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Character Education

Trinidadian Students Learn about Goal-Setting

Trinidad and Tobago - We offered character education programs to children in the village of El Luengo and young athletes in Port of Spain, the capital from August 1 to 16. This was the second year that the Universal Peace Federation has sent peer educators from the US to this Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela.

The village children, ages 7-14, were intrigued by the American visitors and were for the most part interested in the lessons from UPF's Discovering the Real Me curriculum. As we spent several days with them at the community center, we built relationships and they developed a respect for us as teachers.

The younger kids enjoyed the drawing activities related to the lessons, and we had them perform a few skits as well. The older kids were more involved in discussions; they also split into a group of boys and a group of girls, each performing a skit portraying the moral of the lesson. Learning a lesson and applying it in real life is not always easy, of course, and sometimes the children bickered about unimportant matters even directly after a lesson about kindness.

Although they are exposed to television and movies, the youth have little understanding of opportunities outside their community of about 2,000 people in the Maracas Valley in the northern part of the island. Many remain in the village for their entire lives. We believe that such interactions  help broaden one's perspective about the world and one's own life.

The second week we offered lessons to youth in several government-sponsored sports camps near the capital city of Port of Spain. At the National Stadium Sports Camp, we presented a lesson on goal-setting to about 40 kids in a volleyball camp and to 70 kids in a tennis camp. We focused on making good decisions and invited the students to share about their personal dreams and their role models such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, and successful Trinidadian athletes and public figures. Some of the students demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities, helping to guide some of the younger students through the discussion and activities. Skits offered opportunities to practice teamwork and develop leadership skills.

At the Arima Sports Camp, teaching large groups of children at a time in a stadium was a challenge. The staff was supportive, but the children were more interested in playing sports than sitting through a lesson.

Finally, we met with the gymnastics and tennis groups at the University of West Indies Sports Camp. Both the elementary and middle school children were respectful, seemed to understand the content, and enjoyed participating in the activities. We could see the positive effects of the well-organized camp and good staff on the children.

The high school students were confident, intelligent, and motivated. They responded well to the lesson about the importance of guiding one's actions and choices with moral principles. They discussed the values of their role models and gained perspectives on the importance of their own actions and goals. We believe that if they continue working hard to achieve their goals, they can make a significant positive change in their nation and world.

We wanted to gain experience working with kids who could benefit from our interest in linking athletic training with character education and were told that the youth of Trinidad could benefit from this approach. Our goals included becoming familiar with a different culture and gaining a broader perspective of the world. We were expecting the teaching experiences to be rewarding for ourselves as well as for the kids, which we found to be true.

We are grateful to local organizers Rev. and Mrs. Sterling Belgrove and to Mr. Alan Saunders and the UPF for the opportunity to spend this time serving in Trinidad.

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