UNICEF Champion for Children and TOCO founder Taj Weekes embarked on his first mission trip on behalf of UNICEF this July. The two-day trip included visits to the Boys Training Center, the crisis center, Canaries Summer Camp and its Cultural Development camp. Meetings with various media outlets and government officials rounded out the trip to highlight the work that Weekes will be doing on behalf of UNICEF. In an interview with Alisha Ally of the Government Information Service (GIS), Weekes and UNICEF representative for the Eastern Caribbean, Khin-Sandi Lwin discussed their mission. When asked why Weekes was chosen by UNICEF to be a Champion for Children in St. Lucia, Ms. Lwin stated that UNICEF, as an advocate for children’s rights, seeks “local voices” with a passion for children to help spread their message of equality and protection of children across the Caribbean and Taj Weekes fits that criteria. For Weekes, the alliance with UNICEF is an extension of this work through TOCO. He states, "the power of UNICEF not only legitimizes the work I do through TOCO but will also allow me to help even more children."
The purpose of the trip was twofold, first to formally introduce Weekes as a UNICEF Champion for Children to various youth organizations across the island and second, to have Weekes engage with St. Lucian youth on a one-on-one basis to learn about the issues that they face on a daily basis. Weekes was lauded for his ability to discuss issues such as child abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and corporal punishment with children, government officials, the media and community leaders alike.
The visits were coordinated with the help of RISE and the Youth Council and served to introduce UNICEF’s “Break the Silence” campaign, a global initiative embraced by several countries to advocate for the rights of children and raise awareness of a wide range of children’s issues.Weekes will be working with St. Lucia's Ministry of Health, Gender and Social Development and other government entities to move this initiative forward. He states that in the future, he hopes to bridge the gap between all parties involved to address these important issues and to provide a better future for St. Lucian youth.
Click here to view the full interview.