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Sunday January 28, 2007 FEATURE
Choc'late - wisdom beyond her years

By Irtha Daniel

How did you come up with the idea for the fast?

Choc'late Allen
Choc'late Allen

Well, it was after reading a biography of Mahatma Gandhi. I really loved it and I loved his principles. He fasted for things he knew were not right, for crime, and that was my motive. I know that crime isn’t right, so I thought it (fasting) should really be part of my whole initiative and that was really my inspiration for fasting.

What did you hope to achieve by fasting?

What I hoped to achieve was to lobby everyone’s support for the other activities we (Caribbean Vizion) have coming up and also to encourage persons to become purified – physically, mentally, spiritually. Fasting is not just to be on a hunger strike – it has a whole philosophy behind it.

After reading the book on Gandhi and other books as well, I did some research on it and got some more information – and I knew fasting had to be part of it (Caribbean Vizion’s crime initiative).

So what are these activities Caribbean Vizion is planning?

Well, there are youth rallies, community visits, school visits, “bite out of crime” and so many other things, but it’s all about getting the public involved and making sure it’s a national event, not only for one side and not politically motivated. All of this – the fast – was just to sensitise people to what we’re doing, and it was a reading fast.

Why a reading fast?

That, the reading, was just to encourage people, especially youth, to pick up the habit of reading because with reading comes knowledge, it opens up your mind.

And, I love inspirational books because they help you to develop yourself as a person and they help you to understand yourself, and other people. That’s why I made it a reading fast and why I read inspirational books.

A lot of people told me I should make it a prayer fast or a singing fast, but we already had a “100% crime-free” service where we had the entire religious community of Trinidad and Tobago, so we decided it should be a reading fast.

I want to make it clear the whole thing is not for any one particular race, religion or political party or anything like that. It was something that was general and I asked all nationals to participate. And, it wasn’t only Mr Manning I met with. There was also Mr Dookeran and Mr Panday.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5, 10, 15 years?

I don’t know, there are so many things I want to do. I love culture, sport, the medical field, acting, academics, everything – I want to do it all. I don’t see myself confined to any one particular thing. What is the sense of being good at sport if you don’t know your academics? Or what is the sense of playing sports and you don’t know your culture? I want, I need, to be balanced on all sides.

What do you do for fun?

For fun? I love to read. I watch television but not so much. I will go out – to the cinema, you know, invite friends over, just lime. I do everything like a normal 13-year-old or a normal child should do. But I don’t like dolls! I would rather be climbing or playing outside, I’m kind of a tomboy.

What about education – where are you right now?

Right now I’m preparing for four CXC subjects in June and seeing how I was at the library last week (January 14-19), this week I have double work to do!

When did you start working with Caribbean Vizion?

I started when I was eight.

How does your age affect what you’re doing?

I don’t think my age has anything to do with what I’m doing because what I want to do, I do! Some people say that I’m too young to be doing this. During the fast, a lot of them asked, “Shouldn’t you be in school? Why are you here the entire school week?”

But what they need to realise is that this is also part of my education – my learning stage. So whatever I do – whether it’s talking to you, walking down the road – I learn something.

When you go to school you learn, and that’s an experience in life. But with Caribbean Vizion, when I send letters and say I’m 13 years old most times people think the organisation is 13 years old or that I’ve been with the company for 13 years.

But when they see me they are very interested in what I have to say. Seeing an adult they think, “Oh, I know what to expect from you”, but when they see me they ask me the questions!

What did you think of other organisations and individuals asking for your help? Like the case with Veera (Bhajan).

Oh, I don’t mind. If I could I would love to help in any situation, but sometimes I can’t. People think that because they hear I’m working with Mr Manning that we have a close relationship, that we are friends or something, but it’s not like that at all.

After I sent him the letter about the project we at Caribbean Vizion intended, I waited months before I got a reply and then more months passed before things were finalised.

Tell me about your parents. What are some of the lessons that they have taught you?

My parents, what can I say. They have never spoiled me. As an only child I never got away with anything. If I want something I would have to prove that I deserve it and that I’m ready for it. I remember when I was a bit younger and I wanted a pet.

My parents gave me a pencil to take care of and I was supposed to keep it very neat and I did not. So they decided I was not ready for a pet – that’s how my parents are. But they gave me a lot of love and they respect me and I respect them.

When I was younger they would not let me read the entire newspaper – they would take out the “bad news” until I was older and able to understand what was going on.

Another thing they did that I am grateful for was if I asked either one of my parents a question they would not give me an immediate answer. They would make me think about it and tell them what I understood from it, then they would give me their view, so I could come up with a sensible conclusion on my own. They taught me to think for myself.

What would you say to other young people who want to join Caribbean Vizion?

Well right now we have a lot of members. We have Cast members from all over the Caribbean, we have Advisory members, like the Prime Minister, and we also have Student members in other Caribbean islands.

And, we would like to soon add Student members from Trinidad and Tobago. But I would encourage youths to form their own organisations. They have to understand though that it’s a process. You can’t want something today and tomorrow you have it! When my parents started Caribbean Vizion it was hard work – it was really tough and we’re not in the best position right now, but we’re still here and we’re still climbing, making those extra steps.

I don’t believe in anything being perfect but we work toward our company being established and recognised for what we’re doing for youth – to be able to make a difference. I’m not doing this for personal gain; I’m doing it for all the youth. If it means sacrifice I’m prepared to do that!

What’s the next step for Choc’late and Caribbean Vizion?

Hmmm, we have a lot of things coming up. There’s the youth rally, as I said before, school and community visits. There is also a song which is for youth. It’s supposed to be aired this Friday (January 19). It’s a very upbeat, lively song – something to get you dancing.

I wrote it so I think young people will really enjoy it, and it’s a song that older people can also appreciate. It’s a theme song for our “100% crime-free” initiative, the lyrics are positive and the beat is good – I think it will do well.

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