Today I am excited to launch the Green Voices of T&T initiative with an exceptional, young, vibrant, free spirited, barrier- breaking soul from Maloney.
Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Global Water Partnership as the Communications Facilitator for the World Youth Parliament for Water, highlighting the amazing stories of young, water warriors across the globe. There are so many exceptional young people in Trinidad and Tobago advocating for the environment, raising awareness and being true agents of change. I feel that it is only right that I share their stories and inspire other young people in T&T to take action.
Meet La Tisha Parkinson!
At just 25 years old, her passion for the oceans, life on land and educating others has allowed her to break out of her shell and make a name for herself participating in several international programs and local projects all facilitating her growth, and moulding her into the exceptional change maker that she is to date.
Some of her accomplishments to date include:
1. An active citizen scientist with Zooniverse for over 3 years.
2. Secondary School Biology teacher at Polytechnic institute for the past year
3. Vice President of the UWI Peer Counselling Association(2017-2018) under which she, o-created and facilitated a programme called “Universal Emotions” which helped young adults address and dissect complex emotions using the TV Show Steven Universe.
4. Project lead on the following research based social media campaigns – Matthew Movement, The Future of Wildlife is in Our Hands, Forests and Water Sustains Life and Livelihoods, Go Wild For Life, and Speak Up Ocean Campaign
5. Member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network in Trinidad and Tobago (CYENTT)
6. Work on the Adopt-A-River Learn and Flow Project with CYEN-TT, coming up with the name, helping with the GEF/SGP proposal, and writing scripts for the puppet shows.
7. Participant in the Peace Boat’s Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Program 2017 and the Floating Festival of Sustainability
8.Former member of the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council 2016 -2018
9. Participant in The Ocean Conference 2017,
10.Attendedee at the United Nations High Level Panel Forum on Sustainable Development in 2017, 2018 and 2019
Currently she is Trinidad and Tobago’s Country Ambassador for Youth Opportunities and a UN Volunteer with UNICEF Youth Advocate Programme managing the U-Report Trinidad and Tobago platform. Check out the links for more information. https://tt.ureport.in/v2/ https://www.facebook.com/groups/YOTrinidadandTobago/
When asked about her experience at UNICEF she stated, “I am very fortunate to have found employment in an area that I am passionate about, have experience in and be with an organization that is so amazing. I’m not just saying this because I work for them, but UNICEF really has turned out to be the dream job I didn’t know I wanted with the value for work-life balance and continued education and growth, it’s just a thousand times wow.”
Her journey did not start as an environmental enthusiast. At Trinity College in Moka she chose Biology, Computer Science and Environmental Science as a last resort because it was the only other subject she was qualified for. During an Environmental Science class her teacher Ms De Souza asked the class why they shouldn’t cut down trees. “Who knows?” she thought to herself. The teacher led them to the answer by enquiring about the role of trees, this when she had an “AH HAH!” moment! Trees provide us with oxygen, cutting them down is the same as stifling ourselves! This was the beginning of it all as it was hard for her to see the world the same when she started to understand how everything is connected.
After her form 6 graduation she went on to receive her B.Sc in Biology with a minor in Environmental Natural Resource Management, and received a Youth Trainer of Trainers Certificate from the Commonwealth Secretariat.
During this time she received an internship opportunity at the Ministry of Works and Infrastructure where her co-workers informed her of an NGO that she should join which allows you travel the world, work with the UN and execute social and environmental projects. Without hesitation she signed up to be a member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network and during her first meeting she was totally blown away by Rianna Gonzales, Dizzanne Billy and Ezra Bartholomew who inspired her to heights she did not know existed.
According to La Tisha-“Listening to all the amazing things these young people were doing made me forget about the perks and care about the cause. I perhaps was not an environmental enthusiast at the time, but working with the young people in the Caribbean Youth Environment Network Trinidad and Tobago Chapter was where I truly blossomed into the advocate that I am today. Before CYEN-TT, and Trinity College Moka there was not a chance in hell that I could give a speech anywhere. Not that I have a problem with words, that was never the issue, but the spotlight and me are not friends. I pushed myself and performed in a play which helped a lot..but that confidence and ability seemed contextual. It was only through my work with CYEN-TT and the support and encouragement from the members that I became a confident speaker and a more adept communicator…and now I get to do this for a living.”
It wasn’t always a walk in the park for La Tisha as she recalls a time in her life when she was consumed by depression.
“During final year in UWI, I was filled with tremendous post-UWI-what-to-do-with-my-life dread, and one of my classmates committed suicide. It was a dark time. There was no desire to do anything. I was blessed though to have a friend at the time who was aware of my life goals and dreams, and also my current struggles. They kept encouraging me so I eventually sent in an application, literally at the last minute for the Peace Boat Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Program as well as the Sustainable Ocean Alliance 2017 Conference in Norway. To my surprise I got through with both. The timings overlapped so I chose Peace Boat.
In short, it was a life changing experience, which I almost missed out on because depression is not nice. As much as I had applied, the days had only gotten darker. As the days drew nearer all I had was vivid, unpleasant thoughts of my demise at my hands on the ship. I’m not sure how I got myself on the plane, but an interesting thing happened, I met this bunch of strangers who brought sunlight with them. I can’t explain how it worked, they didn’t do anything special, they were simply themselves. They were fun, loving, intelligent, inspiring, passionate young people. I had a lot of fun on Peace Boat doing things I’ve always wanted to do. I hosted an ocean related game show, I co-hosted a storytelling and poetry workshop. I got the opportunity to mesh all of my passions – the oceans, writing, poetry, and VIBES! The cultural exchange aspect was the best I’ve ever had. Being cramped on a ship with a bunch of people from places you’ve never been teaches you how small the world really is and how much we are all exactly alike despite the minute differences that we sometimes blow out of proportion. I’ve done a lot of cool things in my life, but to date that is still the best experience I have ever had! Peace Boat is the ideal NGO, I have a lot of love and respect for the organization and its staff. This experience undoubtedly saved my life and changed my life.”
After her Peace Boat experience her life with CYEN-TT starting dwindling because it was time for extend her wings and soar! Apart from her UN Volunteer role and the Youth Opportunities Country Ambassador position she recently started doing social media for the Caribbean Alliance to Control and Prevent Cancer (CANCAP).
La Tisha continues to dedicate her life to the betterment of the environment and the society as she believes that you must know your role in this world, and we cannot neglect the importance of the environment in our daily lives. Everyone has opportunities to live their best lives, and it is important to her that everyone realises this. For the future she aims to be happy and to continue making her mark on this world.
“I think I am helping fill the bucket. I’d like to believe that the work I contributed to along with other persons in the environmental sphere have helped shaped some of the situations in T&T. We have a lot of businesses opting for eco-friendly alternatives. I hope that my work with U-Report can supplement all of this by helping to hold the government accountable to all of the promises they made regarding international agreements…after all, environmental pride is national pride right?” says La Tisha.
To the young people of the nation La Tisha’s message to you is simple-
“I graduated with lower second-class honours, which means my GPA was below 3.0. It is good to have a plan, but hear me out, sometimes following your heart is the only plan you need, and it’ll take you exactly where you need to be. Young people need to exercise more patience with older persons and let them remain involved (in a more advisory fashion). Older persons need to be aware when it’s time to come off the field and take up coaching positions and train young people to replace them. Time for that intergenerational war to done. We can’t keep having these power fights, it benefits no one. You can be great, and I can be great. The world has enough room for all of us to achieve greatness.”
For more information on La Tisha and professional collaborations follow her on social media @LaTi_swAAg