Sadness descended on Trinidad and Tobago yesterday with the news that Wayne Chance, founder of Vision on Mission (VOM), had died.
Chance, who had been battling cancer for some time, passed away on Sunday night.
Tributes poured in yesterday from all quarters for Chance and his selfless service through VOM, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) which has been helping to rehabilitate and re-integrate ex-inmates, deportees and young persons in conflict into society.
His wife and vice-president of VOM, Giselle Chance, who confirmed his death in a statement, said words could not express the sorrow and loss she, her children and family feel at this time.
“Mr Chance, a former prison inmate, always believed that there was an opportunity to return to better living. Based on his own experience and his determination to have a better life, Vision on Mission was formed in 1995 to assist other inmates and deportees with a criminal record to be integrated and resettled into society,” stated a release from VOM.
It added that his passion for prison reform and rehabilitation was well known throughout the country, using one of his many platforms, a morning radio programme on i95.5FM (a member of the One Caribbean Media (OCM) group), to share and spread VOM’s word.
“His desire to help those in need is his legacy, and will be continued by the organisation following his death. Mr Chance leaves to mourn his wife, Giselle Chance, who is also vice-president of the VOM and successor with immediate effect; their three children, as well as the board of directors, executive and staff at VOM,” stated the release.
Chance was the recipient of the Hummingbird Medal Silver in 2010 for his work in the sphere of community service. In 2016, VOM received the Express Community Group of the Year award.
Paying tribute to Chance yesterday, OCM chief executive officer Dawn Thomas said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of Wayne Chance’s passing which is indeed a tremendous loss to our country and of course his media family.
“I have always had tremendous admiration for Wayne who devoted his life to assisting young people to turn around their lives and contribute to building a better society for us all.
“He worked tirelessly for positive change and was a source of inspiration for me and many others. To his family, friends and loved ones, I extend sincere condolences on behalf of the OCM family.”
Rowley: Saddened and impoverished
In a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister, PM Dr Keith Rowley said Chance fashioned and grew a response that helped many people and in doing so saved the nation from totally discarding many of those who ran afoul of the law and paid their dues after having been sentenced.
“Mr Chance was a leading light of useful activism and his passing leaves us saddened and impoverished. On behalf of the Government and a grateful people we join his family in giving thanks for his life and vision as we mourn his loss,” stated Rowley.
Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar said she was saddened by Chance’s death as he was a man who spent close to two decades working to give former prisoners hope and opportunity.
“Wayne, who spent time in prison himself and experienced first-hand the difficulties of returning to a normal life, committed himself to transforming the lives of former prisoners.
“He worked tirelessly to ensure that former prisoners were given a chance at rehabilitation and did not regress into criminal activity. He inspired many to work to overcome the financial, emotional and psychological obstacles,” she stated.
“Through Wayne’s efforts I was convinced that prisoners should not just be released back into society without rehabilitation. His efforts have shown us that people can change, and they can turn their lives around.
“The UNC understands the urgent need for prison reform, which is a major factor in reducing recidivism and crime in the long run. For this, Mr Chance, we are forever grateful, for you have shown us there can be some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to prison reform in our nation,” she stated adding that this country owes a debt of gratitude to Chance and all the persons associated with Vision on Mission for their important work over the years.
National Security Minister Stuart Young stated that Chance worked with the Trinidad and Tobago Prison Service for the past 18 years in administering rehabilitative and reintegration programmes, in particular through VOM’s Preparation for Release Programme at the nation’s prisons.
A National Security Ministry release stated that Young expressed appreciation for Chance’s valuable input in the area of public safety and his dedication to transforming the lives of inmates, with a view to creating a more peaceful and lawful society.
The Prison Service also extended condolences to Chance’s family and recognised and acknowledged the work done by Chance “and prays that his loved ones be comforted during this trying time. May he rest in eternal peace”.
Former government minister Devant Maharaj called for Chance’s criminal record to be expunged in honour of his public service.
Communications Minister Donna Cox stated that in addition to Vision on Mission, Chance worked with half-way homes, training and retraining hundreds who faced challenging and less-than-favourable situations.
“To describe him as a visionary would not be overstated when one considers the work he did, starting Vision on Mission from the ground up, with little financial resources and support at that time. Today, that organisation is arguably a reformation institution of note in Trinidad and Tobago,” said Cox.
“I interacted with him regularly when I was Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security and the Prison Service was one of my areas of responsibilities. He always provided me with pertinent information that helped the rehabilitative efforts to be undertaken in the Prison Service,” she said.
Cox stated she was grateful for her friendship with Chance.
“He never wavered in his beliefs and he was a source of comfort, support and guidance to those who sought and needed his counsel. We’ve lost a friend and an advocate who contributed positively to Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.