(PRESS RELEASE) – On Friday February 28th a number of social support agencies, community-based groups, non-governmental organisations, well-wishers and project partners from the United States were on hand for the Saint Lucia launch of They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) – a Taj Weekes foundation.
Also attending the launch was Hon. Fortuna Belrose – Minister in the Ministry of Tourism, Information and Broadcasting, Culture and Creative Industries with responsibility for Culture and Creative Industries, Governor General Emerita, H.E. Dame Pearlette Louisy, Hon. Shawn Edwards representing the Leader of the Opposition and Goodwill Ambassadors their Excellencies Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, Gordon “Commissioner” Gordon and Jallim Eudovic.
The launch took place one day after the investiture of recorded artist and philanthropist Taj Weekes to serve as a Goodwill Ambassador and a Brand Ambassador for Saint Lucia.
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, the decision to do so was inspired by the public acknowledgement and recognition of TOCO’s work and impact by the Government of Saint Lucia, 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.”
A video presentation on the genesis and mandate of the foundation chronicled TOCO’s 13 years of outreach in the Caribbean and a geographic footprint 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 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”. In that regard, 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”.
The keynote address was delivered by co-founder and President of RISE Saint Lucia Inc and the Safe Spaces initiative Dr. Stephen King, who delivered on the importance of Civil society advocacy organisations. With the exception of performances by Ambassadors Weekes and Ronald Hinkson, in keeping with TOCO’s heavy focus on youth empowerment, youth formed the core of the creative performances on the agenda.
The event culminated in a cocktail supported exclusively by Sandals Resorts, Bay Gardens Beach Resort and Massy Stores.