Fighting Zika in the Children´s Carnival

They jumped on the grass, on the stage, in the stands, in their strollers and even in the arms of their parents. The children who participated in the 63rd edition of the Children’s Carnival, put on by the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society (TTRCS), thoroughly enjoyed themselves, some more than others. Taking place on the last Saturday in February the day began as an overcast one and it seemed like it would literally rain on the parade. However, by the time the festivities began in earnest, the dark clouds had dissipated and only an occasional drizzle gave respite from the blistering Carnival sun.

The costumes sparkled and swayed as children as young as three and as old as sixteen strutted their stuff in front of the judges who included an actress, an artist and a former Miss World. There was even a category for babes in arms and the tiny tots stole the hearts of all present as they showed that culture had no age limit. There were dragons and temples and samurai and steelpan, warriors and sailors, devils and butterflies.

There was a unique category this year as the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society sought to use culture to disseminate information. The Zika Category was a vector-borne or mosquito themed costume that had to showcase the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. Extra points were awarded for the use of recycled material, natural materials or a combination of both. There were a few who took up the challenge and this saw twin brothers portraying ‘Must-keith-toe 1’ and ‘Must-keith-toe 2’. ‘The Defeat of the Egypti’ and ‘An Armour For Aedes’ were two other costumes in the Zika category. There were several depictions that used recycled material, ‘Bottlemania’ was constructed entirely out of plastic bottles, and there also was ‘Recycle Party’, ‘Madam Recycle’ and ‘Save the Environment, Recycle It.’

The TTRCS kept the learning going by hosting a booth where the children could participate in two Zika games. The first was a life size board game called ‘Zap That Mosquito’ where the aim is to get points and move to the end by correctly answering questions about Zika. The second game was higher tech as it immersed the players in a virtual reality world where they had to kill mosquitos on a large screen. Both went over well as children clamoured for a chance to play and some got caught up in the excitement.

The Red Cross Children’s Carnival is a staple on the Carnival calendar and is anticipated by the young and old. Initially, it began as a fund raiser for the Northern Branch of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Cross Society but it has evolved over the years to one of the few main events in Trinidad Carnival that caters to children. It is planned by a committee and executed with the help of volunteers. The money raised has been used to help the National Society defray operations costs, purchase vehicles, including ambulances, provide training, assist fire victims as well as the vulnerable and conduct outreach. The proceeds obtained in 2019 will go towards the implementation of a peer-to-peer initiative called Youth as Agents of Behavioural Change (YABC). This youth development programme seeks to foster leadership in youth by empowering them to be more active in their schools and communities.