Tobago youth ambassador launches Tobago Students’ Association in TT

Members of Tobago Students’ Association in TT.
Members of Tobago Students’ Association in TT.

WHILE ATTENDING a guild event during his first week at UWI’s St Augustine campus last September, Luke James-Trim made what he considered to be a disturbing observation – The students from all of the islands that had participated in the event proudly displayed aspects of their cultural heritage but Tobago was a no-show.

James-Trim, 22, who was appointed Caricom youth ambassador (Tobago) on September 8, 2023, recalled he was walking with the guild’s Tobago Affairs officer Janae Campbell at the time. Campbell is a former Tobago Youth Council president.

“We made about four laps around the quadrangle anxiously looking for the Tobago tent but it was nowhere to be found,” he told Sunday Newsday.

But his disappointment did not end there.

“After asking around I came to the understanding that for years, Tobagonian students have always felt left out as there was no dedicated platform for us to showcase our culture and identity. I started feeling a bit sad because I admired how the other islands had that sense of community and pride.

“They displayed and educated others about their culture, heritage and what makes their island unique and I eagerly wanted to see that same level of cultural change coming out of Tobago.”

James-Trim, a law student, said he immediately considered ways in which he could change this reality.

He toyed around with a few ideas for several months before finally deciding on an initiative through which Tobagonian students could showcase the island’s heritage to their regional counterparts on campus and not feel left out.

James-Trim said his former employers, Tobago Updates, were impressed by the idea for the project and pushed it. His followers on social media also responded overwhelmingly to the initiative.

“From that public awareness, people reached out to ask how they can assist.” James-Trim launched the Tobago Students’ Association in TT on March 11, his first major project as Caricom youth ambassador (Tobago). The organisation also has a 15-member executive.

“One of the greatest lessons I have learnt from my law lecturers is that as law students we shouldn’t just be problem identifiers but be problem solvers. That’s exactly what I decided to do with the launch of the association. It is not just about highlighting a problem. It’s about becoming the catalyst for change.

President of Tobago Students’ Association in TT believes the group is laying the foundation
for a stronger, more united Tobago.

The youth leader, who comes from Mt St George, is hoping the organisation will be the nexus through which greater regional integration can be forged.

“Over time, we’ve witnessed a divisive narrative perpetuated by past political leaders, fostering an adversarial relationship between Trinidad and Tobago, often for self-serving agendas. As the new generation, we reject this outdated and counterproductive approach. Our islands, each with its distinct culture and nuances, are the threads that weave the tapestry of our Republic, underscoring our unity in diversity.

“However, for too long, these unique differences were exploited and twisted, often for political gain. Now, it falls upon us, the new generation, to untangle this web and contribute positively to our nation’s future.”

He believes the significance of cultural exchange and a strong sense of identity can never be overstated.

“My vision is to create a sense of belonging right here in Trinidad, where Tobagonians can come together with peers from neighbouring islands, fostering deeper regional understanding while celebrating Tobago’s rich culture and identity.”

James-Trim said steps are already being taken in this regard.

“In discussions with our Chief Secretary (Farley Augustine), plans are underway to provide tangible support to members of this association. Soon, members can expect assistance with grocery items, easing the financial strains faced by both parents and students.

“Additionally, priority assistance with inter-island travel will be extended to part-time students and those seeking to return home to Tobago for emergencies or much-needed mental health breaks.”

Alluding to the latter, he added, “As someone deeply passionate about mental health, I understand the challenges university life presents. The simple act of being able to go home for a weekend can work wonders for one’s well-being amidst the pressures of academia.”

President of Tobago Students’ Association in TT Luke James-Trim

The goal of the organisation, he said, is to create a forum for Tobagonians to showcase their identity within the framework of the university.

“By embracing our diversity, cherishing our heritage and supporting one another, we are laying the foundation for a brighter future. Through this association, we will not only uplift each-other but also contribute to the unity and prosperity of our beloved TT.”

