Wellness includes balance

Paul Richards recently earned his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

In this interview, he discusses the significance of having a supportive community when faced with children’s learning challenges. Accepting the notion that “everyone can learn” is the first hurdle to be overcome. He comments that Trinidad and Tobago’s educational system is not as bad as often described and points out the need to focus on the lowest 30th percentile of students to transform the system.

He also shares his opinion on personal wellness and the need to prioritize a person’s well-being and not wait for crises to occur.

A display of Incompetence

Shame and empathy are the two words that best describe my feelings while listening to the Commission of Inquiry into the incident when four divers lost their lives while trapped in a pipeline belonging to the Paria Fuel Trading Company.  On 25 February 2022, just 8 months prior to the time of writing, this incident rocked our country and wrenched at the bellies of citizens, particularly those former Petrotrin employees.

Watching the man who was the sole surviving diver, crying while presenting his evidence during the inquiry was difficult, but experiencing him incorrectly blaming himself for the death of his colleagues puts your mind at a different level.  While his bravery and courage are acknowledged, one would hope that he’s in the hands of an experienced therapist to help him through this difficult period.

I feel ashamed because this is another example of a leadership decision that has not been in the interest of the citizens of our country.  No matter how this one is sliced, the bill for the taxpayer continues to rise. 

My recurring question has been: How did we get to this?  It is early days, but the evidence points to a complete collapse in the systems and procedures which create a safe working environment. 

In 2018, when asked about the number of employees to be sent home because of the shutdown of the Petrotrin Refinery, then Chairman Espinet responded “All … All … All.”  The refinery’s closure affected some 2,600 jobs including 1,700 jobs in the refinery.   Among those discontinued jobs were the jobs carried out by a well-trained Safety Department which kept the refinery and its workers safe for many years.  In one act, the institutional knowledge was removed and replaced by a level of incompetence which brought us to this tragedy. 

What was the procedure to select LMCS Limited as the service provider for diving services?   If the report that only “two members of the dive team were in possession of commercial diving certification while the others were certified for recreational scuba diving” is accurate, this supports my conclusion about the incompetence of the leadership team.

The world is looking on and coming to its own conclusions about this tragedy.  How can a country which has been in the oil business for over 100 years exhibit such indifference about this level of incompetence?  No matter the investment opportunity, why should an investor put his money in a place where the systems and processes are so broken?

In the same way that company directors are held liable for poor financial decisions and can face jail terms, shouldn’t the Board of Directors of Paria be held personally liable for the deaths of those four divers?  Can we anticipate the passage of relevant legislation?

Published on November 25, 2022 – Newsday


Asking for help is a sign of strength

ROSE Hill RC Primary School is the first ‘big school’ I attended 60 years ago. It was about half a mile from my home on Quarry Street.

One day, a man chased another through the schoolyard with a cutlass, and I couldn’t wait to tell this story to my mother when I got home. Her immediate response was, ‘Ah moving yuh from dey!’ My next clear memory is wearing the Nelson Street Girls’ blue uniform and walking two miles to and from school.

The recent story about gunshots in the neighbourhood of Rose Hill RC brought back this memory, and I asked: ‘What has changed in 60 years?’ The weapons are no longer cutlasses but now AK-47s, and both sides in the argument are well-armed. My mother’s response was to find a way to escape the reality of the environment and move her child to what she felt was a safer environment.

Published in the Trinidad Express, Wednesday 16th November 2022

About 50 years later, Despers Steel Orchestra, ‘The pride of Laventille’, ran away from their home of more than 60 years to find safety away from gun violence. Over the years, families have abandoned the area in search of safety and security but many residents have no option and no support to transform it, so they remain and survive as best as possible. This is no longer the exclusive narrative of Laventille; there are many ‘Laventilles’ all over the country.

It is time for us to accept that our country is on a slippery path toward total collapse. Unfortunately, accepting this narrative means acknowledging that not only are our country’s systems broken but that this occurred because the execution of our responsibilities for managing our country has been lazy or even absent. We have given one political party a free hand to preside over that destructive process for more than two-thirds of our life as an independent nation. Our brokenness may also be seen as an opportunity to change the way we do business. Maybe the time has come for our country to seek outside help to de-escalate the mindset behind the gun violence which is killing us. About 20 years ago, the country of Colombia was known for drugs and guns, and with the help of the United States, they were able to transform their country. If a country like Colombia can reach out for help, why can’t we?

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; sometimes, it is the bravest move you can make.