IVLP Alumni Spotlight features U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumni as they reflect on the impact of the program and how it has affected their work and lives. Here we feature the Co-Founder of a martial arts and community engagement center for at-risk youth in Chaguanas, Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Adrian Sealey. Mr. Sealey spent two weeks in the United States examining community resilience, leadership and advocacy skills, and effective ways to positively engage youth. This project was offered in support of the Strong Cities Network (SCN), the first global network of cities and other sub-national entities working together to build social cohesion and resilience to prevent violent extremism in all its forms. Mr. Sealey and the other participants met with key SCN members, such as Mayor Tom Tait of Anaheim, California, who spoke with them about his campaign, “Making Kindness Contagious.”
Visitor: Mr. Adrian Sealey
Title: Co-Founder, Ryu Dan Dojo- Youth Empowerment Centre
Country of Origin: Trinidad and Tobago
Itinerary: Washington, DC; Chattanooga, TN; Los Angeles, CA; and San Diego, CA
IVLP Project: Strong Cities: Building Community Resilience to Radicalization and Violent Extremism (2017)
What have you been up to since your IVLP experience?
Upon my return to Trinidad & Tobago, my organization, Ryu Dan Dojo- Youth Empowerment Centre-RDDYEC, located in Enterprise Village, Chaguanas, decided to adopt Anaheim’s theme of “Make Kindness Contagious.” Through this approach, we have sought to recognize ‘kind acts’ that often go unnoticed as well as to encourage those that we interact with, to do the same. Our Young Leadership core have since launched a campaign themed “Be Good, Do Good, Feel Good” where they go out into marginalized communities, conduct clothing and food drives as well as other humanitarian services.
On Good Friday this year, March 30, the youth arm of Ryu Dan Dojo took to the streets offering acts of kindness to commuters and volunteered to feed the underprivileged. They then made their way to a health care institution for children where they prayed and offered kind words of encouragement.
In addition, the borough of Chaguanas was the 100th city to sign on to the Strong Cities Network. Through this network, we have been able to strengthen bonds with our Mayor, Mr. Gopaul Boodhan, as we collaborate on an Inter-Agency Task Force.
Finally, RDDYEC hosted its annual Community Outreach Program & Peace-walk entitled “Unity in the Community- Make Kindness Contagious.” Utilizing lessons learnt from the IVLP, we brought together faith-based groups, governmental and non-governmental organizations to be a part of this initiative, bringing forth information and services to community members.
What one lesson that you learned or idea that you gained on your IVLP experience have you started to apply in your organization or your work?
Strategic Networking: The Federalism briefing with Mr. Akram Elias laid the foundation for my IVLP experience. Understanding the importance of lobbying with key stakeholders prompted our organisation to request a formal meeting with the Member of Parliament for our community (Mr. Fazal Karim) on Monday, 18th December 2017. Since then we have had many fruitful meetings and lobbied for trade-based training programs for members of our community, within our community.
Importance of Strategic Partnership: The Strong Cities Network epitomizes strength in joint, coordinated efforts geared towards effectively and adequately serving both as a proactive and reactive tool. It reduces the likelihood of at-risk and or disfranchised persons from becoming and/or living a life of violent extremism – through strategic Global Partnership.
What message would you like to share with the people who hosted and met with you in the US?
In the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”