remembering Louis Guy, David Rooks and others Posted on October 10, 2014 by Bertrand I’m not often driven to write eulogies, but the difficult passing of Louis Guy requires I say a few words in honor of his huge personality, of his work for the civil society sector specifically, and his passion for preserving the natural environment due to his skills as a forester. His death comes as a huge loss for Trinidad and Tobago, but it is an especially hard blow for those of us lucky enough to have walked with Louis along some of those paths. But something else comes with these paragraphs. It has to do with ensuring there is adequate monetary reward for those who take on public service tasks outside their direct field of employment, or even if they were employed in such fields but took their duty beyond the call. You see there is this disturbing trend where, all too often, the real and critical needs of those generous people who seek to improve on the status quo are ignored. Louis Guy’s time, largely expended for the good of the wider community, was never given to us with remuneration in mind. So when he died, mere steps away from a paupers grave, Mr Guy’s shining beacon of a life, led purely to protect the gift and integrity of the Commons, should cause others of like mind to rethink giving extended periods to volunteerism. Because as is so apparent, the person who gives his time freely may lose valuable income earning opportunity – if he or she is not of independent means. Louis Guy was not the only local civil society icon whose golden years were spent without enough money to buy comfort. The late David Rooks, who rose to achieve internatonal recognition as an ornithologist also spent too much of his last days staving off the bite of poverty. As it is, something should be done to protect the welfare of this class of community minded citizen, whose work do not provide for futures that ensure thier personal economic success. When Louis was being passed around the various nursing homes (not all are happy to care for people with acute dementia) much if not all of his keep was attended to by his friends -mainly colleagues of the environmental movement. Much credit to those folks, but what of the other civic minded souls who does or will not not have compatriots willing to support a sick friend? It would be poor form indeed for civil society volunteers to expect a cushion from the public purse for work they entered into voluntarily, but fortunately if sadly, the government of Trinindad and Tobago has spending so much money on so many dubious ‘worthy’ causes, an argument for a fund for a Volunteer Pension Scheme may now bear fruit. How would it work? Perhaps citizens who retire from active employment but are able to perform community service on a sustained basis, may derive somethng more substantial than their normal pension. Perhaps the proposed fund may only include basic medical coverage, just as it should surely contain provision for paid stays in nursing homes or suitable hospices should ailing elders have need of such. Whatever occurs, the thinking must be clear. People who serve should not have too much of a concern that they are going to lose money when they take up battles to benefit their fellow man. What happens if we do not dedicate part of the public purse to care for the volunteer? As is already apparent, there’ll be a lot of professional services on offer – quite a large chunk which may not be suitable for the national interest, either for present or future. Consider the current situation where a man with a consistent record of stewardship for the environment – Wayne Kublalsingh, must broach the ultimate sacrifice. He is risking death because he is sure the advice (to proceed with the part of the South Highway) State has obtained – albeit from accredited sources, is wrong. This blogger’s not taking sides here, but arguably Wayne Kublalsingh’s type of passion can only come from the civil society sector and as such defines what must be protected. However, harnessing the power of the neutral masses to impact or sway political will not be easy. Not a lot of people in Trinidad and Tobago care for causes other than what comes home to them. If the government cannot find it in their heart to fund a safety net for the country’s volunteers then they should commission a study to review if Trinidad and Tobago is on the correct path – if it is indeed on course for a future which everyone wants. Over time, Trinidad and Tobago signed on to dozens of global accords, all of which in sum ask that we adopt stronger approaches to conservation, emissions and humanitarian behaviour. So far our country has rejected AT ALL LEVELS most of these understandings. Invariably the people who encourage this boorish and short-sighted behavour derive from across the board, from the professional, private and public sectors. If we can recognise that the best future for T&T resides in the collective bosom of its volunteer corp the best way foward is to find a method to comfort them when they are old, infirm and can no longer give of their time. In their final days, friend David Rooks could have used some painkillers and hot meal. Louis Guy sorely needed a comfortable bed and someone near with expertise for his plight. Neither really got it from the public at large, despite both expending almost their full lifetime toward pubic service and posterity. _________________________________________________________________________ Authors note: Admittedly, this eulogy is a poor testament to Louis Guy and others of his ilk, still it should stand. As testament to the shoddy way we in Trinidad and Tobago treat our best people. 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