As the fight against gun violence and other forms of criminality in communities island-wide continues to gain momentum, more social intervention programmes are being rolled out.
And last weekend, it was the turn of a newly formed media/promotions and marketing company WILCOM, in collaboration with the Saint Lucia Football Association [SLFA], the Ministry of Sports and the Gobart Family Foundation to launch an anti-violence campaign.
Now that the anti-violence campaign impacts athletes on and off the field of play, football is being utilized as a vehicle to spread the message across the country.
‘Shoot to Score – Not to Kill’ is the tag-line for the anti-violence campaign that will be incorporated into SLFA league matches and competitions island-wide in a bid to wrest back control of the communities from criminal elements.
‘Give Crime and Violence a Red Card’ – is the message that is being promoted in an effort to sustain a more holistic, friendly and sociable society.
Elijah Williams of WILCOM explained that in collaboration with his wife Cherry Ann, a co-owner, the ‘Shoot to Score – Not to Kill’ was one of the first projects that the company embarked upon.
“Gun violence, just like football, is everywhere. So, we felt that we could use football as that vehicle to advocate to bring the message across and to put real faces to gun violence,” asserted Elijah.
“To put real faces to perpetrators, to put real faces to victims …because all too often we refer to the victim as ‘this other guy’,” he added. “This other guy has a name, this other guy has a family and everybody gets affected.”
Outlining the format and concept of the venture, Williams said, “It’s going to be a three-month campaign in the first instance , and it’s going to involve radio, television, electronic billboards, social media and its actually going to involve football , the actual field of play . We are going to take the message there as well.”
SLFA President Lyndon Cooper noted that the association “is no stranger to social programmes”, and so when Wilcom submitted a proposal to the SLFA it was endorsed, because “we think that it is a brilliant idea, because we have undertaken a number of social programmes in the last 10 to 15 years, in terms of assisting or working hand-in-hand with Bordelais Correctional Facility (BCF), and the St Lucia Red Cross Association.”
He added, “Now is an ideal time for us to re-endorse the programme, simply because of what the message is. And that is ‘Shoot to Score – Not to Kill’ …and one of my favourite slogan or theme testifies to what we are doing and that is, ‘Give Crime and Violence a Red Card’.”
Cooper explained that, “ A red card is an international stigma for expulsion, removal and end it. So for us in football, it’s a terminology that we use and we have understood.
“So …I want to request everyone to continue to push this initiative and ensure that we give crime-violence in this country a red card, and to encourage ‘each one must teach one’ as to the values that should be installed in this country. And I want to encourage every individual that ‘If you see something, we must say something’.”
Sports and Youth Development Minister Kenson Casimir asserted that sports has the power to enable people to get things done.
He noted that it is quite significant that the project is being formalized in conjunction with the launch of Youth Month “and we are starting with an initiative that directly influences young people where they are, which is on playing fields”.
“It speaks volumes of this initiative and the success that we expect from this initiative…and I feel that sports has a unique opportunity for young people to really get the proper direction on what they should be doing,” said Casimir. “And I think when you say ‘Shoot to Score –Not to Kill’, this is exactly what we want to bring to our inner communities.”
The minster acknowledged the input of, the Oliver Gobart Sports (TOGS) Fund into this initiative. Noting the value of sponsorship.
“The fact that we have entities that understand their corporate social responsibility, it is not just in words but in deeds with physical contributions, really sets the way for where we need to be in our country.
“If we are serious about tackling any social ills, we need parents, we need fans, and we need corporate society and all organizations to come on board,” Casimir said.
Speaking on behalf of the TOGS Foundation, Theo Gobart acknowledged the input of his wife and his remaining two sons Rufus and Allan, who together have embarked and supported numerous socio-economic projects in the communities to assist young persons.
In addition to paying tribute to his deceased son Ollie, a victim of gun violence, in 2014, and keeping his infallible sportive spirit alive, Theo said : “He was a very good sportsman , and the year he died , he was about to go to the Commonwealth Games …to play squash for Saint Lucia.
“He was a top squash player, top golfer and was very good at many sports and he liked his sports. He would be horrified at what is seen in Saint Lucia, today, with all the murders. ”
Nevertheless, he added: “We have to do what we can to mitigate these crimes …and that’s really why we got into the Togs part, we wanted to do something, which would help stop the growing criminality that was happening.”