Christmas 2013, St. Lucian children from across the island received bicycles, thanks to the great partnership efforts between Wilson Jn. Baptiste, Founder of The Gems of St. Lucia, Taj Weekes, the newly appointed UNICEF Champion for Children, his children’s charity, They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) and JetBlue Airways. JetBlue transported the bicycles to St. Lucia and the Annual Children’s Christmas Party was hosted by Helen Television System and Rise St. Lucia.
Wilson Jn. Baptiste and Taj Weekes are St. Lucians living in New York who constantly find small and big ways to reach out to the community. Both are excited to be able to work on this project together although they have each done separate projects in the past. In 2010 Wilson initiated his first toy drive in New York for St. Lucia. He sourced toys for the Annual Christmas Party for Helen Television System and was able to partner with Pastor Gilford T Monrose, President Mt. Zion Church of God (7th Day Adventist) who donated a suitcase of toys. After this first toy drive, Wilson went back to school to study for his Master’s Degree in Tourism Management. His studies kept him busy until now.
Wilson is happy that less fortunate children recieved bicycles this year. He believes that this initiative is a strong example of a strategic partnership which demonstrates the magic that can happen when like-minded people and institutions come together on a mission to help one of the most vulnerable groups – children, especially at this festive time of year.
“The image of a bright smile on a child’s face, who thought that he/she would not be receiving a gift this Christmas; the sigh of relief, on a parents’ face, who thought that he/she would have to make the difficult choice between a toy and ham this Christmas. This year is of particular significance due to the news of adverse economic conditions which the island is currently experiencing. I want to make a difference in the life of a child and a family. If each of us contributes a little to the initiative then we can bring happiness to many people.”
Taj Weekes is a world-renowned musician, singer and songwriter. He is involved in several initiatives in St. Lucia through his U.S. based not for profit organization, TOCO. TOCO is dedicated to improving the lives of Caribbean children through sports, health and enrichment programs. In 2011, he launched the TOCO Annual Holiday Toy Drive. Each toy drive has a theme that promotes exercise and healthy living. In 2011, he donated 600 soccer uniforms and soccer balls. In 2012 he donated scooters and helmets and now in 2013, it is bicycles.
“St. Lucia has the highest rate of diabetes in the world,” Taj said. “As part of my mission, I would like to see the children of St. Lucia become more active and riding a bicycle is one of the activities that they can engage in and also have fun with.”
For Taj, this initiative is also deeply spiritually rooted as he has made it big in the music industry but he is very much grounded in his core values.
“We are our brother’s keepers. To whom much is given, much is expected. I can help and I will do whatever is in my power to help the children of St. Lucia. After all, how many more things do I need? I can’t drive 5 cars, I don’t need 5 cars… but I can make a contribution at home.”
JetBlue Airways has regular flights to St. Lucia and was happy to partner with Wilson and Taj on this project.
“Our mission is to Inspire Humanity both in the air and on the ground. We live, work and volunteer in the communities we serve. We are excited to work with The Gems of St. Lucia to bring 150 bikes to less fortunate children. Youth initiatives are a core pillar of corporate social responsibility program. Our crew members are dedicated to causes that support and encourage children and education. Our crew members are excited to deliver these bikes just in time for the Children’s Annual Christmas Party,” said Janid Ortiz, JetBlue’s manager of regional marketing.
In St. Lucia, Helen Television System and Rise St. Lucia are elated about the partnership efforts as well.
“ This represents the 3rd such collaboration with Taj Weekes and the TOCO foundation. This year, in addition to handing out bicycles to less fortunate kids at an open air free Xmas party, schools such as the Dame Pearlette Primary School, the Grande Riviere Primary, the St. Lucia Crisis Centre and Faces of Cancer foundation will all receive bikes for their “Kids after school programs”, which caters for less fortunate kids.” said Valarie Albert, HTS, St. Lucia.
Away from home, it is heartening to see the commitment of persons like Taj and Wilson to give to the children in St. Lucia. Having established a partnership with fellow philanthropic organizations such as Rise St. Lucia and Helen Television System, their message to the public is simple: a small gesture can go a long way. Take time out to hug a child…take time out to smile to a child….take time out to let the least fortunate know that things will get better.
The children of St. Lucia and children globally deserve more than toys for Christmas. They must be assisted throughout the year. As a result, the team which produced the results for the toy drive for 2013, will not end its contribution after Christmas. Plans are already underway to determine areas of assistance for the children of St. Lucia and globally, using the team’s expertise and resources. More partners are invited to assist and contribute to the cause of the children.
They would like to thank everyone who has been a part of this initiative: JetBlue, Helen Television Service, Rise St. Lucia, Radio One Hundred, Valerie Albert, Dr. Stephen King, and Jaqueline Bird.
TuneIn to the needs of those who are less fortunate than you during this Christmas season. What can you do to make someone’s day brighter? StepUp and take one small action step. You have it within your power to make a positive difference in your corner of the world! We should all strive to leave this world in a better shape than we found it for the sake of the next generation. This shape should take the form of a cleaner environment, peace and a world that can sustain its resources.
About The Gems of St. Lucia:
The Gems of St. Lucia identifies tourism products which have the attributes of providing warm, highly personalized, quality service and accommodation in an intimate and alluring setting. The focus is on comfort, beauty and a true sense of relaxation. We fill a gap during the slow season in the hospitality sector in St. Lucia, and more precisely, in the hotel sector by engaging with international markets to promote St. Lucia as a prestige destination of choice. We achieve this through the creation of global marketing consulting teams which involves St. Lucians and friends of St. Lucia.
They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) is a 501(c)(3), U.S. based, not-for profit organization co-founded by St. Lucian musician Taj Weekes and attorney Shirley J. Menard. TOCO’s mission is to raise awareness and address the issues that affect Caribbean youth through comprehensive projects and initiatives on every island in the Caribbean. TOCO’s projects range from after school sports programs, a diabetes awareness initiative, a domestic violence awareness campaign, and artistic programs. TOCO is dedicated to improving the lives of Caribbean youth through sports, health and enrichment programs
They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO)
27 Edgewood Place
Great Neck, New York 11024
This TuneIn and StepUp blog is written by Magdalene Cooman-Maxwell. She is from St.Lucia and currently lives in Ottawa, Canada. She blogs ONLY for things which will bring inspiration and help make our lives better. You can follow her blog or share it with others to continue the flow of good thoughts and actions into the world. Contact: Tuneinandstepup@gmail.com