Trinidad and Tobago, a country in the Caribbean known for its beauty, vibrancy and historically inclusive nature, is unfortunately also home to many people living in poverty. As of 2013, approximately 35.1 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. Such poverty leads almost inevitably to political strife, violence, and, in the specific case of Trinidad and Tobago, the entrance of ISIS into the lives of its citizens. With this in mind, here are a few small ways to help people in Trinidad and Tobago escape this cycle of poverty and violence:
- Help provide food. A teacher would likely confirm that a student who comes to school hungry will not be able to concentrate on their lessons. Likewise, it is incredibly difficult to help a poor population without first providing them with food. Food for the Poor has been incredibly helpful in this regard, sending healthy meals to families in Trinidad and Tobago, along with basic hygiene products, products for community development and even school supplies.
- Build houses. The Ministry of Housing in Trinidad and Tobago estimates that about 19 percent of the population lives in informal settlements rather than actual houses. Many people are on an incredibly long wait list for government housing and may have to wait 25 years before a house is available. Because of this increasing demand for housing – due to population growth and income equality – building more affordable housing is crucial. Along with providing food, Food for the Poor has also been instrumental in providing housing to poor families in Trinidad and Tobago, as has Habitat for Humanity. Both organizations greatly appreciate help, both in the form of donations and in the form of volunteer work.
- Support education and vocational training. As farming is incredibly important to the country’s economy, many people have found that they are able to greatly increase their income by learning new farming techniques, including how to maximize efficiency in their land area and which particular crops to grow. The Caroni Central Farmers’ Market has run with this idea, encouraging people to grow quality crops and, more importantly, teaching them how to make a good living out of it.
While it is always important to help countries in need, helping people in Trinidad and Tobago has a particular significance right now, as more and more young men are being recruited into ISIS. In fact, the country has become a breeding ground for extremism in the Caribbean. This is, in part, due to poverty and the fact that many young people see very few opportunities for their future (especially with the country’s economy on a steady decline), making them easy targets for extremist recruitment. While this is a problem with no one simple solution, the government of Trinidad and Tobago has been slowly trying to prevent the influence of ISIS by introducing new amendments which would criminalize membership in the Islamic State or any extremist organization.
Still, it is clear that the root of this problem is poverty and helplessness, both of which can be alleviated by providing food, housing, education and generally letting people in Trinidad and Tobago know that people care about them. While it may not fix everything, it will be a small way to help people in Trinidad and Tobago and, hopefully, begin to lift them out of poverty.
– Audrey Palzkill