Fixing the Hole in the Bridge.


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Benjamin Franklin once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” Today, this phrase still stands true. If we can prevent abuse in any form, before it occurs this will lessen the cost of fixing the problem after the act has been committed.

It will lessen the emotional, physical, psychological and financial cost to the individual, the family, the community, and the state. The aftercare maintenance cost of abuse is high, real high. With every new case of abuse the cost increases. It also increases many other social ills and issues which affect us as a people, and the financial burden to the state is overwhelming.

One has to remember that abuse is not an isolated social issue and it trickles down into every facet of society. Before we can implement prevention interventions and give prevention tips we need to understand what prevention includes and the levels of prevention.

The term “prevention” is reserved for those interventions that occur before the initial onset of violence. The field of public health has defined three levels of prevention: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Primary prevention aim to stop violence before it initially occurs. Secondary prevention focuses on immediate responses to violence. Tertiary prevention involves long-term approaches that occur in the aftermath of violence.

Three types of preventative interventions has also been defined, Universal preventive interventions are targeted to the general public or a whole population group that has not been identified on the basis of individual risk.

Selective preventive interventions are targeted to individuals or a subgroup of the population whose risk … is significantly higher than average.

Indicated preventive interventions are targeted to high-risk individuals who are identified as having minimal but detectable signs or symptoms … but who do not meet…diagnostic levels at the present time.

Prevention is achieved through the application of multiple strategies; it is an ongoing process that must relate to each emerging generation. Some may say “there is no surefire way to prevent violence be it sexual assault, molestation, domestic violence, murder etc” and while this statement may ring true, we cannot sit back and do nothing, prevention intervention strategies have shown a high success rate of violence reduction and prevention when implemented properly.

We must work with communities, groups and organizations to implement primary interventions strategies in this fight against violence, without primary intervention we will continue to count casualties and cost because we focus mainly on secondary and tertiary prevention interventions.

“Prevention requires a clear vision of what we’re working for, not only what we’re working against and a commitment to social change.” If we can prevent violence from touching the life of one person, one family and one community then all our efforts would not be in vain.

Using the river analogy, fixing the hole in the bridge will help not only those at greatest risk of falling in, but also everyone who crosses the river, rescuers, and those who pay for rescue costs. Our goal is to prevent pain and suffering associated with violence by stopping it before it initially occurs.

I would like to suggest the implementation of a ‘Prevention Support Unit [SUP]’ which primary aim is to establish programs, projects, and policies to deal with the prevention of violence. Breaking the Silence is not a popular choice, it is the right choice for friends do not let friends harm others.

Find me musing here on Facebook. https://m.facebook.com/MusingsofShernaAlexander?v=timeline&_rdr

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Towing the Lawful


Karl Kraus says “Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country” Over the past few years Trinidad and Tobago has been going down a slippery slope heading quickly but slowly into a bottomless pit of corruption, allegations, and broken promises to a people.

The government is boldly and confidently carrying the nation down into this abyss which they may not be able to deliver themselves from unless true reform takes place, true constitutional reform is in effect,and the people, yes the people begin to realize that the power of the country ends and begins with them.

Only when the people realize that the government is there to serve them and not themselves and in fact the government are their employees only then will change come and the country begin to rise. It is time that the young people of this nation stand for what is right, what is fair, equity, and equality it is time they stand and speak out against all small matters off corruption for if the small matters are left unchecked they will open a flood gate of destruction and demise.Charles de Montesquieu said “It is not the young people that degenerate; they are not spoiled till those of mature age are already sunk into corruption”

As a young person in this land I tell people everywhere that I am proud to be Trinbagonian and I will do what is right to help build this wonderful land of my birth even if I have to do it alone, however I must say that I am disappointed in my present government and past governments, disappointed in many of my ministers of government, disappointed in many persons who manage various government offices in this nation, and disappointed in many of my people.

Many of my people are afraid to stand for their right, they are afraid to speak out against corruption because they fear the repercussions, many of my people are become sheepish, submissive and have fallen into the trap of the dependency syndrome, many are living in such abject poverty that they fear losing a morsel of bread so they comply and accept anything.

Many in the upper and middle class have way too much too lose so they speak not against any injustice or corruption they also have become compliant, the poor man has is his life and he tries to preserve it through whatever means even if it means giving all his power away and becoming devoid of self. The rich man has too much wealth and power and he fears to lose both so he too keeps silent.

Today I speak about an injustice which has been taking place in this country, such injustice which is so subtle that it has been overlooked by many however those whom the injustice is perpetrated against are crying out and before this cry swells and cause an outburst which can cause harm I write this piece with the hope that those who are in charge can investigate the allegations and if those allegations are true they can put an end to this blatant open secret crime.

There is a rising concern and fear being expressed by many of the nation’s motorist, they believe that they are being targeted unfairly by the operators of various tow trucks who traverse the streets of the country. Many motorist believe their cars are being wrecked by these tow trucks operators even though they are legally parked based on their make and model as the owners will immediately pay the fee to get their cars back, bear in mind other vehicles are placed in this precise well organized ring so that it would not appear as alleged.

Many motorist have said that they have parked their vehicles legally and still get towed, mind you illegal parking is one thing and by all means such cars should be towed however there is no explanation for wrecking legally parked cars, I askare such persons to just pay the fine and quietly go away into the sunset?Many motorist have gone to such extreme measures of taking pictures of how they park on the streets because of fear, injustice, and intimidation.

Many motorist have been told by operators of these trucks and at times officers of the law the following “You aint see the white line is painted too close to the corner, you should know the law” “The lines are not visible and you should know the law” “We not seeing any white line” “You aint see the white line fade so you have parked illegally” “We do not recognize the white line” “We are the boss, we run the streets”

I call upon the minister of transport and the commissioner of police to seriously investigate these allegations as motorist will not continue to sit back and dish out five hundred dollars each time their car is towed when they have parked legally, soon they will begin to rise against this high class thievery, intimidation, and victimization.

It is your duty as minister of transport and the commissioner of police to keep abreast of all matters and yes we know that there are things which are taking place which is unknown to you both and this is where we the nationals come in we are the eyes and ears on the ground and it is our duty to make you aware of allegations of corrupt practices which is being perpetuated under your watch. I must also take this opportunity to commend those officers of the law who stand for justice and truly live up to their oath of office.

