Rotary Club of Maraval Making A Difference Since May 1993
The parang group on stage was professional, lively and pleasing.  The audience was rapturously appreciative.  Perhaps the patrons were extra receptive because the four small children accompanying the adult performers with drums, keyboard and a guitar, were from the La Seiva RC Primary School, and this was the school’s third annual Christmas Concert. 
Who would believe that these talented young people had started learning to play musical instruments just three short years ago? That was when the Rotary Club of Maraval supplied an instrumental music teacher as well as guitars, a keyboard, and other instruments for the school, and music classes commenced.  Later, the club sponsored the building of an air-conditioned music room with more musical instruments. The children are now placing well in school parang competitions, an incredible accomplishment in such a short time, thanks to the intervention of the Rotary Club of Maraval.
Learning music has been proven to enhance children’s cognitive skills and their ability to perform academically.  The Rotary Club of Maraval has sought to give the youth of our nation this gift at every opportunity over the years, by supporting youth steel bands, and contributing to the T&T Music Festival and other musical endeavours.  However, their major thrust has been the club’s Empowerment Through Music programme, established in 2004 with the help of Venezuelan Dr Abreu, UNESCO’s Special Ambassador for the Development of a Global Network of Youth and Children Orchestras and Choirs.  Through sponsorship, grants from Rotary and other institutions, donations and fund-raising, the club acquired a host of children-sized violins, violas, cellos, recorders and other instruments, and established bi-weekly music classes at The Rotary Club of Maraval Learning Centre (described below). 
Music teachers, mainly from The University of Trinidad & Tobago, donated their time and skills to bring the children to a point where they could perform at the National Academy for Performing Arts in front of a full house that included the Prime Minister and other dignitaries. What a difference this experience must have made to those young people!
This is the type of service that the Rotary Club of Maraval has been providing to communities around Trinidad for the past twenty-five years.
This very-active Rotary club is also known as “the ladies club”. This is a misnomer as, while the club is predominantly female, it has included many men over the years, two of whom have served as Club President.  It is believed that the Rotary Club of Maraval was chartered as the last single-gender Rotary club in the world in 1993.  This all came about in September, 1992 when District Governor (DG) Fred Lam accepted the idea to start an all-female club, thereby introducing women into Rotary in Trinidad.  Rotary International (RI) had changed their rules and women were admitted into Rotary just six years previously.  DG Lam mandated the Rotary Club of Central Port of Spain to be the sponsoring Rotary club, and Tony Jardine from that club was given the task to be the Special Representative from RI for the formation of this new club. DG Lam then asked Dolores Jardine (Tony’s wife) to find 25 qualified women to become members of the provisional new club.
In early January, 1993, the first meeting of the fledgling club convened and in May, 1993, charter documents were received from RI with the proviso that the Rotary Club of Maraval must introduce men to the club.  This was achieved in January, 1995. 
The club never had more than 25% male membership, but these “stallions” as they dubbed themselves, were a vital force in terms of enthusiasm and commitment to community projects as well as boosting fellowship amongst members.  Who could forget the “Men Who Think They Could Cook” competition wherein the men challenged the women of the club to a series of cook-offs, judged by prominent local chefs? Everyone had a good time enjoying the delicious food and boisterous bantering.
The first service project of the club was to donate refuse bins in Chaguaramus.  The club has continued to support ecology projects over the years, notably spear-heading the Tidy T&T project that encouraged villages to vie for generous prizes and the prestige of being dubbed the most beautiful community in the country. 
They also gave support to the Fondes Amandes Reforestation Project in St. Ann’s, where members have planted innumerable trees over the years.
The Rotary Club of Maraval established its oldest, sustainable project in 1993/4 by forming the Rampanalgas Village Corps (later renamed by RI as the Rampanalgas Community Corps) in this charming fishing village on the north-east coast of Trinidad.  First, these industrious Rotarians sought sponsorship and donations, then they trained and provided equipment for the village women to establish a pickling industry, and eventually they built a fully equipped kitchen to support this venture. 
The Community Corps continue to run their own operations with the support of the club, and a variety of other projects, such as crop growing, upgrading of community facilities, special education for mentally challenged children, crisis counselling, etc., all of which have been successfully implemented by the villagers.  The club members make a special effort every year to throw a Christmas Party at the Rampanalgas RC School, complete with Santa and gifts for each child.
Perhaps the most ambitious project ever undertaken by the club was the creation of the Rotary Club of Maraval Learning Centre in Woodbrook, Port of Spain.  This started in the year 2000 as a modest literacy training project in conjunction with ALTA (Adult Literacy Tutors Association) and was quickly followed by a search for a suitable venue for these classes, culminating in permission being granted by the POS City Corporation for the use of the old Woodbrook Estate Office building on the Augustus Williams Park. 
The club members cleaned and painted the premises, sought donations and grants to fund the project, and soon up to 25 children, aged 8 – 14 years old, who had been struggling with the normal school system, were being accommodated with computer-based training for literacy and numeracy skills.
Eventually arts & crafts, drama and other classes were introduced to the curriculum and professional teachers were hired through the Ministry of Education once the school was officially recognised by that ministry.  A school board was set up and a Principal appointed to oversee the daily running of the Learning Centre.  Most of the children were eventually able to sit their SEA exams and move on to secondary schools, an achievement that would have seemed impossible before this intervention.  Sadly, the school had to close in 2015 due to difficulties in sourcing staff and the increasing financial burden on the club.
The Learning Centre proved to be a useful venue for other projects, such as the music programme already mentioned.  It also served as the bi-monthly meeting place for the Rotaract Club of Maraval, the junior (ages 18 – 30 years) arm of The Rotary Club of Maraval, which was chartered by RI in April, 1999. 
This Rotaract club, despite a few challenges, is now a vibrant member of the Rotaract family in Trinidad & Tobago and the wider district.  They deliver useful service to the community with great enthusiasm and energy.  A few Rotaractors have gone on to join The Rotary Club of Maraval as full Rotarians, and have made the mother club very proud of their achievements.
A perennial favourite project of the club is the selection and sponsorship of at least two sixth form students to attend the annual World Affairs Seminar in Wisconsin, USA.  When the students return from this week-long experience of working and learning about global issues with world leaders/experts and other young people from all over the world, they are changed forever.  The Trinidadian students are always a hit with their fellow delegates, usually performing scintillating soca classics at the cultural show at the climax of the event, and life-long friendships are forged.  Since 1995, at least 50 young people have benefitted from this extraordinary experience and some have gone on to dominate our local news in more ways than one, notably, TV6 News Anchor, Golda Lee Bruce, and MP Barry Padarath.
The Rotary Club of Maraval has also quietly supported:
- youth,  by providing opportunities to learn life skills such as cooking, sewing and other trades at the Servol Life Centre in St. Ann’s, St. Judes Home for Girls, and the Santa Cruz Progressive Movement, plus many Career Advice sessions at schools, upgrading of playgrounds, and even Story-Telling in the Park events;

