School homework

St Joseph's Convent students provide a needy Trinidadian family with food, clothes, and a new house

  • The Young Leaders group from St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain, at work on the Rambarans’ new home. Photograph courtesy St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain
  • The Rambarans’ old home. Photograph courtesy St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain
  • The house that the Young Leaders built. Photograph courtesy St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain

Rena Rambaran is the single mother of five children, aged two to 12. They live in Bamboo Settlement No2, a rural district of Trinidad where the well-off live cheek-by-jowl with the poor. Their small shack, which stood on her sister’s property, didn’t have even the bare necessities. They had two beds, a gas stove and a fridge that didn’t work. There was a very risky electricity connection from her sister’s house nearby. Rambaran had no running water. There were no proper bath or toilet facilities; they used a barrel in an outhouse which had recently blown down. The standpipe opposite was her only source of water.

When the Young Leaders 2006 group from St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain were introduced to this family, they decided it would not be enough to provide them with food and clothing; the family needed a home to help them live a decent life.

So the girls set out to build a house.

The Young Leaders theme for the year was: “Shaping the future: cherishing life, embracing family values and respecting one another.” In addition, in a campaign entitled “Love the Children”, the students aimed to highlight the importance of children and encourage people to cherish them. The projects worked in tandem to help the Rambaran family.

The girls worked to raise funds, organising bake sales, a barbecue, a walkathon, and a family day, among other initiatives. They approached individuals and corporate citizens for cash donations, building materials and furnishings. They were given a very large donation of copybooks, which they are still selling to help pay further costs.

The Young Leaders found themselves in Bamboo No2 on weekends and during holidays to help with the building, which was being done by a contractor, the father of one of the students. They helped to move and lay blocks, mix cement and put the finish on the walls. Two other contractors did the electrical and plumbing work. Another parent tiled all the floors, and others helped to acquire paint, furniture and other items.

The girls also helped the three older children of the family, offering tutoring in maths, reading and writing. The children attend Bamboo Settlement Government Primary School, and their teachers were grateful for this additional help given to the family. In order to give Rena more skills to provide a better standard of living for herself and her family, the Young Leaders also arranged for her to do a six-month course in caring for the elderly.

Many adults felt the girls had taken on too big a task, a dream that couldn’t be realised. But the youngsters showed that what it took was willpower, determination, hard work, the sacrifice of their time and energies, a lot of faith in overcoming the difficulties and the generous help of some to make the impossible possible.

As a result, the Rambarans not only have a house, but they have been given a home—beautifully decorated and fully furnished with all they need to live a comfortable, dignified life.

A few days before Christmas, the house was cleaned of all the usual dust and debris left by construction. It was decorated for Christmas, with a tree, a crèche, lights and ornaments by a group of about 30 students of the present Form Four. They had not been involved in the project, but felt moved to lend a hand.

The Rambaran family didn’t take any of this for granted, but expressed their gratitude, not only in words but also in many concrete ways.

In other ways too the students were well rewarded. They found great joy in giving themselves to the service of these six people, and feel they have benefited in ways that will shape their own future. The girls now know how to start something with nothing and to persevere, little by little, till the task is complete. They’ve learned how to think big and not limit themselves in giving.


RBTT Young Leaders is an award-winning youth programme of the RBTT Financial Group

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.