The Project You Foundation is a relatively new NGO made up of a group of young professionals.
According to chairman Joshua Alexander, they first came together to organise a Children’s Fun Day event for National Children’s Day which snowballed into a formal NGO through which they plan to continue hosting “feel-good projects” throughout the year.
Project You was registered in April 2023 and its first event was for residents of children’s homes across the nation, on May 13, at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain.
He believes it was the first time in the country’s history all residential children's homes, including from Tobago, assembled at one event as transport was arranged for homes that did not have the means of getting children to the location.
There, over 320 children played tug-of-war, red light green light, football, and musical chairs, went rock climbing and kite flying, enjoyed a petting zoo, bouncy castle, magicians, comedians, and DJs.
Also available were chicken and chips, pizza, cotton candy, snow cones, popcorn, doubles, and goodie bags of reusable water bottles, stationary, toys, snacks and more. Alexander told Sunday Newsday he and another member of Project You used to volunteer at another NGO that last engaged children in residential care in 2017. They thought no one had done anything fun for the children for a while and maybe they should do it.
So Alexander went on social media and asked if anyone would like to help throw an event for the children. Those who responded positively met to start making arrangements for the event and those people became the members of the NGO’s 28-member committee.
He said they are friends who work in different fields including doctors, insurance company owners, people in the entertainment industry, restaurant owners, and more. They put out a call to corporate Trinidad and Tobago and corporate TT responded.
He said the members were pleasantly surprised by the response which gave them hope that they could continue to do more good work.
“We just gave them (children’s homes residents) a day of normalcy. And it was very special for us to create that relationship with them because it’s something we hope to do every year.
“It was so beautiful to see so many people say, ‘This is a wonderful cause. Count me in.’ I don’t think we spoke to anyone who said no.”
Alexander said the committee members decided to have the event in the Queen’s Park Savannah, as the location is a sentimental one. He said in 2011 during the first Children’s Fun Day he ever participated in, an Ylang Ylang Tree was planted opposite the Archbishop’s House by Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs.
“Since then the Savannah has become a very sentimental place. This is a new incarnation under a new banner, a completely new group of people with new leadership and goals. We thought it would be fitting to return to the place we got the inspiration to do this.”
Project You is working on a plan for children aging out of the system. The members hopes sponsors from the event will help by giving the children leaving the homes employment and mentorship.
“We want them to have hope and opportunity to grow up, get a job, get married, have children, have a home, and not be disadvantaged because of circumstances beyond their control.
“When you have no hope or opportunity, they are susceptible to things like gangs, crime and other nefarious parts of society. So we hope to give them positive options in their lives.”
Alexander said Project You has a meeting scheduled with the Children’s Authority to make arrangements for the NGO to be a bridge between corporate TT and private citizens to the Authority and children’s homes that will allow people to get involved in charity and volunteerism more easily.
“We’re hoping to raise their profile nationally so it becomes ‘stylish’ for people to get involved in social issues.”
Other social issues or causes the committee members planed to get involved with include the elderly, period poverty, the displaced, and animal homelessness.
They already have five more events planned for the rest of the year, including a grand fundraiser where the goal is to make $2 million to be distributed to children’s homes as well as centres for displaced people and animals in TT.
Alexander said if the media continues to highlight the events, it will raise the profile of the groups and sponsors, making the events beneficial for everyone and helping the work to become sustainable.
“We realise now that we have a relationship with corporate TT. It can’t be that we have this ability and we don’t use it. If you can help people then you should.”