On behalf of motorist of this nation I appeal to your conscience to take a serious look into these allegations and if proven to be true then reform must take place, justice must be served however many fear that justice is not being served when many who have vowed to protect and serve have abandoned their position to subtly protect and serve the lawless while abusing the law abiding.

The power of change is in the hand of each citizen of this blessed nation you can make a positive difference and call for persons in authority to be responsible, accountable, transparent, and unbiased and to share with them your experiences on the ground. I suggest that the ministry put out a questionnaire in the daily papers calling on motorist to anonymously share their experiences and answer a few questions in regards to the matter of the tow truck operators, I am sure you will be surprised at the many responses.

I leave you with two of my favourite quotes which says “It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.” ― Aung San Suu Kyi

“To oppose corruption in government is the highest obligation of patriotism.” ― G. Edward Griffin

The Edge with Sherna Alexander Benjamin

A Hot Mess


On the 31st of August, 1962 Trinidad and Tobago gained independence from her British colonial task masters. When Christopher Columbus landed on these shores he met the indigenous Amerindian tribes of the Arawak’s and Caribs. The Spanish came and craftily implemented ‘The Encomienda system’ which was setup to basically wipe out these tribes.

The English were open with their brutality, and so they brought our forefathers as slaves from Africa to build this country through blood, torture, deprivation, and brutality. Our fathers toiled and kept their faith alive by holding unto the last bit of dignity which they had, slavery was a curse and it broke the spirits of men and women while dehumanizing them, however they dreamt of a day when they would be freed and their children would no longer have to be the servants of ‘Massa’

On August 1st, 1838Britain abolished slavery, plantation owners looked to India, China, and the Middle East for laborers, bringing indentured workers to take up where the slaves left off,even though these labourerswere free men they too have a memory of pain and suffering.

On that faithful day, 31st August, 1962 freed slaves, indentured labourers, plantation owners, and aristocrats, together with the remnants of the Caribs and Arawak’s stood as one nation having one Mother, one vision and looked with pride, as our young nationgave birth and prepared herself for a bright and prosperous future.

The lash of the whip was replaced with the watch words Discipline, Tolerance, and Production, the racial divide and separation was replaced with “here every creed and race find an equal place and may God bless our nation”Our first Prime Minister Dr. Eric Eustace Williams who was instrumental in our independence gave a speech which will be remembered through time and eternity, hearts leaped with joy and tears flowed when he said:

“Together, the various groups in Trinidad and Tobago have suffered, together they have aspired, together they have achieved. Only together can they succeed. And only together can they build a society, can they build a nation, can they build a homeland. There can be no Mother India, for those whose ancestors came from India….there can be no Mother Africa, for those of African origin. There can be no Mother England and no dual loyalties…..There can be no Mother China, even if one could agree as to which China is the Mother; and there can be no Mother Syria and no Mother Lebanon. A nation, like an individual, can have only one Mother. The only Mother we recognize is Mother Trinidad and Tobago, and Mother cannot discriminate between her children.” Eric Williams, History of Trinidad and Tobago (p.279)

His speech, prepared us for progress, what we did not know then was that the price of progress is high. The only musical instrument to be invented in the twentieth century ‘The Steel pan’was invented in Trinidad and Tobago. We are known for our rich culture and varied races so much so that Bishop Desmond Tutuon his visit called us “The Rainbow Country” People come from all over the world to see and experience our Carnival the rich works of art and the creativity of costumes was made famous by our very own Peter Minshall.

The rhythmic soundsof our music captivates the soul and causes one to move in the sway of the drums and the musical notes which carries the language of a people which tells their stories and leave a legacy.Trinidad and Tobago have one of the highest growth rates and per capita in Latin America,mainly because of our petroleum and natural gas production and processing, the country has earned a reputation as an investment site for international businesses. “Trinidad and Tobago is the largest exporter of liquefied natural gas to the United States, and the fifth largest in the world” -U.S. Energy Information Administration.

As a nation our pride was lifted when in 1977 Janelle Commissiong was crowned Miss Universe, we were elated when Giselle Jeanne-Marie Laronde was crowned Miss World, Miss Caribbean, and Miss World Americas in 1986, our joy did not stop there and we shouted with euphoric chants of praise when in 1998 Wendy Fitzwilliam was crowned Miss Universe.

One can only imagine the exuberance and the accomplishment felt when Hasely Crawford brought home our first Olympic gold in 1976, in 2012 KeshornWalcott gave the nation its second gold medal thus placing the icing on the cake for our 50th Anniversary of independence and for a brief moment in time his victory united a racially and economically divided and hurting people, the last time such unity was portrayed was fifty years earlier.

Brian Charles Lara is one of the best international cricketers to come out of Trinidad and Tobago.He is highly considered as one of the best batsmen of the modern era and one of the greatest ever to have played the game.He was awarded the ‘The Order of Australia’, ‘The Order of the Caribbean Community’, ‘The Trinity Cross’ and he is a true ambassador for the game and for his country.

Words will fail me,if I begin to speak about the many accomplishments of the people of Trinidad and Tobago in the area of business, academics, music, arts, and culture. There would not be enough paper if I begin to write about the sweat, blood, and tears which built this nation, the struggle for equality and acceptance, broken promises by those in authority,failed dreams and expectations by the individual citizen, our attempted coup by The Jamaat al Muslimeen and their leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, our victories as a people, and theexquisite beauty of this nation. For many, religious harmony and tolerance seems to be just an elusive dream, however it is realistically experienced and practiced in this nation.

Wherever there is beauty, ugliness presents itself, and thoughI am proud to be Trinbagonian and would speak about the goodness of the land,I cannot stick my head in the sand and say “all is well” for many citizens have thrown their hands in the air and uttered “Enough is Enough”.

The divide between rich and poor is getting greater, racial tensions are continuing to boil and many in society hope that something positive will happen to quell the steam of racial divisions before it escalates, poverty is seen and felt in every community families are without beds, food, clothing, and proper shelter, and many are barely surviving because a daily meal is a thing of the past or something they never had.

A trail of corruption allegations is label against the government a mile long, sadly they are not coming with enough proof to vindicate themselves but have chosen to go the way of character assassination, censorship, and continuing business as usual, nepotism, favoritism, and party financiers kickbacks are the norms of the day.

