TOCO Launches Local Branch
With a call for worthy alliances and strategic partnerships
It was an awesome occasion for Taj Weekes and his management team as the local branch of his They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) – foundation was launched, recently.
Taj is widely known as an unwavering, energetic humanitarian whose dedication extends beyond his song lyrics into his social activism; an activism that has culminated in his official role with the United Nations as “UNICEF Champion for Children” (2013) and his children’s charity, TOCO.
His frequent visits to the island always feature his commitment to humanitarian causes; as he roams the country side widely to interact with youngsters, youth groups and social activists.
Taj’s philanthropic gestures amongst other community enrichment deeds encompasses the distribution of items such as; football kits, bicycles, sneakers to needy youths, lectures to high school and college students on topics ranging from volunteerism to acceptance and tolerance.
On February, 28 a number of social support agencies, community-based groups, non-governmental organisations, well-wisher and project partners from the United States were on hand for the event.
Also in attendance was; Culture Minister Senator Fortuna Belrose, Governor General Emerita, H.E. Dame Pearlette Louisy, Hon. Shawn Edwards representing the Leader of the Opposition and his fellow Goodwill Ambassadors their ‘Excellencies’ Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Gordon “Commissioner” Gordon and Jallim Eudovic.
While the TOCO Foundation has been active throughout the Caribbean since its establishment in 2007, the organization was never formerly launched. According to Ambassador Weekes, he was inspired to go along with the TOCO launch due to wider public acknowledgement and government’s recognition of TOCO’s work and input, as evidenced by their conferment of the ambassadorship. “While many Saint Lucians know us as individuals and benefactors, it is important for people to be able to make the connection between the work we do and the brand under which we do it, because we believe TOCO’s most credible ambassadors are those at the ground-level, and they must know what drives this movement,” he declared.
The foundation has left its footprints in the wider region - with TOCO’s 13 years of outreach extending from Haiti in the North to Trinidad in the South. According to Ambassador Weekes, TOCO’s mission is to restore the central place of “the village” to life in the Caribbean. “We in the Caribbean – who’ve been bequeathed the world’s tiniest acreages as “countries”, have always understood the village concept. Once upon a time, the luxuries of life for us were nice, but not essential for survival when the neighbor with extra ‘anything’ still reached across the fence to share, when reciprocity was not a dictate of obligation, but simply a factor of the natural kinship that thrives out of a shared existence and when children belonged to the place, and not just to the family whose name they carried”, he said. He added that a national launch also sought to begin dialogue with NGOs and other agencies providing social support in “critical” areas to consolidate efforts for wider social impact.
These areas include youth empowerment, single mothers and economic empowerment, climate action, particularly in the area of sustainable agriculture, and health and wellness.
While delivering remarks, TOCO Director Angela Serieux Weekes said the pursuit of more ground -level impact occasions provides a restructuring of the TOCO model, which sustainable partnerships with “agencies, institutions and people who have been content to clap from the sidelines, to help build the TOCO movement in ways that work for them”.
Consequently, Mrs. Weekes said, TOCO will pursue MOUs with organisations whose mandates are a “right fit” with the causes the foundation champions. “This is why we made sure to invite various foundations and social development institutions to join us this evening. We hope it will start the conversation about how we can add value to each other’s philanthropic initiatives for wider social impact, and particularly in ways that translate into empowerment for our vulnerable youth,” she added.
In delivering the keynote address, Dr. Stephen King, co-founder and President of RISE Saint Lucia Inc and the Safe Spaces Initiative focused on the importance of civil society advocacy organisations.
In keeping with TOCO’s heavy focus on youth empowerment, and apart from performances by Ambassadors Weekes and Hinkson, youth formed the core of the creative performances on the agenda.