Dr Safeeya Mohammed
Determined to escape the shackles of poverty and the environment of crime, Shihan Hanifah Marva John-Logan used her struggles to develop a formula to succeed, and it is this same formula she is using to carve a pathway for those in the community to seek that elevation as well.
She desires to see the youth of impoverished communities nurtured, so their upbringing will not be a life of crime but possibilities.
John-Logan is starting with Enterprise, her hometown, and her mission is to encourage all to embrace the idea that there is no failure, just challenges. “Each One, Teach One,” is her motivating mantra!
Her journey was not a bed of roses, however, she has no regrets. “I will not change anything because it will change who I have become. I always wanted to be a defender of good. Preventing and safeguarding people from a life of pain and suffering. I wanted to provide the opportunity for children to have the best of life. So my career as a social entrepreneur and change agent chose me. I am a Trinbagonian, I am a mother, a wife, a grandmother, a martial arts practitioner, a social worker, a community activist and most importantly, a child of the Most High God.”
Education rescues you from a life of poverty
John-Logan recalls, “Growing up there were eight siblings in all– we are six girls, three boys. I grew up in Lendore Village, Trinidad and Tobago. My both parents were Grenadians who migrated to Trinidad for a better living. But, we were poor and when I say poor I mean really poor. We did not have lights.
“Just imagine in those days, the bus was only ten cents and many days I didn’t even have ten cents to reach to school. Money was hard to come by, so I had to walk to school, and sometimes run to school. So, I became an athlete, not by choice but by force of circumstances. However, we grew up on the foundation of ‘God is everything’. No matter how poor you are, know that God loves you and be honest and true.”
She said, “So at a very tender age, I would help other people in my community, with simple chores, help my peers with schoolwork, help senior citizens by reading the newspaper or cleaning their homes. Many times, after helping the people in my community would give me a small token for the service given. I had no idea at that helping freely without looking for any reward would design the path for my life, as a social entrepreneur.
“I attended Carapichaima Junior Secondary School and then Chaguanas Senior Secondary School and even in school I would assist my peers with their assignments and would stand up to the bullies that were taking advantage of students. At the end of my secondary school days, I did many courses in different fields and skills until I was given the opportunity to attend COSTAAT, where I attained my Bachelor’s in Social Work with Honours. My learning and academic achievement advanced with another accreditation, becoming a Certified family and community mediator of Trinidad and Tobago Mediation Board.”
Sports and martial arts provided solutions
Martial arts may not be the typical sport for a female, but her perseverance broke that barrier. John-Logan obtained her Shodan Rank in 2001, which is the first-degree black belt then moved on to the second-degree Nidan Dan Rank, followed by her third-degree black belt, San Dan which was her last grading with her mentor and instructor Dr Rev Shihan Carlyle Thorne.
“The knowledge he passed on to me and his other students was invaluable. After his passing in 2012, there was a vacuum in the community of Enterprise, crime was spiralling out of control. This motivated a dynamic group of parents and senior instructors of Thorne’s Martial Arts Academy to discuss a way forward for our youths and community. Coming out of this meeting Ryu Dan Dojo was birthed.”
Ryu Dan Empowerment Foundation, fondly known as Ryu Dan Dojo, is a multicultural community-based/non-governmental organisation established in 2013. The dojo is a safe space, a space dedicated to supporting the social, educational, and physical development of all, for a healthier, safer, and more respectful, resilient community.
“We utilise our innovative ‘Sport+ (Plus) Model’ as a counter-violence narrative to address social needs: Learning and teaching techniques aimed at enhancing and encouraging self-regulation, creativity, improved academic ability and pertinent life skills. We use martial arts as a vehicle for change and a tool for social inclusion and integration encompassing a holistic development programme.
“Through Ryu Dan our work has created a safe haven for the youths who needed a way to escape the violence that would erupt at times. Over the past ten years, the foundation’s initiatives have become a continued and successful part of the local community. Ryu Dan has implemented projects alongside the US Embassy, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Democracy International, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and other stakeholders utilising our Sports+ (Plus) Model and Martial Arts to support education, to reduce crime and violence in hotspot areas in central Trinidad and elsewhere.”
During this period the foundation has served more than 2,000 people directly. The young girls and women of the community also participate in the ‘Support, Educate, Empower Women’ (SEEW) programmes and are trained in soft furnishing and garment construction. “Our blended approach is utilised, where both Venezuelan migrant and T&T locals are learning, training, and socialising together. This also serves as a strategy to reduce the stigma, fear and xenophobia within the community.”
Advice for those facing challenges
For people facing challenges, John-Logan said there was hope. “It’s not easy for youths right now but there is hope. My advice to anyone struggling in difficult circumstances is don’t be afraid to ask for help. Know that everything only lasts for a season. Poverty is hell, but you do have to stay there. You can use it as your ladder to success.
“P-is for perseverance
O-overcome the challenges
V-is becoming victorious
T-is for the time you invest in education and development
Y-is for the yearning to excel to the greatest!”
Dr Maya Angelou’s quote resonates strongly here, “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”