Janelle Antoine-Thomas is a dedicated Primary school teacher at the Ave Maria Girls School and whilst her main job is teaching girls of grade four, like any regular super hero, she leads a double life.
Antoine-Thomas volunteers at the St. Lucia Girl Guides Association and currently holds the post of Assistant Chief Commissioner.
The ACC hails from Zenon in Soufriere and has an eagle eye on life and people in the sense that she takes her time to observe her surroundings, including the people around her.
Girl Guides is an all girls movement and is the sister organisation to the all boys “Boy Scouts”
The organisation is aimed at providing a safe space for girls in recognition of the fact that girls all over the world are exposed to certain dangers on a daily basis, so they teach them different skills and coping mannerists to deal with life.
The teacher says; “We try to provide a place so that they can do girls stuff with no inhibitions, so it’s an organisation that every girl should aspire to be a part of.”
Antoine-Thomas says it is her goal to get the guides to branch out into every school in St. Lucia so that they could emulate the practice in countries like Indonesia where it is the law to have the guides in schools.
On the other hand, she says that one of the biggest problems faced by the organisation is the lack of volunteers in St. Lucia.
After attending a course in Mexico about improving membership and volunteer numbers, the Association has now come up with the plan to promote the movement through social networking and so, this is the method she has now decided to use with her girls.
Antoine-Thomas says in the past, the Guides were known to teach the girls only the most basic life skills. However, in keeping up with the times, new skills have been developed for them.
She says; “It’s more about safety. In places like India where we have child brides, we are advocating against the practice . So we are trying to empower women and the way we can do that is through education. But how do we get the education to them? It’s about creating networks. A lot of girl guiding now is done through networking and social media which takes you to all nooks and crannies wherever in the world you are.”
She continues; “One of the things I do, I do workshops for parents, so when there was the spate of rapes and violence in St Lucia, one of the things I did was to train girls and parents in how to keep their girls safe. Even at home, your children could be in trouble because there could be a step brother, a step father and maybe not even a step, it could be a blood relative and he or she will still find a way to hurt your child, whether it’s emotionally, physically, mentally or sexually. So we empower our girls and show them what they should do. If they are afraid to talk to their parents, they could find a trusted person to go to.”
Antoine-Thomas has no children of her own so she sees her students as her babies who she is fiercely protective of.
Currently, there are 100 members of the organization at the Ave Maria school.
The organisation will be celebrating 90 years in St. Lucia in July.
In her personal life, the teacher says she is a hopeless optimist and takes nothing personal as she chooses to laugh things out as opposed to lash out and get angry at any wrongdoings against her.
On the other hand, she says that her sharp tongue is her biggest weakness as she blurts out whatever comes to mind…this is something that she’s working on.
Something that people might be surprised to find out is that Antoine-Thomas can be shy but there is a reason behind her shyness: “When I enter a new environment, I like to observe and feel people before I really relate to them. Also, I’m very spiritual and I feel people so if I don’t feel you, I can’t relate to you.”
Antoine-Thomas said in the past, this trait has caused people to call her a snob but this is not at all the case. She says it’s all about energy and if a person’s energy meshes with hers then she will engage with them but if not, she will stay away.