Violent crimes continues to escalate from one end of the country to the next, domestic violence and abuse and is rapidly increasing, and nationals are now clashing with the protective services because they are feeling suppressed and lied to by the present and previous governments who promised change,With a swelling loud cry citizens are rebelling for it is evident that the change which they voted for were broken promises of election demagoguery.

However, change did come and it filled the coffers of politicians, their family, their friends, and their financiers alike while the majority of citizens receives the crumbs which falls from the rich man’s table while the dog lick their wounds.

There is aclandestine operation being carried out by politicians, who think the majority of people are fools and so they hold parties and rejoice over the crumbs which are fed to the people boasting themselves while saying “the people will never be left behind”

Community organizations and NGO’S are slowly becoming dormant because financial aid is never seen by many or it keeps circulating among the same circles, if they desire to survive they must come together, they must unite and stand as one body. Not reinventing the wheel, but working together to help build this nation.

Many of the nation’s youths are out of control, gang, sex, guns, and drugs rule in many communities.Many fathers have abandoned their position and left their sons to be ravished by the wolves, many mothers are tired of bearing the economic, emotional, and physical burdens alone sothey have closed their eyes to the rape of their daughters and sons and blocked their ears to their cries for deliverance, as mothers they have harden their hearts for they too remember when they had to endure such pain and it is better to forget than to remember for pain lingers in the soul and haunts you like a deranged demoniac leaving you with the sting of a viper andthey present to society emotionally broken, angry, and distraught individuals.

Some who took the solemn oath to protect and serve the innocent are now turning against those whom they swore to protect and have partnered with the perpetrators of various violent crimes, from raping the innocent to illegal gang activities and many in society are asking the same question King Austin asked years ago “But if it is we fear to trust some guardians there to protect us, Question for the lads – Who going to guard these guards?

Many ‘spiritual leaders’ conduct a religious masquerade only to leach upon the poor and emotionally weak while fattening themselves from the sacrificial offerings of the people,giving false hopes and emotional bondage. Such ‘religious leaders’ makes things worse in the country and darken the path of progress with pain and despair.

So many are saying “it is too late for our country”,I refuse to believe that it is too late, Those who have gone before us have indeed opened a floodgate of lies, deceit, poverty, dependency, corruption, and death,we are facing the negative effects from years of bad governance.

We owe it to ourselves and to future generations tostand and be counted, using our voices and the power of the pen to effect positive change in the nation, it is our duty to steam the racial tensions by encouraging positive and productive race relation talks, it is our right as the employers of the government to call all politicians into account to be responsible, ethical, and transparent while in public office.

As citizens we are also responsible for the failure or success of this nation we must work selflessly to make this country a better place, we must work to uphold democracy, work for equality, demand equity, produce fair distribution of the country’s wealth, clamour for poverty and crime prevention and reduction, while we work as responsible citizens and do our individual part to make this country a better place.

The destruction of this country will not happen from external forces but from within the survival of this country can only happen from within. Let us work to save our blessed nation from decay and decadence, let us work to preserve and shape our independence, and let us work to preserve Democracy.

“What use will you make of your Independence? What will you transmit to your children five years from today?

The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others. Democracy means equality of all in the eyesof the law. Democracy means the protection of the weak against the strong. Democracy means the obligation of the minority to recognize the right of the majority. Democracy means responsibility of the Government to its citizens, the protection of the citizens from the exercise of arbitrary power and the violation of human freedoms and individual rights. Democracy means freedom of worship for all and the subordination of the rights of any one race to the overriding right of the human race. Democracy means freedom of expression and assembly and organization…All that is Democracy… Democracy, finally, rests on a higher power. It rests on an informed and cultivated and alert public opinion.” Eric Williams, Independence Day Address, Trinidad & Tobago, August 31, 1962

The Edge with Sherna Alexander Benjamin

A Case Seventeen Years Overdue But Keeping Hope Alive


If the basic human rights of a country’s citizens are ignored, violated, abused, politicized and forgotten, we have a nation where its citizens become the servants of those they employed to serve them. The citizens beg for what is already theirs by natural rights and praise those they employ for doing what they were frankly hired to do. This creates a society where subtle, silent and public oppression is blatantly manifested and carried out.

I write this post for the sole reason to encourage people: those waiting with great expectation to hear their name called, ones who heart skips a beat when the phone rings as they anticipate getting ‘the call‘, every parent who feels like a failure despite all they have accomplished, and for the children who bear the burdens of unspoken pains, sadness, and shame. And finally, I write for all those whose voices cannot be heard, for the ones that only the walls see their tears, pain and suffering which only God knows all too well.

However, I also write to tell leaders of the past and present that you have failed many and have done so miserably! Your honey-coated words gave false hope that afterwards stung like a viper. And though you manipulated the systems for political mileage and used it to grant favor to friends, family and party cardholders, you can never kill the resolve and resilience of people who have real hope based on truth.

Sadly and without shame, you conveniently seek the use of the finger of those whom you have neglected for years once every five years for your empowerment. You use innocent people as pawns in a chess game for your benefit and to their destruction. I write because I am angry; I am sad; and because many in authority are walking shells of corruption, vice, decadence, nepotism, politicizing everything which their hands touch, and bringing suffering those already abused and abandoned.

The ownership of a home is one of the many things, which unites people all over the world. A family works hard to gain this basic need and property ownership is a basic right that should be protected for all humans. In April of 1998, while working I received a telephone call, that call would change my life and my children’s lives forever. On the other end of the phone line was a neighbor informing me that my two stories, four-bedroom house was engulfed in flames. At first, I laughed, for I thought it was a joke. Immediately after, my nephew called I was hearing what he was saying but just could not accept or believe it. How could a house that my family and I sacrificed to build be gone in a moment?

God could never be so cruel, I thought, but boy was I wrong in my thinking! Once again the God I had placed full faith in allowed darkness to touch my life and this time not only did it touch my life but my children’s life. For the next few years we lived through pain, tears, and hardship. It seem to me that God was willfully having me do penance or punishing me for some unknown sins which occurred before my birth. I even imagined that he created many of us as test cases, to allow the darkness of this world to touch our lives where he can say to the unseen worlds “this is what your world have been spared from, HORROR, PAIN, AND SORROW.” I tried the best I could to fit what I understood about God to my situation.

