Simone Claxton strives to positively change the lives of women and girls locally, regionally and internationally.
How does she plan to achieve this? Through the Sapphire Miriam Foundation. She is the president and founder.
The foundation is named after her daughter, Sapphire Miriam, 11, and ‘aims to promote educational, entrepreneurial and empowerment training programs / projects among young men and women as well as single parents over a period of time in order to to ensure their personal growth and development. “
In an interview, Claxton said the foundation was formed around nine and a half years ago, when she was a single mother herself.
Besides her daughter being her biggest inspiration, Claxton was also inspired and motivated to start the foundation when she saw how difficult life was for two other single mothers.
She became a single mother when her daughter was only one year old and at the time Claxton was unemployed. However, she started working in the social protection division in southern Trinidad soon after, and one day saw a young mother with a constantly crying baby.
âI peeked into one of the officers’ cabins and saw that there was a young mother – she had a newborn baby on her shoulder, and there was also a child in. an infant walking around, about a year and a half, the same as mine …
“Then I saw another child and thought, twins? I said, ‘No. It can’t be.'”
Claxton realized that this mother’s life couldn’t have been easy and she got emotional just thinking about it. This led her to start looking for organizations that helped single moms – but she couldn’t find any.
She then began to help people informally.
Another day, she saw a woman with a child outside a bank in San Fernando asking for help. The child was also the same age as Claxton’s daughter.
âHer kid picked up a cookie from the sidewalk and ate it, and I said, ‘Wait, no, that could be my kid doing that.’
âYou just can’t turn a blind eye to what’s going on with the people around you. And that’s why I started to help and eventually to form the organization.
The NGO was registered in March 2012.
Through the Sapphire Miriam Foundation, Claxton supports single mothers and young people, especially girls. She said that by supporting mothers, children have a better chance.
âAs a single mom, you are so attached. You have so much to do – it’s all up to you – that the kids are kind of left out. So you really want to give them a fair chance and a good foundation. “
Claxton said that while she too was a single mom, she had her degrees and education that paved the way for her. Claxton holds a bachelor’s degree in international tourism management and a master’s degree in hospitality and international tourism management.
Some are not so lucky. So she wants her foundation to help mothers who may not have had the same training or the same opportunities.
For a while, she funded the foundation out of her own pocket, but in 2016 she applied for funds from various government and corporate organizations. In 2017 and 2018, she started securing the necessary funding to develop the programs. Since then, she has worked with many organizations, including the Ministry of Community Development and the Massy Foundation.
But Claxton has always dreamed of developing her own girl empowerment program.
âI have this passion for young women to be able to equip them so that they don’t have to go through certain things.
“As a woman, you know what you have to go through, so you kind of want to save them some of the hurt and pain of being in certain situations.”
In 2019, she researched various models of empowerment. She then developed The Dream Big: Girls’ Empowerment Program. It’s about giving girls the inspiration to dream big, she said. He teaches them that nothing is impossible. The program wants young women to know that there are choices and options.
When it started in 2019, a small session with around 16 girls took place in the La Brea area. The program could not take place last year due to the covid19 pandemic. When Claxton decided to physically host her this year, the increase in covid19 cases forced her to cancel.
Requests from regional partners like Beverly Le Blanc of the Circle of Friends in Dominica led Claxton to bring the program online.
Girls from Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Guyana, Suriname, Turks and Caicos Islands, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti do part of this year’s virtual program. They range from 13 to 19.
Over the years, Claxton has also partnered with companies and organizations such as JMMB, Unit Trust Corporation (UTC) and AMCO.
Through its regional partnerships with organizations and individuals like Marlyn Grumble from the Empire Plus network in Guyana; Rubia Berghout of the Sita Foundation in Suriname, Shergaun Roserie of Obtronics in Saint Lucia and James Declerus of Krik Krak Computer Project in Haiti, Claxton was able to provide a wealth of information to program participants.
The program has two phases. The first phase, launched on May 8, consisted of eight consecutive sessions, with the last session taking place on June 26.
Its second phase begins in July and will see sessions run once a month until December. Then comes the participant mentoring phase, when the foundation will talk to the girls about experts on topics such as entrepreneurship.
Claxton said the foundation is able to host its virtual sessions through Microsoft Teams and the Seebaran family was able to help the foundation do so.
The foundation also hopes to introduce a soap-making program, but funding is needed for the materials.
âWe just want to get that support so that we can continue to empower these girls, locally, regionally and internationally,â Claxton said.
For more information, check out the foundation’s YouTube channel or visit its social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.