As the world observed National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January, students of the El Dorado West Secondary School accepted the challenge to increase public awareness by creating a Freedom Wall. The students intend to expand the project to create a Freedom Corner at the school.
The Form Four Geography and Art Club students embraced the challenge and each other to improve the school’s image publicly, whilst simultaneously expressing support for the worldwide cause, as the world marked the day on January 11.
Ameer Baksh said, "We chose the topic trafficking because there are so many different types of trafficking that persons are not aware of. Our local situation may not be at a bad stage as it is in some of the larger countries like India, but it is something we need to raise awareness about."
Challenging students in other schools to launch similar projects, Baksh echoed his classmates' concerns, "It was a great opportunity to let other students know what is going on in the world and also in T&T because some of us are sheltered and do not even know what is happening."
Pointing to the Freedom Wall on which a picture of the world had been painted inside a heart with wings and ringed with a blue ribbon and the students' handprints surrounding it, Justin Walker explained, "With all the colours, we wanted to show how we are in T&T as this country is made up of all different colours and races. It shows how free we are in this country to do almost anything and it also emphasises how we can come together as one people and do so many great things as kids and adults."
Hoping their efforts would not only raise the school’s image but also encourage other students to get involved in positive projects, Walker said future plans included creating a sculpture in the hopes of increasing awareness about other serious issues.
Mya Charles said, "We do not even realise how lucky we are here in T&T…we take a lot for granted."
Nodding their heads in agreement were students Roshan Bansee and Valini Ramdass who urged other teenagers to pay greater attention to the issues affecting people locally and further afield as they said this was the only way awareness levels could be increased and solutions found.
Art Club leader Rhadika Hinds spoke of the new friendships that had been forged during the project.
Heartened by the team effort and cooperation, Hinds said the painting also sought to convey the message that "The ribbon surrounding the Earth was meant to show that everybody in this world has the same red blood running through their veins and that we are all built the same. Nobody is different…everybody deserves equality and freedom."
Brandon Maharaj said, "We had a whole load of trouble and learning to trust one another but it was worth it."
Rashad Abraham said the idea was born after Form Teacher Maladaye Baksh urged the students to think about how they could highlight the occasion.
Samuel Graham and Jasiah Franklin said they took five days to complete the project which not only served to beautify the school but also encourages students in the lower forms to witness how hard work and dedication to a cause could result in tangible rewards and positive outcomes.
Graham said, "Even if our school has a reputation, we don’t deserve to be brought down. People can change and although we have been branded by that outside…there are good people here. It will always have negatives in life but once we persevere, we can look forward to a positive outcome."
Art Teacher Raynor Cielto expressed pleasure at the response by the students—from the Art and Geography classes—as he indicated his input was minimal, "I basically handed the project to the art group and it was freedom in a sense for me, to watch them do their thing.
"It was a liberation for them expressing themselves. The piece truly depicts freedom as it was done in freedom and shows freedom."