Our house was not built in a first class geographical location, but it was built so that renting would not be necessary; my mother would have a place to grow old with memories, and that my family could be united, having strong family ties and bonding. This was something, which I never had as a child, and I wanted my daughters to experience.  But sadly, God had other plans for us, as my nephew who was on the other end kept shouting, “The house on fire” I went literally numb. My thoughts of unbelief kept running through my mind and afterwards my emotions began to spiral all over the place.

Two of my co-workers accompanied me to the scene and upon nearing our street all I saw was smoke, I heard various sirens, and looked upon neighbors faces. I saw only sorrow as they looked back at me. As I approached our house, it was after 1 pm. What I saw I could not believe and I do not know how I kept standing, how I kept a brave face or how I kept sane. Because right there before me was a thin line for me to just trip and be carried to the mad house. It was more than I –one person—could bear.

As I continued to hear various voices, some shared their opinions of what may have caused the fire; others told of how we need to not let it slide and still others said poor people never receive justice. For us, ‘justice‘ was a word, not an action that had fallen in these streets. In our experience, equity did not enter. The various eyewitnesses gave their reports. The police informed me on all that I have to get done. Yet in all this, I am wondering where will my daughters sleep. A few weeks before the fire there was frequent electrical surges in the area; then there was the sparking from the wires connected to the electricity pole numerous reports were made; eventually, the electrical company sent a crew to rectify the problem. However, a week later eyewitnesses report seeing sparks that morning from the pole and hours later they saw smoke coming from the roof of our home. I recall saying, “Only when a house is burnt down will they fix the problem properly.” Oh, the things that we say and later see them manifested.

Like most companies and governments no one likes to accept ‘blame’ or take ‘responsibility’ when something negative happens. It is either passed over, blamed on those who managed previously, placed on the innocent or pushed on the unborn. So the electrical company had investigators interview the people in the area who told them the same thing over and over. And an insurance person spoke to me on three occasions. Yet, every time I inquired it was the same stories: “we have not finalized the report,” “we are still investigating,” or something similar. I got literally tired of calling or going into their office. I guess they are still investigating over seventeen years or they have passed the blame in their report to persons who were not at home. I got tired of the fire services saying, “We cannot give a civilian the fire report; it must be requested by the police or a lawyer.” Now, I realized that the system is purposely set up to frustrate, discourage, and dishearten citizens.

That morning, like many mornings before it, I left home at 6:00 am, to get to work at the hospital supplies office for 7:00 am and would prepare like other days to take up my evening job at an office in Woodbrook. Unfortunately, that day would not end like other days, with me sitting with the children helping them with their lessons, answering their numerous questions until I will say “you are talking too much” nor was it ending with me telling them a goofy story which they found delight in and loved to hear or with me embracing them to sleep and cherishing such moments. It would not end with my friend and I having a heated academic or religious debate, which would end with either laughter or one of us saying, “Let us agree to disagree.”

This day would end with my family being scattered. My children were sleeping under the roof of strangers. My mother was in utter disbelief and grieving. And me, I was just staring at the dark skies and looking into a dark future. Passing through abuse gives you an unknown strength you never knew you had. And it would end with us having no home to go back to with all the fire, smoke and water.

When crowds began to lessen and friends and co-workers said good-bye, I looked around and saw my daughters looking up at me with those wide eyes as if to saying “mummy will fix it.” Children expect their parents to be superheroes and to always fix it, to always have the answers and to always be there to support and soothe their pain. If they only knew that I had no answers and did not even know where we were going to sleep the next few hours, or if we were going to sleep at all.

It was then it hit me like a ton of bricks crashing down. We had just lost everything. The only thing we had was the clothes on our backs. Memories were all gone in the blink of an eye. Years of sacrifice all turned to ashes. This seemed like a dream that I would like to wake up when it’s finally over. Yet I am still going through this nightmare. In reality, I was not dreaming. This was not a joke. The social systems and leaders of our nation would all fail us. A fire takes everything from you, and sadly even a piece of your soul. It cripples your will to survive, and it erases you from society where you have to work twenty times harder to make it up for what you have lost.

Have I dealt with all the things, which hit me and overturned me in this life? Have I dealt with many times of darkness, which touched my life? HELL NO! As one doctor said to me recently, “Sherna! You cannot deal with everything. Even the greatest among us have issues. We all have issues. I have issues. There is none without issues. Do not judge yourself so harshly and if others judge you then clearly they have dealt with all their own issues and you must be happy for them. For the world has some people with no issues. ” I smiled at that advice for he clearly saw that I was judging myself too harshly and had to pull me out of it.

I looked at the fear in my daughters eyes, I looked at them tear up. I also saw the shame and their wondering and asking their questions, “Mummy where is beauty?” Beauty was their spoiled pompek dog. Their questions continued: “Mummy where would we sleep?” “Mummy where would we live?” “Mummy, mummy, mummy?” All I could have done was to hold them and say, “Jesus would make it better.” Did I believe what I told them? I hoped he would have mercy, but with my track record I was not seeing the loving God or Jesus which I had regained belief in coming through for us. It seemed once again Jesus failed me as much as mortal man would fail me. But that night having nowhere to sleep I found my way in the house of the Lord for a word which may answer my questions, stem my rage, give me solace and grant me hope.

On my way home that night I wondered about the morning and wished that the sun would never rise because with the rising of the sun I will have to face my darkest fears, answer questions I wish would not be asked, and looked at the ashes that now represented our life and family. I would have to face my daughters and respond to their many questions and I would have to wonder as to where we would sleep the next night, what would we eat, where would clothes come from, how would I get to work and how would the children get to school. How would this loss affect us individually and collectively? Could I start all over again with an empty bank account? And would the system and process I believed in fail me or assist me.

The verbal support of many present gave me hope in the system, in those in authority, and in the unseen. Sorrowfully, for the next few days the system failed us, but worse the system is still failing us even today. The then Member of Parliament came to the scene of the fire the same day with a contingent and said, “I will do a letter for you tomorrow to take to the housing ministry. I will call the housing minister and inform him of your situation, and ‘if’ you need anything else please let me know.” Thank heavens, I did not use expletives for the use of them. However, I would have been excused and justified after the phrase “If you need anything else please let me know.” A family has lost everything and you are saying, “If you need anything else please let me know.” That offer I never took up; these were the people who stood and spoke about representation.

