Prime Minister, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar greets Shaquille O'Neil. Looking on is Minister of National Security, the Honourable Jack Warner. Photo courtesy guardian.co.tt
June 30, 2012:
Government will spend $10 million on its newest crime fighting and social outreach initiative, whose main goal is to deter delinquent youths from a life of crime - “Hoop of Life”.
The initiative which was launched earlier today at Beetham Gardens during a key distribution ceremony held by the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) at Beetham Gardens to residents whose homes were destroyed by fire following an arson attack in Trou Macaque last year.
The programme will be placed under the Ministry of National Security and facilitated by the HDC, the National Infrastructure Development Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NIDCO) and the Ministry of Sport initiative—LIFESport will begin on July 21.
Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who launched the programme said players must come from and register within their community, and they will be given an undisclosed stipend. Players qualifying for the basketball tournament are not allowed to engage in any criminal activities. Failure to adhere would lead to the entire team being disqualified. In addition, team members must reside in the community in which they are competing or they would also be disqualified.
She noted that it was time the public saw there “are far” better alternatives than crime and as such, to regain a sense of identity and purpose.
Therefore, the prime minister said Government was taking the grassroots slang of "taking a sweat" to a whole new level.
Also present was football superstar Shaquille O'Neil, who urged youths to be leaders rather than followers and to adopt a positive attitude to change their living situation. O’Neil described Trinidad and Tobago as a “beautiful country” and vowed to be back for Carnival.
The "gentle giant" noted that he grew up in an area much like, and worse than, the Beetham. He said at age 12, basketball, and a positive attitude, saved him from following the predictions of detractors that he would amount to no good.
The first place prize will be $1 million, second place of $500,000 and third place of $250,000. The only criterion to be registered is to remain on the right side of the law.
A reality type show will also be generated out of the initiative which will showcase the players behind the competition.