THE Charlotteville Police Youth Club's newly-refurbished Youth Skills Centre must be a hub where the minds of young people are moulded, said ACP Collis Hazel. He made the remark on Sunday at the launch of the centre in Charlotteville.
The centre was launched by the youth club in collaboration with the Digicel Foundation. The youth club benefited from a $150,000 grant courtesy Digicel's Extraordinary Project Impacting Communities (EPIC) programme.
The two-storey building, which had been abandoned for a decade, will be utilised as a safe space for youths, skills training and commercial activity to fund programmes.
Charlotteville Police Youth Club president Verzelle David said the skills centre is intended "to be a place young people can be encouraged to develop an entrepreneurial mindset; be encouraged to be innovative and resilient; geared in the reintegration of marginalised youth ages 12 to 29 in east Tobago into the labour market; resolve some of the socio-psychological issues and delinquencies that results from unemployment in the community; be a safe, supervised study environment; help youths be swayed away from a life of crime, thus reducing juvenile delinquency and school drop-out."
Vocational training is intended to be a key aspect of the skills centre, with a culinary room, an internet café, computer literacy classes, printing services, counselling services, a cafeteria, and a conference room.
Addressing the audience, Hazel said Charlotteville brought back fond memories for him.
He recalled being posted there as an officer and assisting in the birth of the police youth club in 2013.
He said the training in cosmetology and other skills will augur well for the community.
"What you are aiming to do is develop the lives and livelihoods of our young ones," he said.
"What you are doing is creating a job that can provide sustainability for yourselves."
He said Charlotteville being selected first out of over 60 applicants for the Digicel grant shows the organisation is doing something right.
"As we open this centre, we need to fill these walls...You need to get them inside this building, within this facility. I am very delighted to see the amount of boys within our cohort, but there are much more.
"We have to understand what we are facing is group versus gangs. I want to implore you to join a group and not a gang. Because that is serious business we talking about here. We want to mould and shape you into responsible citizens, while others want to mould you into a life of violence."
Hazel said police will soon begin a recruitment drive and he hopes to see officers from the youth clubs.
Tobago East MP Ayanna Webster-Roy said the Youth Skills Centre is a space to empower and transform the community.
She hailed the input of Digicel, noting that the company has always been good to Tobago.
She urged the youth club to make information and communications technology a priority as it is the future.
Referring to a report laid in Parliament on Friday, Webster-Roy said child abuse in Tobago is not rampant but it is still too high. She sad a zero-tolerance approach should be adopted.
Cindyann Currency, manager of Digicel Foundation, was overwhelmed with emotion at the launch.
She said the youth club will receive one year of high-speed broadband data for the internet café.
She noted that EPIC was launched in 2016 with a cap of US$5,000 and had assisted 103 projects with over TT$3 million spent. She said the EPIC grant was later increased to a max of $150,000 and around $4.5 million has been spent.
She told the Charlotteville Police Youth Club, "We have work to do, and I always want you to see us as a partner. We are here to serve. We are here to invest in your community."