DR RADICA MAHASE
UN secretary general, António Guterres said, “Young people are on the frontlines of the struggle to build a better future for all. The covid19 pandemic has highlighted the dire need for the kind of transformational change they seek – and young people must be full partners in that effort.” On August 12, Trinidad and Tobago will join the rest of the world in commemorating International Youth Day (IYD) 2021. This year’s theme is Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health. IYD is “an opportunity to celebrate and mainstream young peoples’ voices, actions and initiatives, as well as their meaningful, universal and equitable engagement,” Guterres said.
In commemoration of IYD 2021, I want to highlight to work of three young people who are actively involved in creating a more positive, inclusive society – Juvanna, Tiffany and Yelayna Mohan, all members of the Siblings and Friends Network of Support Autism TT. These three sisters all attended Holy Faith Convent, Couva and have been actively involved in social activities since secondary school.
Juvanna, 25, has a BSc in chemical and process engineering. The ILO reports that about 155 million full-time jobs were lost since the start of the pandemic and Juvanna is one of those who fall within this category. She is currently job hunting. Tiffany is 21, a national scholarship winner and currently a fourth year MBBS student at the Faculty of Medical Sciences, UWI, St Augustine. Yelayna is 20 and is currently enrolled in a medical laboratory assistant programme.
Initially, it was Tiffany who was interested in volunteering with the NGO. “I saw an ad on social media for SATT’s Autism Camp in 2017 and I was drawn to it. It was the first time that I saw a camp for autistic kids being done and I immediately wanted to be a part of this organisation. When I was accepted as a volunteer, I told my sisters about it and they also wanted to participate. We were nervous the first day but everyone was so friendly and accepting, we fell in love with volunteering and have been a part of the organisation since then,” she said. Today, they all help to organise all events and activities hosted by the NGO.
Over the years the three sisters have been and continue to be involved in various other activities in their schools and communities, and always support each other in whatever way they can. Tiffany said, “My sisters have been a stepping stone and a big support in all my activities. They were always there when things got rough, to talk about it and make it a little better. I am glad I was blessed with sisters.” The eldest, Juvanna said, “We would always encourage each other when we are feeling down about various things, for example the stresses of school, by just being there or listening to each other’s problem and trying to help out.” And of course, their parents Eraldo Mohan and Alicia Gellineau-Mohan have been with them every step of the way, encouraging them to volunteer, to participate and motivating them.
The Mohan sisters are the good examples of what our youth should be. They show how younger generations can positively influence our world. Yelayna’s advice to other young people is to, “Be yourself, because the best person to be is yourself. Be kind, because everyone deserves kindness, and never give up on what you want to achieve. If you want to make a difference, go out and make a difference, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t, because you can and you might inspire someone else by your efforts.” Juvanna added to this. “Genuinely help others without expecting anything in return. Even if you think what you’re doing will only make a small difference, still do it because a small difference is better than none.”
Tiffany said, “Everyone is different, no two minds are alike. But everyone is deserving of love and a happy life. You may think that what you do is small and won’t make a difference but if we all do our small part, it will all add up and we can change how people are viewed and treated in society.”
Congratulations to the Mohan sisters and all other young people who are working towards creating an inclusive society. Let us give them the opportunity to create a TT that they will be proud of. Happy International Youth Day 2021.
Radica Mahase is the founder and director of Support Autism T&T.