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Sat, Jul

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Sangre Grande based Pro League football club, DIRECTV North East Stars, have announced their latest community project which is aimed at helping to keep children busy during the school holidays.

The North East based team are introducing a fun educational project which will introduce stamp collecting to 9 - 11 year old children as well as encouraging them to write to penpals across the world.

Many adults can recall countless hours spent with their stamp collections as children, but the hobby appears to have died out in Trinidad & Tobago. "We wanted to offer an alternative to our annual summer football camps" said Operations Director, Kevin Harrison. "Not every child is sport minded so we decided we would offer something interesting and fun, that is also educational"

Harrison said that one of the attractions of stamp collecting as an educational tool is that children actually want to learn more. "If a child has a stamp that says "Suomi" he naturally wants to know which country issued the stamp. Once the child is shown that "Suomi" means Finland, he will remember this.

You can then engage the child in a conversation about Finland, where it can be found on a map, climate etc. While we are not educational experts, we do have an ex teacher, who has voluntered to assist us. Necia Holzman taught at several schools including QRC before moving to USA.

Necia, better remembered as Miss Ali by her students, returned to T&T because she wanted to contribute in a positive way to help young people develop"

North East Stars C.E.O. Brent Sancho said" Our players and staff pass on the benefits of their football experience to youngsters through our coaching schools and soccer camps, but they have so much more to offer.

For instance, I knew the answer to the "Suomi" question, as I actually played in Finland! We have players who played in countries like Lebanon, Iceland, China, Brazil, USA, Scotland. This is a perfect opportunity to talk to children about life in other countries."

The project will encourage children to write to penpals overseas to swap stamps with. "We will also help the children think of other sources of stamps, for instance, writing to embassies and foreign businesses in Trinidad & Tobago." said Harrison. "Imagine how exciting it would be for a child in Sangre Grande to receive a letter from Japan?" Harrison continued "Letter writing has become a lost art form with the advent of email.

However, I believe that writing letters will once again become a preferred method of communication. Imagine applying for a job via email. How many emails go unopened? People will always open a letter. Therefore, if you want to ensure your resume is read, you should send it by post.

We hope our project will reinforce the benefits, and fun, in letter writing, and, of course, it will help to improve spelling and grammar."

The "Stamp Camps" are scheduled to take place on Mondays in Sangre Grande throughout July starting on July 11th at the Sangre Grande Civic Centre.

Darryl Mahabir, owner of the Japs Fried Chicken restaurant chain said "We are delighted to get behind this project. We have always supported North East Stars in their football and community work, but this is particularly special to us at Japs. Education is so important, but its also important to keep children off the streets through the holidays. This project combines both."

Some sponsors were so impressed by the scheme, they have offered to provide a new computer and other prizes for a stamp based competition amongst schools in the North East. The club are now awaiting approval from the Minister for Education to begin the competition in September.

Harrison said that attendance at the Stamp Camps would be free of charge, but there would be an initial $20 registration fee, and he is now looking to source sponsors to provide some snacks and drinks for the participants. "The project is fairly inexpensive. I wrote to stamp dealers across the world asking them to donate stamps and the response has been fantastic. In most cases, the only cost has been shipping to T&T.

We still need to raise a little more money to purchase some items, but I'm confident that sponsors will come forward for such a positive community programme. We also hope that people will contact us to donate stamps, or even their old stamp collections"

Sancho said "One of the best ways of keeping children out of trouble in the school holidays is to keep them busy. We know how hard it is for parents when they have to work and they want a safe environment for their children. We hope, in some small way, that this project will help to reduce the number of children involved in mischief in the North East."