I did get the letter from the Member of Parliament the next day. The MP writing that letter seemed as a career highlight and historical milestone but unfortunately it also seemed as though I was being granted a favor. As I waited for over two hours to receive this letter, I remember sitting there with my daughters and just holding back the tears feeling like an outcast and reject waiting for the crumbs to fall from the Lord’s table just to bow and shout thank you. I also received a letter from the minister of social welfare. At the time he called and spoke to someone in my presence and directed me to that person within the ministry. I also received a letter from the then social welfare officer for the district. I had three letters to take to the ministry of housing and felt confident as I went to the ministry of housing with my two sidekicks with me. Somehow I fooled myself into believing that maybe the system (people) would assist us and maybe an exception to the normal rule would have been put into place being we were victims of a fire. Wretchedly, that was indeed a fool’s thought. As I left that building in tears walking the street dazed while my daughters pulling my hands and asking, “Mummy what happen?” Then holding my hand tightly as if their protective instinct kicked in and said, “Mummy Jesus will make it better. We will be ok and Jesus will work a miracle” they began to sing, “Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tell me so, little ones to him belong they are weak but he is strong.” What else could I do but just join the chorus band?

You see, when I got to the ministry of housing, I was told that “every application no matter who gave you a letter, no matter who signed a letter, or no matter who in authority called the office, no matter your circumstance you must go through the same process and be placed on the waiting list and presently there were no vacant homes or apartments and when one comes available I will be notified,” that was over 17 years ago and today I am still waiting on that call.

I cannot even recall the amount of letters I have hand delivered. I purposed myself to forget the names of all prime ministers over those 17 years. I prefer not to remember the ministers of housing, the permanent secretaries, the chairmen who passed through the ministry of housing and for whom I hand delivered letters, and I willfully forgot all the political parties who governed this country and the lies they told, the demagoguery they used in various speeches, the deception and manipulation to get into office.

However, what I will remember all too well is the voices of those who I have heard boasting of receiving keys with no housing applications–those who made an application this month and received a unit the next month. I recall easily the voices of those who have more than one housing unit while opting to renting out units, the voices of those who have received ten homes for their support of various political parties who won the contested elections, the voice of that hairdresser who showed pictures of home and keys which was hand delivered to her at her saloon, the voices of those who used the under table option of paying workers at the ministry of housing thousands of dollars to secure them a home, the voices of those who have given homes to friends, family, pumpkin vine family and the voices of those who shout “It’s our time NOW.” Moreover, I will not forget the voices of women whose backs were against the wall and had to give their bodies in exchange for a house, nor the voices of those who issued monies under the table and still have no home.

What I will never forget is the faces and voices of despair–the mother who the system has wearied and she has given up hope, the child who has never known what it means to have a home, the family who has to move ever so often because the rent has increased, the breadwinner who leaves or dies, and the children who are separated because the room is just not big enough. I will never forget the family who lives in a one-room shack with no proper facilities, our old aged citizens who are becoming a growing statistic and classed as street dwellers. I will never forget the fear and pain in the eyes of a parent who feels inept because their child is ashamed to bring a friend at home because they have no idea where home is, or the voice of those who are waiting for over twenty years, and the voice of those who have died waiting.

I will never forget the voice of those who believed that the governments past and present were for the people to serve the people, and I will not forget the voice of those who have lost faith but still seek to hold unto to a glimmer of hope. Hope is all we have. It is that thin line which keeps many of us sane and alive. It gives us a reason to move on and live; I believe we must keep hope alive. Our hope must not be based on mankind or the government, but in God working through those who are willing and available to minister and act honestly in their employed positions.

So, I still have hope that through God-loving people a government will arise who truly cares for the people and will serve the people and not their avaricious selfish gain and gluttonous appetite. We must keep this true hope alive that through men and women changed by God a government will arise which believes that every creed and race will find an equal place; we can have a government which will show empathy, compassion and be fair in their dealings. Government filled with godly people can have motives that are pure and will be responsible; they will maintain and hold fast to transparency, accountability, fulfill promises spoken, and be incorruptible.

Using God’s principles the government will not build a welfare state but will engage and encourage the people to be partners in governing their country, to be independent, and to provide its citizens with the tools to be self-sustainable and financially independent. We can have a government that will not sell themselves and their values to the highest bidder and in return they must compromise themselves to repay that bidder. The government will not use nepotism, and bogus companies to syphon the public money filling the pockets of the rich and leaving the poor empty-handed.

My case may be seventeen years overdue and though I am tired, saddened, and disgusted by the process and the system, each day I hope for something better. I encourage others to what can be better. And I look for a future where my daughters would effect change in a positive way to impact lives; though their lives have been hard, though they had many bitter experiences separate and together and though, they too look forward to a home! They have excelled pursuing their degrees and they continue to rise above the ashes.

For me, I was ashamed for years that I felt as though I failed my children’s expectation to make it better. But knowing that I tried doing all I could do and knowing the systems failed, I realized that there is nothing to be ashamed off. For I tried and I am still trying to fulfill a child’s dream and expectation that mummy will fix it–the dream of having a house and a home. So if I have nothing to be ashamed of then why should I be ashamed to speak; if I have nothing to lose; why should I be afraid to share, and if I have no conscience; then I would not care. But I do have a conscience and I do care so I write to give others hope.

My name maybe still on the waiting list but I can hope. You may be experiencing or have experienced something worst than me, I say to you never lose hope; never lose confidence that miracles happen every day. Work not to be comfortable with the present system of things, but we can work to better the systems. May these words encourage you to never give up the fight. Many times there are no fairytale endings to our stories but there is always an ending which gives hope and says to us never give up, always fight. In doing so, we can be motivated to make things better for others and our children, if change does not happen quick enough for our own circumstances. And as a loved one would always say to me, “Everything does not look as how it sounds or sounds as how it look.” You do not have to look like your trauma, or sound like your pain, you can look like a million dollars while enduring your trauma and sound like a nightingale while living your pain. We can do this because we know we are making a difference; we are fighting for a better way. I believe that God through men and women will manifest to meet the needs and the church must learn to be the body of Christ and stand up. We must learn to be available to be used by God to move the physical and spiritual mountains and to bring healing to our land.

