Building resilient and culturally rich communities through collective effort

Upper El Dorado Community Centre, College Road, Tunupuna


Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly,

Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts


–    Chairperson, Dr. Donna-Mae Knights, Policy Coordinator, Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts

–    Mrs. Angela Edwards, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts

–    Mrs. Susan Corbett, Director Community Development Division, Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts

–    Mr. Gary Tagallie, Consultation Facilitator

–    Ms. Sharon Bradshaw, Senior Policy Specialist, Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts

–    Other staff of the Ministry of Community Development Culture and the Arts

–    Staff of other Government Ministries

–    Specially invited members of the community sector and the NGO movement

–    Corporate  sector representatives

–    Other invited guests

–    Ladies and Gentlemen

Of course, welcome to this special iteration of the Community Development Partnership Forum. By partnering in CDPF-III, you are part of a defining moment for Trinidad and Tobago. You are part of the formulation of the first eve national policy on Sustainable Community Development. This policy has the potential to revolutionize the way we do community development in Trinidad and Tobago and so I thank you for being here to take this opportunity to share with us, your rich, insightful and frank feedback on the potential improvement before you.

Trinidad and Tobago has had a rich and very important history of focus on community development in communities. We have invested in community development. Community centres have been spaces for community development dating back to the 1940s; village councils have pursued infrastructure development, education and training, welfare support, access to goods and services for communities and these kinds of improvement for community development; the Community Development Division established in the 1950s has supported community efforts with capacity building, grant funding, courses and facilitation and technical support.  There’s been Civic Centres, Regional Complexes a plethora of investments still present today facilitate development from the ground up. Of course, we still have the longest running program Better village, changed to Best Village.

Over the years, these efforts have contributed to improved quality of life of residents and the investments has beared fruit For example, the skill courses have provided sources of income for women and families; community festivals have emerged; community economies have been strengthened e.g. in Brasso Seco, Lopinot, Fondes Amandes; community heritage festivals have emerged in Guag.

Yet even in the face of positive outcomes through the investment of community development, what communities need have changed over the years. People change, needs change, community values have changed, (so the village is no longer raising the child), and failing or weak institutions traditionally depended on, the reach has not been continuing. Just this week, under 30% passed the SEA exams. We are faced with the reality with delivery of these institutions. As a community, how do we face these challenges?

We in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts have seized the opportunity created by these challenges, to take a long hard look at what we do and the related outcomes.  It is no longer enough to say that we are doing these things such as classes etc. What is important is the impact they are having. Is it enough? We are inspired by the Draft National Development Strategy or Vision 2030, which aspires to see a Trinidad and Tobago where Every Citizen is valued and has equal opportunities to achieve his/her fullest potential. These are the mandates that we must consider fulfilling.

We are aware that citizens will not reach their highest potential if they live in conditions that are highly associated with poor social outcomes. There are successful communities with these conditions, however, we can’t ignore those that are not. Reforming our vulnerable communities and ensuring that they provide the environment for the growth and development of individuals and families and for the community as a whole, is an essential requirement of nation building.

We have recognised in the Ministry, that the needs of communities and the people who comprise them, are multi-dimensional.

What we are presenting in this Policy is a sustainable development approach that goes after a more holistic style of development that seeks to have addressed for every vulnerable individual, family and community, the human and social, the economic, and the cultural aspects of life, and of course including concerns about the environment.  The evidence suggests that when these are addressed simultaneously, the result is lasting growth and development. More simply put, you can’t cure one leaf without treating the entire tree.

Our approach is also firmly rooted in the reality that while this Ministry has the mandate for community development, we cannot do it alone. Hence, we have invited different people with different interests to share their thoughts and views. Similarly, while you are on the ground in your communities, your organisations cannot do it alone. We therefore propose for a multi-sectoral approach to community development where all relevant Ministerial partners, the corporate sector and the NGO and community sectors work together to solve community problems.

Ladies and gentlemen Trinidad and Tobago needs us to get it right. Trinidad and Tobago needs us to make a sustainable investment in community development. We need to make our intervention now so that ten (10), fifteen (15) years from now we are not back at the crossroads, wondering about the impact of our investment in communities.

Already we have had dialogue with our Ministry partners and the corporate sector and they’re on board with us to strengthen community development.  We need you as the vanguard of communities to consider what is being proposed and critique it.  Tell us where and how you see yourselves in this scheme of things.  Tell us what is good, bad, and what and how our plan could be strengthened.  But at the end of the day we need your commitment, to partner with us in this tripartite arrangement, with government and the private sector to transform all vulnerable communities, to overcome challenges by creating opportunities, making them safe, resilient and progressive spaces for the self-actualisation of all their citizens.

I wish you a very enjoyable and productive day.  I trust that you would be so captivated by the deliberations that you would not leave until it is fully completed.

Thank you.