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Critical role for parents
In this series, the T&T Guardian takes a look at homicide statistics for the country and the areas where they occur.
Fabian Pierre asks: Why are they so different?
In part two, we continue to examine how people who started out in poverty, in deprived areas, turned out so differently.
Influence of family
Sheldon Alfred, 29, grew up in Morvant, one of the areas of the country described as a crime hot spot.
He said other young men who grew up with him eventually turned to crime.
“From my observation I don’t remember their parents being as involved in their lives as my parents were involved in mine. I mean you’d hear quarrelling, with somebody’s mother saying, ‘I don’t want no duncy-head chile in meh house,’ or if they came home with bad grades, there wasn’t really any big fuss. It’s as though they just accepted it and nothing was done after.”
Jean-Claude Cournand, 24, the founder of the Two Cents Movement, a psychology major, spoke of his own case.
“I remember as a child Daddy would come and buy these books and read to me, and I was always so excited to hear the next story, and he would always do that. He would go out to encourage a lot of other parents and families he met to read to their children too. So my love of storytelling came from that kind of involvement.”
Cournand said in spite of familial involvement, he agrees external factors can play a critical part in development or regression. He recounted the downward spiral of his best friend and the fateful day that could have changed everything for him.
“My teenage years were turbulent years for a couple reasons and I used to duck school with my best friend, was in fights—even almost getting shot and stabbed—and used to get into trouble at other times.
“We used to go plenty times and sit under a mango tree and just contemplate life and dream of what we could be. And there was a day, I don’t know if it was supposed to happen that way or not.”
“Boy, hmm. I don’t know if it was supposed to be that way, but there was a day when there was usually this bread van that would pass at the same time every day, and one day we were sitting in a track with big stones waiting to...I don’t want to say attack the truck, but who knows what it could have escalated to. And I mean we were just sitting there waiting—and the truck for whatever reason didn’t pass.”
“Did your best friend ever sit with you under that tree and tell you what his dreams were? If he had any?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Cournand replied.
“He just wanted to be successful.”
He’s since been incarcerated three times, Cournand said, and his crimes escalated to the point of violence which led to him being an inmate at the Youth Training Centre (YTC).
“But when you come out of those places, you can’t re-integrate the same way with society. You’ve changed and you don’t understand how to,” he said.
Waiting for the bread van, he said, was the day he realised he needed to find another outlet to vent his frustration and anger before it turned violent, or worse, deadly.
What makes you different?
Finding an avenue of release was the same choice Shawn Madhoo said he made.
Madhoo, 21, a university student, told the Guardian that the roads in Cunupia, the highways, anywhere there was asphalt, were the places he vented his anger and frustration.
“Taking up that bike and pedalling as hard and as fast as I could was the way I used to take out my frustration and anger after my brother died and everything in the family just went bad. I used to ride dangerous too, eh, I must admit.
“But that road, any road, and them wheels, used to make me calm. There wasn’t nothing I couldn’t figure out after riding and I used to tell myself when I done, ‘Everything going to work out boy, hold strain.’”
Cricketer Daren Ganga strongly believes his family and the sense of community were the support bases that led him to his current path.
“And this is the thing about community, it shapes your life tremendously. Having those role models who shape you becomes critical. Even if there was trouble, you had people to keep you in line and even when things were tough with food, you also had the community helping each other out.”
“And that is such a critical and powerful thing, eh boy,” Cournand agreed.
“Having a community of positive people to contribute to self-development is what is most tangible and most useful. That connection to an elder, who is senior, who can empathise and relate. And it is a crossroads thing too, eh, this thing called mentorship, because you can either have a good or a bad mentor.
”But all people remember really is the conversation, you know, because that’s the part of the community they are looking for in mentorship. Guidance.”
Madhoo was again pensive for quite some time when asked what he believes makes him different from those who are committing homicides.
“I don’t know, nah, boy. Pick up and go and do something: go plant the land, go play some cricket, do something. I don’t know, but for me I just want my education, and do what I have as my dream, and I just decide that that is what I want to do and what I doing now.”
Alfred said he didn’t know what makes him innately different from anyone else except that his parents played a key role.
“I can only bring it down to my parents’ involvement in my life and making sure I understood the value of hard work.
“I don’t want to have to be looking over my shoulder, or be surrounded by a group, who are like my bodyguards.”
*Tomorrow: The urban crime factors
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