The Edge with Sherna Alexander Benjamin

A Case Seventeen Years Overdue But Keeping Hope Alive


If the basic human rights of a country’s citizens are ignored, violated, abused, politicized and forgotten, we have a nation where its citizens become the servants of those they employed to serve them. The citizens beg for what is already theirs by natural rights and praise those they employ for doing what they were frankly hired to do. This creates a society where subtle, silent and public oppression is blatantly manifested and carried out.

I write this post for the sole reason to encourage people: those waiting with great expectation to hear their name called, ones who heart skips a beat when the phone rings as they anticipate getting ‘the call‘, every parent who feels like a failure despite all they have accomplished, and for the children who bear the burdens of unspoken pains, sadness, and shame. And finally, I write for all those whose voices cannot be heard, for the ones that only the walls see their tears, pain and suffering which only God knows all too well.

However, I also write to tell leaders of the past and present that you have failed many and have done so miserably! Your honey-coated words gave false hope that afterwards stung like a viper. And though you manipulated the systems for political mileage and used it to grant favor to friends, family and party cardholders, you can never kill the resolve and resilience of people who have real hope based on truth.

Sadly and without shame, you conveniently seek the use of the finger of those whom you have neglected for years once every five years for your empowerment. You use innocent people as pawns in a chess game for your benefit and to their destruction. I write because I am angry; I am sad; and because many in authority are walking shells of corruption, vice, decadence, nepotism, politicizing everything which their hands touch, and bringing suffering those already abused and abandoned.

The ownership of a home is one of the many things, which unites people all over the world. A family works hard to gain this basic need and property ownership is a basic right that should be protected for all humans. In April of 1998, while working I received a telephone call, that call would change my life and my children’s lives forever. On the other end of the phone line was a neighbor informing me that my two stories, four-bedroom house was engulfed in flames. At first, I laughed, for I thought it was a joke. Immediately after, my nephew called I was hearing what he was saying but just could not accept or believe it. How could a house that my family and I sacrificed to build be gone in a moment?

God could never be so cruel, I thought, but boy was I wrong in my thinking! Once again the God I had placed full faith in allowed darkness to touch my life and this time not only did it touch my life but my children’s life. For the next few years we lived through pain, tears, and hardship. It seem to me that God was willfully having me do penance or punishing me for some unknown sins which occurred before my birth. I even imagined that he created many of us as test cases, to allow the darkness of this world to touch our lives where he can say to the unseen worlds “this is what your world have been spared from, HORROR, PAIN, AND SORROW.” I tried the best I could to fit what I understood about God to my situation.

Our house was not built in a first class geographical location, but it was built so that renting would not be necessary; my mother would have a place to grow old with memories, and that my family could be united, having strong family ties and bonding. This was something, which I never had as a child, and I wanted my daughters to experience.  But sadly, God had other plans for us, as my nephew who was on the other end kept shouting, “The house on fire” I went literally numb. My thoughts of unbelief kept running through my mind and afterwards my emotions began to spiral all over the place.

Two of my co-workers accompanied me to the scene and upon nearing our street all I saw was smoke, I heard various sirens, and looked upon neighbors faces. I saw only sorrow as they looked back at me. As I approached our house, it was after 1 pm. What I saw I could not believe and I do not know how I kept standing, how I kept a brave face or how I kept sane. Because right there before me was a thin line for me to just trip and be carried to the mad house. It was more than I –one person—could bear.

As I continued to hear various voices, some shared their opinions of what may have caused the fire; others told of how we need to not let it slide and still others said poor people never receive justice. For us, ‘justice‘ was a word, not an action that had fallen in these streets. In our experience, equity did not enter. The various eyewitnesses gave their reports. The police informed me on all that I have to get done. Yet in all this, I am wondering where will my daughters sleep. A few weeks before the fire there was frequent electrical surges in the area; then there was the sparking from the wires connected to the electricity pole numerous reports were made; eventually, the electrical company sent a crew to rectify the problem. However, a week later eyewitnesses report seeing sparks that morning from the pole and hours later they saw smoke coming from the roof of our home. I recall saying, “Only when a house is burnt down will they fix the problem properly.” Oh, the things that we say and later see them manifested.

Like most companies and governments no one likes to accept ‘blame’ or take ‘responsibility’ when something negative happens. It is either passed over, blamed on those who managed previously, placed on the innocent or pushed on the unborn. So the electrical company had investigators interview the people in the area who told them the same thing over and over. And an insurance person spoke to me on three occasions. Yet, every time I inquired it was the same stories: “we have not finalized the report,” “we are still investigating,” or something similar. I got literally tired of calling or going into their office. I guess they are still investigating over seventeen years or they have passed the blame in their report to persons who were not at home. I got tired of the fire services saying, “We cannot give a civilian the fire report; it must be requested by the police or a lawyer.” Now, I realized that the system is purposely set up to frustrate, discourage, and dishearten citizens.

That morning, like many mornings before it, I left home at 6:00 am, to get to work at the hospital supplies office for 7:00 am and would prepare like other days to take up my evening job at an office in Woodbrook. Unfortunately, that day would not end like other days, with me sitting with the children helping them with their lessons, answering their numerous questions until I will say “you are talking too much” nor was it ending with me telling them a goofy story which they found delight in and loved to hear or with me embracing them to sleep and cherishing such moments. It would not end with my friend and I having a heated academic or religious debate, which would end with either laughter or one of us saying, “Let us agree to disagree.”

This day would end with my family being scattered. My children were sleeping under the roof of strangers. My mother was in utter disbelief and grieving. And me, I was just staring at the dark skies and looking into a dark future. Passing through abuse gives you an unknown strength you never knew you had. And it would end with us having no home to go back to with all the fire, smoke and water.

When crowds began to lessen and friends and co-workers said good-bye, I looked around and saw my daughters looking up at me with those wide eyes as if to saying “mummy will fix it.” Children expect their parents to be superheroes and to always fix it, to always have the answers and to always be there to support and soothe their pain. If they only knew that I had no answers and did not even know where we were going to sleep the next few hours, or if we were going to sleep at all.