- the elderly, through regular Bingo and yoga, as well as celebratory parties at the St. Andrews Home for the Aged and St. Crispins Home for the Aged;

- people with disabilities, through many projects that helped the children of The Princess Elizabeth Home and The Lady Hochoy Home;

- prisoners, through the provision of art classes and the exhibiting of their artwork, free eye-tests and spectacles, general donations, and support for the inmates’ seasonal concerts;
 - the general public, though the presentation of educational and motivational seminars, disaster relief aid when hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes and floods strike around the Caribbean and the world, as well as individual medical sponsorships;
- and countless smaller projects that have impacted the lives of many for the better in our twin-isle republic.
If you talk to long-time members of The Rotary Club of Maraval about their most memorable service projects, you are bound to hear about the year (2003) when they received 280 wheelchairs from Rotary District 7010 in Canada, and distributed them to needy recipients all over Trinidad & Tobago.  The whole club pitched in and spent several weeks, first visiting prospective beneficiaries to ensure that their circumstances warranted a wheelchair, and then handing them over at a number of heart-warming group ceremonies throughout the country.  That was Rotary Service Above Self at its best! 
The Rotary Club of Maraval has been fortunate in forming partnerships with many organisations and corporations to help fund and manage large-scale projects.  In particular, the Canadian High Commission has been so generous and helpful with many of the club’s ventures over the years that the institution was honoured with a Paul Harris Fellowship by the club.
Many of these projects were also funded through grants involving donations from Rotary International and Rotary District 7030, as well as Rotary clubs in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, which are twinned with the Rotary Club of Maraval.  That is the power of Rotary and its international network of service-minded people with leadership skills.  Some of these connections grew out of accidental meetings at Rotary World Conventions and Rotary District Conferences. 
This is a travelling club.  Several of its members have travelled as far as Japan, Singapore, Sweden, Argentina, and many countries in between, to attend world-class Rotary conventions. 
Its members have travelled to conferences and projects throughout the club’s Rotary District 7030 which extends as far north as St. Kitts, as far south as French Guiana and as far west as Aruba.  The Rotary Club of Maraval even sponsored the formation of the Liamuiga club in St. Kitts in 2003, with a small group of members travelling there to share in that club’s charter ceremony.
The eradication of Polio from the planet has been a focus of Rotary International since 1985, and The Rotary Club of Maraval donates at least US$2,000 to this effort every year, honouring worthy Rotarians and non-Rotarians with Paul Harris Fellowships in the process.
Rotary International offers many standard programmes for member clubs.  The Rotary Club of Maraval has been active in involving many young people in the following programmes:
  • Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) – around the Caribbean
  • Group Study Exchange (GSE) – North America and The United Kingdom
  • Youth Exchange – various countries
  • Ambassadorial Scholarships - The United States and the United Kingdom
The club has also been involved with friendship exchanges of Rotarians with clubs in the United States. 
Of course, none of this could be achieved without members working together on a variety of enjoyable fund-raising projects, notably the Western Night barbeque parties with casino tables, the Miss Universe ‘Turn of The Century’ Charity Ball, classical, pan/chorale, contemporary and jazz concerts, carnival fetes, art auctions, Christmas card sales, soup fests, flea markets and collection tins.
This is the story of the first 25 years of achievement for this hard-working, dynamic club.  May there be many more years of fun, fellowship and service