SERVOL is a service organisation engaged in educational and community-based efforts to strengthen the family unit by providing support and education for parents, children, and adolescents in Trinidad and Tobago. The scope of SERVOL's projects involves initiating employment skills, enterprise development, and individual and community empowerment initiatives in disadvantaged urban and rural communities. Specific activities include counseling, teaching, and leadership/life skills development.
Communication Strategies: 

SERVOL's central strategy is involving the community and parents in the establishment and conduct of all projects and initiatives. Through this involvement, SERVOL works with underprivileged community members from birth through adolescence and beyond to equip them with the education and skills conducive to developing fruitful lives. SERVOL has set up early childhood programmes, adolescent health and vocational training, and parenting courses and parent outreach programmes.

For instance, SERVOL works in the area of early childhood development by designing programmes that attend to the psychological as well as cognitive needs of young children. The Parent Outreach Programme (see "Related Summaries", below) and Early Childhood Programme (see below) are examples of these efforts. Notions of empowerment and parental involvement are central to both of these initiatives. Training is also key; teachers are prepared to interact on a face-to-face basis with parents or young children in ways that do not alienate or insult the people being helped. The information provided concerns health-related matters like breast feeding, nutrition for infants, and means of instilling good behaviour patterns without punishing. Support and encouragement are also central to these encounters.

SERVOL opened a Special School in 1974 that caters to 110 children between the ages of six and 17 who have been diagnosed as being autistic, mentally challenged, or slow learners. Many of the children from this school graduate to one or other of the SERVOL adolescent centres, where they are taught a technical skill.

More specifically, Junior Life Centres (see "Related Summaries", below) and the Adolescent Development Programme (see below) are designed to assist young people from underprivileged backgrounds who are having difficulty in attaining their educational or employment goals. The former programme involves training facilitators to help children who are unable to enter the secondary school system because of low scores on Common Entrance exams. The facilitators emphasise the building of self-esteem, the acquisition of coping skills, and the development of at least functional literacy.

The Adolescent Development Programme involves preparing young people for technical skills training (in technology-related or other fields) through sessions that focus on self-understanding, self-direction, and self-esteem as well as basic education. Health and family planning issues are also emphasised. After such preparation, adolescents are provided with vocational training through various apprenticeships and mentorship programmes. In order to support its young participants, SERVOL stays close to the work world by keeping in touch with employers and their needs through one-on-one contact and seminars. Drawing on these efforts, SERVOL has set up community centres that are income-earning. Vocational departments build houses; do electrical, plumbing, and welding repairs; cater for school programmes and functions; and print books and pamphlets.

To support and document these and other activities, SERVOL has produced a number of books, reports, newsletters, and videos.

Development Issues: 

Youth, Children, Early Childhood Development, Health, Nutrition, Women, Education, Economic Development.

Key Points: 

The founder of SERVOL has explained that the main social problems of the ghettos in Trinidad (unemployment, poverty, and low self esteem) were caused by a breakdown of family relationships coupled with poor parenting skills.

Partner Text: 

In the 1970s and 1980s, overseas foundations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) supporting SERVOL included the Bernard Van Leer Foundation and CEBEMO of Holland, Helvetas (Switzerland), The Inter-American Foundation (U.S.), Miseror (Germany), and Save the Children (Canada). This support has almost entirely ceased. At present, SERVOL depends to a large extent on government subsidies to pay teachers' salaries.