It was then it hit me like a ton of bricks crashing down. We had just lost everything. The only thing we had was the clothes on our backs. Memories were all gone in the blink of an eye. Years of sacrifice all turned to ashes. This seemed like a dream that I would like to wake up when it’s finally over. Yet I am still going through this nightmare. In reality, I was not dreaming. This was not a joke. The social systems and leaders of our nation would all fail us. A fire takes everything from you, and sadly even a piece of your soul. It cripples your will to survive, and it erases you from society where you have to work twenty times harder to make it up for what you have lost.

Have I dealt with all the things, which hit me and overturned me in this life? Have I dealt with many times of darkness, which touched my life? HELL NO! As one doctor said to me recently, “Sherna! You cannot deal with everything. Even the greatest among us have issues. We all have issues. I have issues. There is none without issues. Do not judge yourself so harshly and if others judge you then clearly they have dealt with all their own issues and you must be happy for them. For the world has some people with no issues. ” I smiled at that advice for he clearly saw that I was judging myself too harshly and had to pull me out of it.

I looked at the fear in my daughters eyes, I looked at them tear up. I also saw the shame and their wondering and asking their questions, “Mummy where is beauty?” Beauty was their spoiled pompek dog. Their questions continued: “Mummy where would we sleep?” “Mummy where would we live?” “Mummy, mummy, mummy?” All I could have done was to hold them and say, “Jesus would make it better.” Did I believe what I told them? I hoped he would have mercy, but with my track record I was not seeing the loving God or Jesus which I had regained belief in coming through for us. It seemed once again Jesus failed me as much as mortal man would fail me. But that night having nowhere to sleep I found my way in the house of the Lord for a word which may answer my questions, stem my rage, give me solace and grant me hope.

On my way home that night I wondered about the morning and wished that the sun would never rise because with the rising of the sun I will have to face my darkest fears, answer questions I wish would not be asked, and looked at the ashes that now represented our life and family. I would have to face my daughters and respond to their many questions and I would have to wonder as to where we would sleep the next night, what would we eat, where would clothes come from, how would I get to work and how would the children get to school. How would this loss affect us individually and collectively? Could I start all over again with an empty bank account? And would the system and process I believed in fail me or assist me.

The verbal support of many present gave me hope in the system, in those in authority, and in the unseen. Sorrowfully, for the next few days the system failed us, but worse the system is still failing us even today. The then Member of Parliament came to the scene of the fire the same day with a contingent and said, “I will do a letter for you tomorrow to take to the housing ministry. I will call the housing minister and inform him of your situation, and ‘if’ you need anything else please let me know.” Thank heavens, I did not use expletives for the use of them. However, I would have been excused and justified after the phrase “If you need anything else please let me know.” A family has lost everything and you are saying, “If you need anything else please let me know.” That offer I never took up; these were the people who stood and spoke about representation.

I did get the letter from the Member of Parliament the next day. The MP writing that letter seemed as a career highlight and historical milestone but unfortunately it also seemed as though I was being granted a favor. As I waited for over two hours to receive this letter, I remember sitting there with my daughters and just holding back the tears feeling like an outcast and reject waiting for the crumbs to fall from the Lord’s table just to bow and shout thank you. I also received a letter from the minister of social welfare. At the time he called and spoke to someone in my presence and directed me to that person within the ministry. I also received a letter from the then social welfare officer for the district. I had three letters to take to the ministry of housing and felt confident as I went to the ministry of housing with my two sidekicks with me. Somehow I fooled myself into believing that maybe the system (people) would assist us and maybe an exception to the normal rule would have been put into place being we were victims of a fire. Wretchedly, that was indeed a fool’s thought. As I left that building in tears walking the street dazed while my daughters pulling my hands and asking, “Mummy what happen?” Then holding my hand tightly as if their protective instinct kicked in and said, “Mummy Jesus will make it better. We will be ok and Jesus will work a miracle” they began to sing, “Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tell me so, little ones to him belong they are weak but he is strong.” What else could I do but just join the chorus band?

You see, when I got to the ministry of housing, I was told that “every application no matter who gave you a letter, no matter who signed a letter, or no matter who in authority called the office, no matter your circumstance you must go through the same process and be placed on the waiting list and presently there were no vacant homes or apartments and when one comes available I will be notified,” that was over 17 years ago and today I am still waiting on that call.

I cannot even recall the amount of letters I have hand delivered. I purposed myself to forget the names of all prime ministers over those 17 years. I prefer not to remember the ministers of housing, the permanent secretaries, the chairmen who passed through the ministry of housing and for whom I hand delivered letters, and I willfully forgot all the political parties who governed this country and the lies they told, the demagoguery they used in various speeches, the deception and manipulation to get into office.

However, what I will remember all too well is the voices of those who I have heard boasting of receiving keys with no housing applications–those who made an application this month and received a unit the next month. I recall easily the voices of those who have more than one housing unit while opting to renting out units, the voices of those who have received ten homes for their support of various political parties who won the contested elections, the voice of that hairdresser who showed pictures of home and keys which was hand delivered to her at her saloon, the voices of those who used the under table option of paying workers at the ministry of housing thousands of dollars to secure them a home, the voices of those who have given homes to friends, family, pumpkin vine family and the voices of those who shout “It’s our time NOW.” Moreover, I will not forget the voices of women whose backs were against the wall and had to give their bodies in exchange for a house, nor the voices of those who issued monies under the table and still have no home.

What I will never forget is the faces and voices of despair–the mother who the system has wearied and she has given up hope, the child who has never known what it means to have a home, the family who has to move ever so often because the rent has increased, the breadwinner who leaves or dies, and the children who are separated because the room is just not big enough. I will never forget the family who lives in a one-room shack with no proper facilities, our old aged citizens who are becoming a growing statistic and classed as street dwellers. I will never forget the fear and pain in the eyes of a parent who feels inept because their child is ashamed to bring a friend at home because they have no idea where home is, or the voice of those who are waiting for over twenty years, and the voice of those who have died waiting.

I will never forget the voice of those who believed that the governments past and present were for the people to serve the people, and I will not forget the voice of those who have lost faith but still seek to hold unto to a glimmer of hope. Hope is all we have. It is that thin line which keeps many of us sane and alive. It gives us a reason to move on and live; I believe we must keep hope alive. Our hope must not be based on mankind or the government, but in God working through those who are willing and available to minister and act honestly in their employed positions.

