By Alexander Bruzuel 
Trinidad Express Newspapers 
11th December, 2023 

In a world where challenges faced by young people seem ever more complex and multifaceted, the Heroes Foundation (Heroes) stands as a beacon of hope, empowering tomorrow’s leaders.

Founded in 2002 by Philip Julien, son of energy stalwart Prof. Ken Julien, Heroes has spent the past 21 years helping young people find their inner hero, surmount their challenges, and become catalysts for positive change in their homes, schools, and communities.

According to CEO, Lawrence Arjoon, these challenges include early exposure to crime, violence, and abuse, risks to their social, emotional, and academic well-being, economic struggles, and their ability to access employment opportunities.

A 2022 study involving 200 young participants revealed alarming statistics. Approximately 95% were at risk of emotional behavioural problems, affecting their ability to manage emotions, adapt to changes, and respond to stressful events.  Additionally, 42% were at risk of social behavioural problems, impacting their ability to maintain age-appropriate relationships.

Arjoon underscores the pivotal role that Heroes plays in tackling these issues by providing young people with resources and opportunities outside their regular environment.  “Our approach goes beyond conventional education,” he adds, “with a focus on values, skills, and holistic development to build resilience and a sense of purpose and community in ways that empower young people to also be part of the solutions.”

Recently, Heroes received the 2023 National Youth Award for Outstanding Youth Group. The work done in their Heroes Development Programme (HDP) was praised as one of the United Nations Spotlight Initiative’s significant achievements in preventing gender-based violence.

The programme was recognised for engaging 552 local and migrant youth who, in turn, directly engaged over 10,000 people in projects addressing violence and abuse in homes, schools, and communities.  The young HDP participants also reached over 700,000 people online with youth-led behaviour-change communication towards ending violence and abuse.

Brian Lara with young cricket fans at the SAVE launch with the Heroes Foundation

Heroes CEO, Lawrence Arjoon, with participants in the Heroes Development Programme

Arjoon explains that HDP is a 3-year intervention that delves into psychosocial and 21st-century skills development, sustainability education, career development, and project-based learning.  “It’s a long-term journey that inspires youth leadership for positive behaviour change in areas such as the elimination of violence and abuse, climate action, and environmental sustainability,” he added.

As part of their career connectivity initiatives, Heroes has partnered with CISCO Networking Academy to prepare young people with job-ready technology skills in areas such as cybersecurity, networking, data science, and programming.  Heroes is also offering these courses to the public for free on the Heroes Connect platform.

“At Heroes, we’re intervening to disrupt negative influences and foster well-rounded young people who become good citizens, good employees, and good leaders,” Arjoon adds. “However, long-term and sustainable results require long-term and sustainable investments.”

To support their ongoing work, Heroes is hosting a Gala Fundraising Reception for Believe: Christmas Around the Word on Friday 22nd December at Queen’s Hall.  Artfully directed by John Thomas, the annual Believe concert is a much anticipated and beloved Christmas experience. Tickets cost $600 and are available from Heroes and Queen’s Hall.

Heroes Participants from the Siparia West Secondary School during an anti-violence community engagement march