties in a manner which ensures the environment is well taken care of. The sheer volume of the task is mammoth, and they are under-resourced for it."
He said TAP realised the agencies need assistance and that there is a void in the physical and educational resources available concerning the environment.
"Through the tools TAP has access to, we believe that we can make a contribution, firstly by collecting the garbage, secondly, by recycling and up-cycling some of the garbage, and thirdly by educating our schoolchildren.
TAP, notably, has rights to the SeaBin, which allows it to work with the Seabin Project.
The Seabin is an innovative part solution to the problem of trash in the oceans, as it collects floating refuse around the clock, then sends it to recycling centres.
"The Seabins are expensive and we are currently working through the financial arrangements. We also have partnered with a couple of international NGOs who are looking closely at us to fund projects here," said Dhanie, highlighting two such organisations, Ocean2clean and World vs Plastic who have already agreed to a partnership with TAP.
He said they will be initially installed on the northwest peninsula, where the highest concentration of marinas are located, and by the second phase will cover Tobago and the remainder of Trinidad.
The Seabin project allows TAP, through the SeaBin Project's Global Ambassador Programme, to educate schoolchildren locally. The children, Dhanie said, have since become more involved in collecting, sorting and weighing the trash.The data is uploaded to an international database.
"This programme asks them also to return to their schools, their friends and families, in turn educating them about the garbage, the volumes, the dangers. Hopefully, we can transform more and more of our population into more environmentally literate people."
A large part of TAP's efforts is collecting garbage by hand, which it does throughout the country on a cyclical system.
"We began a couple months ago in the Reform Village and as word has spread and support has grown, we have also participated and will be participating in more clean-ups."
As support builds, Daniel said, TAP will aim for greater visibility to make people conscious of the effects of leaving litter on beaches, throwing trash out of car windows and even the harmful effects a single discarded straw or bottle can have on local wildlife, forests and the environment at large.
"The Ambiance Project assembled a small core team of young, well-educated, motivated people, who are eager to demonstrate their knowledge and to create a greener country." Research and development, Dhanie added, "will seek to bring new concepts to TT and our people to work within small communities, to develop industries around the reuse of waste.
"From wind to solar to art, we are looking at all the ways we can change our processing of garbage to bring new focus on it.
TAP has engaged local agencies for potential partnership, which, thus far, has been successful.
"All have been supportive and co-operative.
"There are many organisations who have decided that the environment needs their input, and we have made some very good friends," Dhanie said.
The project, he said, has garnered attention from the President's Award, a non-profit organisation, which is affiliated to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Association and the Caribbean Award Sub-Regional Council. It trains young people in developing skills, and promoting physical recreation, service and expedition/exploration. The President's Award, he said, has expressed interest in working with the team through its network of schools.
"I know that (with this support) TAP can have a greater reach in getting our message out there."