By Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal, a member of the Rotary Club of Point Fortin, Trinidad, West Indies
I have always had an interest in chess. So I was thrilled when Raymond Aaron, project coordinator of the “Chess in Schools” project and a past president of my Rotary club, invited me to be on the project committee. Our project is introducing primary and secondary school children to the game of chess.
When I joined Rotary in January, it was a life changing experience for me. I come from a background in academia, which can be quite isolating, no matter how hard you try for it not to be. So joining my Rotary club helped me get reconnected to my community.
My family has lived in Point Fortin for three generations. It’s an hour’s drive from Trinidad’s other large city, San Fernando. The journey is made even longer by the poor condition of the roads caused by a relatively constant stream of heavy trucks and machinery to and from the industries in the southwestern peninsula. As a child and teenager, I spent many hours in San Fernando, pursuing dance, art, and music.
So it’s satisfying to know I am giving back to my community, and helping children enjoy an activity like chess much closer to home.
As an academic, I loved this project for many reasons. Chess helps students with fundamental subjects like Math and English. It also helps them recognize patterns, and develop critical social skills like respect for authority, rule following, and sportsmanship. But most importantly it develops a child’s critical thinking ability, a skill that will serve them in all aspects of life.
The project made use of skills and experiences I learned by serving on various committees, conferences, and outreach programs. I am also a trained graphic artist and editor, which came in handy when we launched the Point Fortin Chess Club and designed T-shirts, brochures, flyers, and newsletters. We have a presence on social media and are developing a website.
We were fortunate to work with David Martin the founder of the Grant Memorial Presbyterian School Chess Club, who is serving as a trainer along with Carlyle Singh and Edison Raphael of the Trinidad and Tobago Chess Foundation. We are also collaborating with the local Rotaract club where some members have served as trainers. We also hope to involve members of our recently formed Interact club, which meets at the same school as the chess club.
We hope to use the project as a pilot and extend it to other Rotary clubs throughout Trinidad and our Rotary district. Rotary has given me a place to showcase my skills and learn new ones. I look forward to reaching new heights with this project as I continue my journey in Rotary.