Although the association is in its embryonic stage, James-Trim said the response of Tobagonians to the initiative has been overwhelming.

“The impact has been palpable and extends far beyond just the young people of Tobago pursuing tertiary education. This project has sparked a sense of unity and collaboration that is truly heartening.

“What’s even more encouraging is that it’s not just the youth who are rallying around this cause. We are witnessing a groundswell of support from stakeholders and business owners across Tobago, eager to lend a hand in realising the dreams and aspirations of our association.”

He believes this “growing wave of solidarity” is a testament to the caring nature of Tobagonians.

“It speaks volumes about our community’s spirit and our innate inclination to uplift and support one-another. It is this very sense of togetherness and mutual aid that distinguishes us and forms the bedrock of our unique Tobagonian identity.”

James-Trim predicted the NGO would develop into a movement.

“As we forge ahead with this project, we are not just building an association; we are cultivating a movement of empowerment and collaboration. It is heart-warming to see individuals and businesses alike stepping up to be a part of this journey, recognising the value of investing in our youth and the future of Tobago.

“Together, we are laying the foundation for a stronger, more united Tobago, where every young person has the opportunity to thrive and contribute meaningfully to our vibrant community.”

Weighing in on Tobago’s thrust for greater autonomy, which he fully supports, James Trim believes there are pervasive misconceptions surrounding the issue.

While some believe it’s a step toward complete separation from Trinidad, he observed, others perceive it as a political manoeuvre by Tobagonian politicians to enhance their status and influence. Some have opted to remain indifferent about the discussion.

James-Trim said in his view, autonomy represents a fundamental quest for self-determination, control over resources, preservation of culture, and economic development.

“Autonomy is not about division; it’s about empowerment and the ability to shape Tobago’s future in a manner that authentically reflects our unique identity and aspirations.”

At present, he noted, the country’s Constitution vests the power to make laws solely in the hands of Parliament, situated in Trinidad.

“However, as Tobagonians, many of us feel a disconnect from this centralised decision-making process. Greater autonomy, therefore, offers the opportunity for strengthened bonds between Trinidad and Tobago, fostering direct representation in matters that directly affect Tobago.”

James-Trim added, “It’s crucial to recognise that the true essence of Tobago, its culture and its nuances can only be fully understood by the people who call it home. Autonomy is not a move to distance ourselves but rather a means to bring Tobago’s voice to the forefront of national discourse.

“By empowering Tobagonians with greater autonomy, we can ensure that decisions about our island’s future are made with a deep understanding of our unique circumstances and aspirations.

Ultimately, Tobago autonomy is a step toward a more equitable, representative, and prosperous future for all who call Tobago home.”

Asked about his experience as youth ambassador over the past six months, James- Trim said, “It has been an incredible, exhilarating ride. Representing my beloved country and especially my island home of Tobago on this platform is an absolute honour. It’s humbling to think that a little boy from Mt St George could achieve such big things. But it’s a testament to God’s grace.”

Since assuming the position, he’s advocated for critical youth issues like mental health, tokenism, gender-based violence and unemployment.

James-Trim said as a bridge between young people and decision-makers – heads of State and private stakeholders – he’s has also been able to champion youth-centred policies, some of which have already been implemented.

“This experience has been incredibly rewarding. It’s a privilege to see my voice contribute to positive change for young people across the Caribbean Community.”

But he admits the disparaging remarks from those who may not share his perspective on issues can be discouraging.

“There are the days when the naysayers will come together to launch their attacks against me and the days when everything sometimes gets too overwhelming …. but I keep going.

“I remind myself that people are counting on me, the youth are counting on me, Tobago is counting on me so every trial and tribulation I face, I just whisper to myself, ‘This is all preparing me for a greater purpose that I cannot yet see..”


"Tobago youth ambassador launches Tobago Students’ Association in TT"

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