Since its inception 30 years ago, the Roxborough Police Youth Club has been a beacon on Tobago’s socio-cultural landscape.
And to commemorate the milestone, the club is hosting several activities highlighting its work and achievements.
The theme is A New Chapter, A New Beginning, A New Destination To Sail On.
Today, a virtual thanksgiving service will be held at the Roxborough Multi-Purpose Youth Centre from 4 pm.
During the event, special awards will be presented to members who have contributed significantly to the club’s development over the years.
Tomorrow, the organisation hosts Media Monday, a forum through which journalists will get the opportunity to interview the club’s pioneers and members.
The Roxborough Police Youth Club will also be the focus of Radio Tambrin’s annual pre-Christmas parade.
During the parade, memorabilia highlighting the organisation’s milestone will be given out to random people along the roadway from Charlotteville to Scarborough.
For founder Collis Hazel, the club’s 30th anniversary is a cause for celebration.
“Praise God, we have made it thus far,” Hazel told Sunday Newsday.
“From the start we wanted to prove to those who believe that nothing good can could survive in Roxborough wrong.”
He said former chief secretary Orville London had always believed in the club’s ability to make a name for itself in Tobago and the wider world.
Hazel, a senior superintendent in charge of the Guard and Emergency Branch, is the driving force behind the club.
And his commitment has not gone unnoticed.
On November 13, the Division of Community Development, Enterprise Development and Labour presented him with the Community Icon 2020 award for his contribution to social work.
Hazel said afterwards the award is not just for him but for those who continue to work tirelessly for the development of the club and its members.
An institution in its own right, the Roxborough Police Youth Club has received national recognition.
At the national awards ceremony in 2012, the club was awarded the Humming Bird Medal Silver for its contribution to community work.
It has also received several sport and cultural awards from the THA and other entities.
Proud of its achievements over the years, Hazel said the club recently established a hydroponics garden house funded by the New Zealand High Commission.
The project provides new agricultural farming technology to young farmers growing leafy vegetables.
The club has received approval from UN Women to support an initiative aimed at protecting abused women as well as those living in elderly residences, particularly in Tobago East.
As a response to the covid19 pandemic, the club also recently provided 1,900 hot, healthy meals to needy people in the largely rural constituency.
This activity was supported by the Division of Health and Wellness and Family Development, Rose Foundation and BPTT.
But the success and recognition the club enjoys was hard-fought – the result of years of commitment, sacrifice and determination.
It began as a crime prevention strategy in 1990 at a time when its police district was receiving reports of robberies against tourists and house break-ins.
Hazel, who is also a qualified social worker, said the intention was to provide an outlet for the young people to use their talents productively “instead of falling prey to social ills and violence in the community.
He said 17 of the club’s pioneers are still actively involved in the organisation. He added the club’s activities have always targeted the holistic development of the young people between the ages of nine and 29.
Its motto is Togetherness Is The Road To Achievement.
Apart from hosting after school classes for primary and secondary school students, the club has also exposed them to a range of sporting and cultural activities, including netball, football, dance and drumming.
The club also boasts of having its own steel orchestra, gym, culinary arts programme and speech band.
But Hazel said the club faced several challenges in the early years.
“There was a high phone bill cost to always remind children to attend meetings and we received no financial support from the Police Service to run programmes.”
He said the Police Service now supports one project per year.
Hazel said there was also a “great dependency” on business and embassies to fund programmes.
The Roxborough native said he sacrificed his personal life to ensure the club had a solid foundation.
“I had to work as a police officer on a shift system yet still function with the club during days off.”
He said he also faced internal job pressures with complaints that the youth club was not police work.
Hazel said the club does not get an annual government subvention but receives support from the US, Canadian, Korean, British and New Zealand embassies.
This support, he said, has assisted with the establishment of its elderly activity centre, office and classroom furnishings, lighting for the Roxborough recreation ground, establishment of a beauty salon and the hydroponics greenhouse farm.
The National Commission for Self-Help assisted in building the multi-purpose youth centre while the former ministry of community development donated a bus to the organisation through its community development fund.
Hazel said the THA assisted in establishing the only public gym in Tobago East. The assembly also pays the electricity bills for the football field.
Private citizens also make significant annual contributions towards the educational, cultural and sporting development of members.
Hazel mentioned Joan Pierre, whom he said, provides ten bursaries to deserving young dancers.
“Her daughter, Iona, was a dancer, who died from cervical cancer several years ago and she has vowed to offer scholarships to young people in culture.”
The Port Authority of TT, he said, gives two tertiary education scholarships annually to members who have excelled in their respective fields.
Hazel said the club has also benefited from several grants and won several competitions geared towards institution strengthening and capacity building.
Despite its good fortune in getting assistance over the years, Hazel said funding for maintenance of the club’s assets remains a challenge as is job security for its staff.
He is also hoping the club would eventually receive a government subvention.
The club is also on a drive to digitise its records and recruit male members. It has a membership of about 135, 76 per cent of whom are females.
Hazel believes more than 20 per cent of Tobago’s young people benefit from the club’s initiatives and activities.
He said within the past 12 years, its night football competition has seen participation from some 26 communities.
Over 2,500 students have also benefited from its pre-school and primary and secondary school after classes, both of which were funded by the JB Fernandez Memorial Trust Fund and BPTT Youth in Education projects.
The club has exposed over 1,600 people to cultural group exchange programmes in the Caribbean and the US.
Hazel said the organisation is hoping to fulfil several of its plans in the not-too-distant future.
The include the establishment of a youth credit union and a renewable energy project to minimise the cost in electricity bills.
Reflecting on the theme of the anniversary, he also feels it’s time to revisit the organisation’s mission statement to provide youths in communities with resources that would facilitate their holistic development.
Hazel explained: “Strategically, when an organisation achieves its mission, there is need to change for a new direction. So, overlooking the accomplishment made by the organisation, the new theme of the anniversary is charting is to that course, a new direction for the organisation.”
Hazel said he wants the club to achieve its fullest potential.
“There is a feeling of joy having contributed in developing the lives and livelihood of so many persons.”