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Bond: US willing to help Government educate migrant children

Clint Chan Tack United States Ambassador Candace Bond greets the children attending the migrant school at LARMS. - Photo by Roger Jacob
United States Ambassador Candace Bond greets the children attending the migrant school at LARMS. - Photo by Roger Jacob

UNITED States Ambassador Candace Bond has said the US is willing to help Government find ways to educate migrant children.

She said the US and other international partners have had discussions with Government on the topic.

Bond said the US government stands ready "to help the Government of TT make that a reality."

Coming from a family who highly values education, Bond was pleased with the efforts of LARMS to educate migrant children.

"Education is so near and dear to my heart."

She said she once sat on a school board in Los Angeles that dealt with the needs of over two million children, some of whom were migrants and refugees.

"The US is, after all, a nation of immigrants, migrants and refugees that come together and work together for the benefit of all."

Bond said the US supports the efforts of countries and organisations around the world to address the needs of migrants and refugees.

"We continue to accept 30,000 people, primarily from this (Western) hemisphere, every single year."

She said the US government has spent approximately US$2.8 billion to assist migrants and refugees with assistance.

Bond added that supporting the efforts of local groups to assist refugees and migrants was just as important as promoting peace and security worldwide, reducing the need for people to migrate.

In TT, Bond said, the US and other members of the international community continue to support the efforts of various groups who help provide migrants and refugees with basic needs, including education.

LARMS was established in 2019. One of its objectives is to provide educational opportunities for migrant children who are unable to attend school.

The group is the recipient of a US State Department grant of US$24,700 from the Julia Taft Fund for six months to buy food and medical supplies for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

The purpose of grants from this fund is to "address gaps in refugee assistance by issuing grants to local nonprofit organisations for quick-impact, time-limited projects."

LARMS co-ordinating director Gitanjali Ramnarine said the group received the grant last July and part of it is used to provide education for migrant children.

Venezuelan children currently do not attend local public schools.

US Ambassador to TT Candace Bond greets the children attending the migrant school at LARMS, alongside LARMS Director Gitanjali Angie Ramnarine and other officials from the US Embassy. Photo by Roger Jacob

Referring to a digital programme offered to them at Naparima College, Ramnarine said a physical space was created at the school to allow them access to computers.

"Naparima College did not accept migrant students into their classrooms."

Ramnarine said, "The Catholic Church was very vocal in its desire to offer migrant children a space (for education). The Catholic Church made the right noises."

At a parliamentary joint select committee meeting on May 25, Archbishop Jason Gordon said there is "more than enough" room in denominational schools to accommodate registered Venezuelan children.

The Catholic Board, he said, is fully prepared to begin receiving these children, but nothing can be done until the relevant state authorities grant approvals.

Ramnarine thanked Bond, her predecessor Joseph Mondello and the US Embassy for their assistance to LARMS.

During her visit, Bond interacted with Venezuelan children, ranging from five-12, as they did their schoolwork.

She also read a book for them before leaving for other engagements in San Fernando.

Those included a courtesy call on San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello and visiting the Blind Welfare Association, which has received a nine-month grant for US$20,000 from her embassy to use technology to build the digital capacity of visually impaired participants.