So, I still have hope that through God-loving people a government will arise who truly cares for the people and will serve the people and not their avaricious selfish gain and gluttonous appetite. We must keep this true hope alive that through men and women changed by God a government will arise which believes that every creed and race will find an equal place; we can have a government which will show empathy, compassion and be fair in their dealings. Government filled with godly people can have motives that are pure and will be responsible; they will maintain and hold fast to transparency, accountability, fulfill promises spoken, and be incorruptible.

Using God’s principles the government will not build a welfare state but will engage and encourage the people to be partners in governing their country, to be independent, and to provide its citizens with the tools to be self-sustainable and financially independent. We can have a government that will not sell themselves and their values to the highest bidder and in return they must compromise themselves to repay that bidder. The government will not use nepotism, and bogus companies to syphon the public money filling the pockets of the rich and leaving the poor empty-handed.

My case may be seventeen years overdue and though I am tired, saddened, and disgusted by the process and the system, each day I hope for something better. I encourage others to what can be better. And I look for a future where my daughters would effect change in a positive way to impact lives; though their lives have been hard, though they had many bitter experiences separate and together and though, they too look forward to a home! They have excelled pursuing their degrees and they continue to rise above the ashes.

For me, I was ashamed for years that I felt as though I failed my children’s expectation to make it better. But knowing that I tried doing all I could do and knowing the systems failed, I realized that there is nothing to be ashamed off. For I tried and I am still trying to fulfill a child’s dream and expectation that mummy will fix it–the dream of having a house and a home. So if I have nothing to be ashamed of then why should I be ashamed to speak; if I have nothing to lose; why should I be afraid to share, and if I have no conscience; then I would not care. But I do have a conscience and I do care so I write to give others hope.

My name maybe still on the waiting list but I can hope. You may be experiencing or have experienced something worst than me, I say to you never lose hope; never lose confidence that miracles happen every day. Work not to be comfortable with the present system of things, but we can work to better the systems. May these words encourage you to never give up the fight. Many times there are no fairytale endings to our stories but there is always an ending which gives hope and says to us never give up, always fight. In doing so, we can be motivated to make things better for others and our children, if change does not happen quick enough for our own circumstances. And as a loved one would always say to me, “Everything does not look as how it sounds or sounds as how it look.” You do not have to look like your trauma, or sound like your pain, you can look like a million dollars while enduring your trauma and sound like a nightingale while living your pain. We can do this because we know we are making a difference; we are fighting for a better way. I believe that God through men and women will manifest to meet the needs and the church must learn to be the body of Christ and stand up. We must learn to be available to be used by God to move the physical and spiritual mountains and to bring healing to our land.

The Edge with Sherna Alexander Benjamin

He wants to meet?


IMG_20140730_064306

So I did an impromptu piece for a small group of girls. What was suppose to be just a few hours of relaxation turned into an interactive session about self esteem, abuse, accepting love, relationships, and loving yourself after abuse.

There was a vibrant discussion after. You could of heard a pin drop in the room and a few tears flowed.

People say I a woman of various talents, not boasting its just who I am on my drive to help victims and bring awareness and teach prevention.

Whether its a large crowd or just five persons I bring the message across with depth and passion. Makeup courtesy the five teenagers present. Despite of how it was applied I made those girls feel good. It is time that we begin to see the positives and good in our youths.

And all who know me, know that I am not a makeup person so this right here took a lot. All for the cause.

Take a look at the video.

Tell me what you think.

Become an Active Bystander


Becoming an Active Bystander

image

In 1964, the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese shocked Americans from coast to coast. While a man attacked, raped, and killed this young woman for over half an hour, thirty-eight men and women witnessed the assault and did nothing to help. The shock and confusion surrounding this single event captured the country’s attention and launched a substantial debate into how people could watch such an attack, and yet do nothing. This one event launched new research and programs about the ‘bystander effect’

In 1998, eleven years old Akiel Chambers was brutally sodomized and murdered; and a community did nothing to help. In 2006, four years old Amy Emily Annamunthudo was strung up by her hair, tied to a door frame, punched twenty to thirty times about the body with clenched fists, burned with cigarettes on her body, raped, buggered, beaten and suffocated; and a community did nothing to help. In 2008, 8 years old Hope Arismandez was found in a cane field, brutally raped, buggered and stabbed to death; and a community did nothing to help. In 2012, Josiah Governor died after a severe beating and a community did nothing to help.

How can a caring community do nothing to help when persons’ lives are in peril? How can an entire community become passive bystanders? Many people in a bystander role often describe feeling scared and alone; they are afraid to say or do something in the face of violence. They say that they fear making someone angry, possibly misunderstanding the situation, or even triggering further violence. Yet over the years, the bystander intervention approach has recognized that saying or doing something is not necessarily a single event by a single hero.

In fact, in many situations there are a variety of opportunities and numerous people who can choose to intervene. With the bystander intervention approach, the work is broadened to address the behaviors of others– the friends, families, teachers, clergy, and witnesses that surround any act or pattern of abuse; thus, offering an opportunity to also address behaviors BEFORE violence has been perpetrated in the first place.

The Bystander Intervention Approach offers clear benefits:
Discourages Victim Blaming: Breaking the silence around sexual violence is a critical strategy in prevention. Yet, often the ensuing dialogue includes questions to the victim like, “How could YOU let this happen?” or “Why didn’t YOU say anything?”

With bystanders as active participants, the sense of responsibility shifts away from victims and toward the family, friends, and the whole community. The question then become, “How could WE let this happen in our community?” and “How can WE learn to say something?”
Offers the chance to change social norms: With more bystander intervention, society’s collective responsibility takes on a new role. Studies show that social norms can play a significant role in violence prevention, especially in communities such as college campuses. – Banyard, 2004.

Shifts responsibilities to the community rather than any one man or woman: In previous decades, rape prevention programs focused almost exclusively on the dynamic of men as perpetrators and women as victims of sexual violence. Child sexual abuse programs began as programs teaching children to say no and teaching adults to listen. The bystander approach shifts this responsibility and engages adults as agents of change–both men and women become equal partners in prevention.
The reality is that everyone is a bystander, every day, in one way or another to a wide range of events that contribute to sexual violence. It is the little things which you and I can say which makes us active bystanders.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, Consilio et Animis.

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