In a gruelling year defined by pandemic fatigue and uncertainty, the national spirit was buoyed by outstanding examples of grit, determination and passion, all of which were found among the public nominations for this newspaper’s Individual of the Year, Youth of the Year and Community of the Year, 2021.
As always, making the final selection was no easy task, given the number of very worthy candidates. Nevertheless, our panel of judges agreed on three awardees who embody the spirit of each category of the Express annual awards.
We take great pleasure in declaring Farley Chavez Augustine as the Express Individual of the Year; seven-year-old Jhaylen Edwards as Youth of the Year and the nation’s nurses as Community Group of the Year, 2021.
Just four years after being elected to the Tobago House of Assembly, Farley Chavez Augustine was sworn in as the island’s Chief Secretary, capping a dizzying political year that began with an electoral tie and ended with a landslide victory for his party over a seasoned incumbent.
By any definition, it was a phenomenal achievement for the 36-year-old Speyside homeboy who, as deputy political leader of the Progressive Democratic Patriots (PDP) to the incumbent People’s National Movement, proved to be the perfect foil for the brash unpredictability of PDP leader Watson Duke.
They seemed like the odd couple of Tobagonian politics until Augustine’s role as a cultural anchor embodying Tobagonian symbols of trust emerged as a decisive factor.
For his stunning achievement against the odds, Farley Chavez Augustine has earned the honour of being declared Express Individual of the Year, 2021.
Jhaylen Edwards is another Tobagonian to grab this year’s spotlight. At age seven, Jhaylen has become the poster child for motivating children at a time when the extended disruption of school is robbing them of the stability of daily routines and social engagement.
Early in the pandemic, Jhaylen responded to the call by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to grow food by asking his parents for plants. They started him off with cucumber and tomato seedlings and today, almost two years later, he is still at it with all the commitment of a seasoned farmer and budding agro-entrepreneur, as chief executive of Jhaylen’s EzGro Plant Pro.
For being an example that inspires his generation with the tangible expression of the rewards of self-motivation, dedication and focus, Jhaylen Edwards is our chosen Express Youth of the Year, 2021.
In the category of Community of the Year, the case is compelling for our selected community of professionals whose contribution cannot be denied. For the past 22 months, the nation’s nurses have been on their feet, carrying a responsibility for which they could never have been prepared but have carried without shirking. Along with ambulance crews and orderlies, nurses are the first line of defence against Covid-19 and the first face of comfort and hope that many patients see. Sadly, for many, they are also the last face to be seen. For their tireless dedication, willingness to shoulder an unbearable burden of work in emotionally charged conditions, we are honoured to declare the nation’s nurses the Express Community Group of the Year, 2021.