Here in the Caribbean we have a collection of intelligent and talented young men and women with a vision,the passion, the commitment, the drive and the leadership skills needed to take their respective countries forward. Amongst them, stands Tina Alfred, a young Dominican leader, who was recently awarded, along with 59 other young leaders from across the world, with the Queen’s Young Leader Award. The ceremony took place at Buckingham Palace, London on Thursday 23 June 2016.
Tina Alfred, 24, was recognized by The Queen for taking the lead in transforming the lives of others and making a lasting difference in her community. Before Ms Alfred made the trip to London, I reached out to her for an interview. Tina is the Lifeline Victim Support Coordinator with Lifeline Ministries, an non profit organization determined to protect the young ones of Dominica from becoming victims of abuse. I will now allow Ms Alfred’s voice to be heard in her own words.
Can you tell me a little about yourself?
I am Tina Alfred the Victim Support Coordinator for Lifeline Ministries. I started at Lifeline Ministries in June 2014 as an Intern under the Dominica National Employment Program (NEP). I was very elated to receive the opportunity to gain experience in working with a psychotherapist/ Counselor as I pursued studies in Psychology at the associate’s degree level. However it turned out that it wasn’t only a counseling office but it was a Non Governmental Faith Based Organization.
At Lifeline Ministries we believe in helping the vulnerable,standing with the disadvantaged and collaborating with others to develop sustainability. I realized that my calling was always to give back to my community, I also realized that I needed to get more closer to God and be very more proactive and volunteer my time. I was given many task as my job title was administrative assistance. I was involved in many functions at Lifeline including Events Planning and Capacity building training courses. I also received many opportunities to attend and participate in workshops and training to enhance my capacity as a Junior social worker.
The training which made the most impact on my life was the Victim Support training which I graduated from and received my certificate of completion and my ID to be officially called a victim Supporter. I became part of Lifeline Teen Support group which is a group where young girls who have been victims of sexual abuse become survivors. Each person has a mentor (Victim Supporter) and the mentors personally empower, motivate and befriend their mentor. I realized there that so many young girls are vulnerable to sexual abuse and we must find a way to eradicate and make the public aware of the heinous acts and find ways we can resolve it.
I was then introduced to the Dominica National Council of Women where i became an active member of the Organization and then became I the administrator on a voluntary basis because the administrator resigned . I was able to voice my opinions and make necessary recommendations as it relates to Women and girls sending out press releases to condemn acts of crime against children women and girls.
I eventually became the Lifeline Victim Support Coordinator where I coordinate Training for Victim supporters and Coordinate the Two support groups Teen Support group and Adult support group. I believe that leading this group has made me become an empowering advocates on the reduction / eradication of children’s vulnerability to sexual abuse and to support survivors through the healing process. I saw that there is a dire need for more voices to be heard and I believed that I was the young voice for the voiceless.
It is my dream to see my community and my country by extension become a place free from all forms of Gender Based Violence and an inclusive community. Women are entitled to the equal enjoyment and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in all fields.
One of my dreams came to pass on the 8th March 2016 International Women’s Day where Lifeline Ministries in Collaboration with the Dominica National Council of Women Funded by the Canada Fund (CFLI) where we launched a twenty-four (24) hour telephone helpline for Victims of GBV to call and receive quality and professional operators who were part of the cadre of Victim Supporters.
We also received funded to run seven (7) district meetings island wide on Recognizing Reporting and Recovering from Abuse I was happy to be one of the facilitators and going from district to district hearing the voices from the communities, raising their concerns and sharing Ideas and recommendations. I realized that many communities had the same opinions and a lot of persons are very familiar to the subject and take it very close at heart.
What other commitments do you have?
Right now in my country there is no safe house for victims of abuse and because my country is very small everyone is familiar to each other and the environment and confidentiality might be a big problem. However it is very important that we have a few safe places in our country that persons can run to and not only receive shelter but receive support to recover. This is one of my other ideas i would like to see in the near future.
Our Organization is right now in the process of training another cadre of Victim supporter which we will include Victim Support through Social Media and advocacy. We are also targeting young college students and graduates who would love to become a gender activist or an advocate for child’s rights to participate. I am looking forward to meeting the new class and sharing Ideas, networking.
Being part of the NGO Coalition for the protection of children rights and working with children will always be my inspiration. I love putting a smile on a person’s face and I love making people happier and I believe that we should always be our brothers and sisters keepers and always encourage person’s to do the right and just things.
As an organization gets larger, there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?
So far employment at Lifeline Ministries hasn’t grown in size however it has grown by influence. Our aim is not to grow by size but by influence. We are not a service provider we work as a catalyst to collaborate and partner with providers helping in sourcing funding and resources. We use volunteers to give support by giving their time out. We also have a cadre of 70 trained volunteers to support Victims of Gender Base Violence. We always continue to call on advocates and volunteers.
There are a few challenges which affect our organization:
The biggest is Operational cost: We are a registered Non Governmental (non Profit Faith Based Organization. We have no income stream attached also we don’t receive any subventions from Government or non governmental allocated funds. Therefore it is difficult to effectively budget the operational cost. The director of Lifeline Ministries Mrs. Tina Alexander always says “The word faith base has a double meaning we are christian inspired and we have faith in being success through hopefulness.”
Can you explain the impact, if any, that social networking and Web has made on your organization or you personally?
Social media has made a positive impact on Lifeline Ministries the Director Tina Alexander runs an official website and blog as an organization. I run the more sophisticated and private groups on Facebook and Whats-app. We have seen that there is an increase in raising awareness and there is an easier stream of communication. The use of social media has been able to create conversation, Invite persons to forums and to call on advocates and other partners to join and collaborate.
We have grown in partners who have join in solidarity to fight against sexual abuse and GBV.
How do you ensure your organization and its activities are aligned with your “core values”?
One of our key values is relationship, we always maintain high expectation of people. Persons are able to share their life with integrity. People who join our organization quickly adapt to sharing personal experiences. We are more about building relationships than activities.
Our core values are more important than what we have been doing. At Lifeline we have multiple missions however our core values are building relationships with integrity and empowering persons. Lifeline touches the lives of the most vulnerable in society providing a voice for the unrepresented and victimized, empowering others to move on from their personal disasters to become agents for positive change in society.
Wow! such vision, such determination. Our youth need our support and encouragement. Let us come together to make their dreams and visions more the just a dream and vision, but a reality. Our future and the future of our children depend on it. Well done Tina! I salut you and am extremely proud to call you my fellow Caribbean sister.