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Dragon boat racers of North East Trinidad

Randolph Cato and Shallona Shallowe started the Dragon Boat Programme in 2012. Randolph founded the North Eastern Dragon Boaters Association (NEDBA) and teamed up with Shallona who shared his vision for sport in rural communities. Shallona tells readers of Sweet TnT Magazine the story about their journey as a team.

Randolph Cato is a dragon boat racing coach, an educator for over 15 years and a qualified draughtsman and a youth at heart. Cato won the Community Heroes Award in 2013 in the area of Sport and Recreation. Daddy Cato or Cato, as he is commonly called by the young people under his charge, loves working with youth and is passionate about sports.

Cato is from the Sangre Grande community and has a vision for sport in rural communities. He believes in the skills, talents and abilities of youth and engages youth in all aspects of community work by placing them at the centre of all projects. This ensures that youth is engaged in the planning and decision making activities which allow the youth to develop into a productive member of society.

Dragon Boat Racing North Eastern District 2

I am Shallona Shallowe aka “Shal”, I have been a teacher for over ten years and a youth development practitioner. I have been engaging in youth development work since I was 17 years of age and actively volunteering in several communities both locally and internationally.

I have worked with the Kicking Aids Out Network in South Africa and the Girls Inc in the United States of America, both of which have been making a remarkable impact on the lives of youth in several parts of the world.Dragon Boat Racing North Eastern District 3

I have also been developing sport for development programmes in deserving communities in North East Trinidad as the Youth Programme Director in the North Eastern Dragon Boaters Association.

While cycling in the Chaguaramas area on a very cool Sunday morning, I saw a very long kayak (or so I thought) on the sea and was mesmerised by the 20-odd persons in the boat paddling to the beat of a drum. I thought it would have been a great activity to introduce this water sport at the school I am currently employed; Bishop Anstey and Trinity College East School.

Dragon Boat Sport development

I shared the idea with Mr Cato, at the time, who was very excited to introduce the programme to the boys at Trinity College East.

The Dragon Boat Programme was highly structured in the school from orientation programmes to fitness training, coach training and procurement of dragon boating equipment. This would not have been possible without the youth paddlers who trained hours on end, parents and the volunteers.

Cato and I continued to be engaged in the development of the sport of dragon boat racing by voluntarily participating in the 2011 National Dragon Boat Racing Programme where Cato was one of the protégé national team coaches for the under 18 racing crew, under the directorship of National Coach.

I was Team Leader of the 2011 national team with a contingent of 83 athletes. Cato mentored and gave support particularly to eight national dragon boat racing athletes from the following communities: Toco, Matura and Sangre Grande. The insurmountable challenges faced by these eight athletes motivated Cato to set up an association that allowed youth from these communities to access participation in the sport of dragon boat racing in North East Trinidad.

Dragon Boat Racing North Eastern District 6

With no boat, no paddles, no training ground, and no financial support this proved to be an impossible task. With strength, determination, passion and divine intervention; the North Eastern Dragon Boaters Association was born.

In 2012, North Eastern Dragon Boaters Association was registered as a non-profit organisation. Cato and I successfully began a dragon boat programme in Salybia with meagre resources and it challenged us to be innovative and resourceful.

In 2016, the programme includes youth from marginalised communities and currently has approximately 200 athletes from the following schools: North Eastern College, Sangre Grande Secondary, Guaico Government Secondary, Toco Secondary, Manzanilla Secondary, Malabar Government Secondary and Bishop Anstey and Trinity College East Schools. Major successful projects completed and ongoing ones are:

  • Jus Come and Paddle Programme – an open invitation to any individual or group from the community to jump into a dragon boat and try out the sport.
  • Dragon Boat Coaching Clinic and Paddling Clinic – the clinic aimed to empower youth who want to become dragon boat racing coaches.
  • From the River to the World Programme – programme started to give young people of East Trinidad the opportunities to travel and compete as elite athletes in dragon boat racing events overseas.
  • Coach Mentoring Project – the more experienced coaches mentor younger coaches to eventually adopt their own teams.
  • River Dash – a community-based dragon boat racing event where paddlers compete in a 100 metres dash to the finish.
  • North East Schools Dragon Boat Racing Event – an annual event that attracts schools in the North East to compete with each other.

Dragon Boat Racing North Eastern District 4

A lot of the programme activities are funded via donations. The ultimate goal of the programme is to increase youth participation in the sport of dragon boat racing in the North Eastern district to promote healthy lifestyles and youth leadership in sport. This goal will be beneficial to Trinidad and Tobago because it will improve social relationships within communities, increase volunteerism and develop the human resource capital in sport and recreation.

Youth of school age who wish to be a part of the programme can indicate interest with their schools and join the school programme. If their school does not have a dragon boat racing team they can come down to the Salybia River on Sunday mornings at 9 am and speak to one of the programme leaders.

You can also join as an adult. You can contribute to the programme by volunteering your time on Sundays to support the kids in the programme and provide financial assistance towards the purchasing of sporting equipment.

Further information about the association and the programmes offered can be obtained by contacting Mr Cato at (868) 772-7787 or email to northeastdragonboaters@gmail.com. NEDBA is also on Instagram and Twitter.

April 2016 – Issue 21    www.sweettntmagazine.com

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