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Selfless service for youth who have gone astray
story appeared in Catholic News, March 15, 2009
By Mikhail Woodruffe, Secretary, SVP Prison (YTC) Committee.
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Selfless service indeed is offered by members of the Prison (Y.T.C.) Committee of the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

“When I was in prison, you visited me… In so far as you did these to the least of my brothers, you did it to me.” (Mt 25)

The SVP Prison (Y.T.C.) Committee has been continuing its good work of ministering and mentoring lads (as the YTC prefers them to be called), that is, young males below the age of 18 upon entry, at the Youth Training Centre, Golden Grove Road, Arouca. We visit and care for the lads of the Centre who do not receive visits from their family members, for a number of reasons including poverty, distance of family from the Centre, abandonment and humiliation felt.

Members of varying ages and from different SVP Conferences and areas of the country have gone beyond the fear and anger that many hold due to our crime situation and follow the words of Jesus mentioned above, to minister to these sheep who have gone astray. It is a contribution towards remedying the crime situation that surrounds us, as many prisoners are known to have once been at the YTC and to be repeat offenders.

Members are assigned a lad each, whom they are expected to visit individually or in small groups, on at least a monthly basis. At these visits, members counsel, pray with and befriend these forgotten and marginalised young males in society. The lads also receive a personal bag from the Committee, for their own upkeep, with toiletries that they would need. We attempt to do our part to ensure that after their three-year stay at the Centre, they would leave as productive and God-fearing citizens, leaving their life of crime behind them.

Members of the Prison (Y.T.C.) Committee on Paramin Hill
Members of the Prison (Y.T.C.) Committee on Paramin Hill

The spiritual and social dimension are both seen to, as we host a Lenten Reflection Day with dynamic presenters for the lads, a Social Afternoon and as well a Christmas sharing, complete with carols, ham, pastelle and sorrel! We also must be at our best as mentors, spiritually and socially, and as such we have Holy Mass offered quarterly at the Cathedral and had a Members’ social day at Paramin, Maraval in 2008.

We have continually worked to have a fruitful relationship with the authority figures at the Centre and as such have had meetings and discussions with the Superintendent, Welfare Officer and Training Officer of YTC to assess the impact of our work and how we can improve it. We are also represented on the Archdiocese’s Catholic Prison Secretariat meetings and have had Prison Chaplain, Fr Christo accompany us on one occasion, to address the young men.

The Committee has honoured long-standing members, namely Bro Eurico Jardim of St Ann’s, Bro Patrick Baptiste (RIP) of Santa Cruz and Bro Joseph Marcano of Laventille.

We remain a committed and prayerful group of persons wanting to make a difference and confident we are actually doing so. We lack male role models for the lads, and as well young persons whom the lads can easily relate to, and as such especially encourage the membership of these categories of persons, although we welcome anyone passionate about this ministry to join. The Committee meets on the third Thursday of every month at the Society of St Vincent de Paul Head Office, Duncan Street, from 4.00 to 5.00 p.m.

Future plans of the group include literacy classes from ALTA training, given the great levels of illiteracy. Additionally, training sessions by professionals in Social Work, Counselling and Church Ministry are being planned for new and current members, to ensure the lads receive the best spiritual and emotional support that members can offer.

The Committee welcomes new members of all ages, both male and female, but especially encourages young persons and males, who are now under-represented in our membership. SO… what about YOU? Why not JOIN US TODAY!

To join or aid in the Committee’s ministry in any form, call Sr Carol at 662-7506, immediate Past President, Sr Cynthia at 671-0918 or Secretary, Bro Mikhail at 772-3215.

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