For Choco’late Allen, the benefits of home-schooling have been enormous. Not only did the Trinidad & Tobago teenager get all the individual attention she needed, but she had the freedom to travel and explore opportunities. In 2001, she began touring the Caribbean as a singer, actress and dancer with Caribbean Vizion, an organization that lobbies for cultural and economic cooperation between Caribbean people and their governments.
With a flexible schedule, she left T & T at age seven and spent three years in Jamaica, 18 months in Guyana and a year in St. Kitts and St. Lucia.
“Through home-schooling, I developed as a person because I was able to experience various cultures in the region,” said Allen who was presented with a youth trailblazer award at the second Unsung Heroes Honours celebration at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) centre last Saturday night. “It’s one thing to hear stories about the islands and its people, but quite another to experience them. I certainly learned a lot.”
Five years ago, Allen fasted for five days at the National Library in Port-of-Spain to promote the concept of taking personal responsibility against the backdrop of social problems plaguing the twin-island republic.
Inspired after reading Mahatma Gandhi’s biography, she took a personal stance against T & T’s surging crime rate, urging the country’s residents to take personal responsibility for their thoughts, words and actions and work together towards positive nation building.
The child activist was elected Caribbean Vizion’s chief executive officer in 2004 after the organization’s St. Lucian president, Jany Williams, who won the island’s Calypso Queen crown three months earlier, was killed in a vehicular accident. Allen and five other Caribbean Vizion members were in the vehicle that plunged down a precipice after the brakes failed. Williams, who was the driver, broke her neck while the others suffered minor injuries.
Allen plans to pursue post-secondary education at Amherst College.
Canada’s first Africentric Alternative School principal, Thando Hyman-Aman, was presented with an award for cultural education excellence.
“It’s an honour and privilege to receive an award from your community,” said Hyman-Aman who is the principal at Alexander Stirling Public School in the Malvern community. “It’s good to be acknowledged in the midst of people who are doing good things on behalf of the community.”
Other winners were dentist and philanthropist, Dr. Cherilyn Sterling-Case; photographer, Roy Virtue; entrepreneur, Sandra Sylburne; spoken word artist, Jordan Veira; youth leader Shakaiah Gayle and community workers, Ned Blair and Letna Allen-Rowe.
The Canadian African & Caribbean Committee hosted the awards ceremony in conjunction with the JCA.