12th Anniversary Message by Executive Director

12th Anniversary Message by Executive Director

Full transcript of video by Executive Director & Founder, Jeremy Steffan Edwards, commemorating the 12th Anniversary of The Silver Lining Foundation.

Twelve years ago, we embarked on a remarkable journey with a singular mission: to create a safe and empowering space for LGBTQ+ youths to learn, thrive, and succeed in their own country. 

As we celebrate another anniversary, I am proud to say that we have made significant strides in advancing the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ people in Trinidad & Tobago, thanks in large part to the unrelenting passion and commitment of our inspiring group of volunteers and members who have kept this mission alive. 

Our journey really begins with a recognition of the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youths, who often grapple with discrimination, stigma, and social exclusion. I vividly remember the story of a 16-year-old secondary school student who died by suicide because of the fear of bullying that he felt surrounding his sexual orientation. 

Not a day goes by when our minds and hearts don’t reflect on our beloved George Kazanjian. His memory and legacy are intricately woven into everything that we have done and continue to do. Through George’s story, we understand the importance of providing LGBTQ+ youth with a supportive environment where they can express themselves freely, access resources and support, and pursue their dreams without fear of prejudice or persecution.

But this task hasn’t always been easy. 

I recall a time when government ministers stated that gay people didn’t exist and that there was no data to support the discrimination that they faced. 

I also remember encountering educators who believed that they were right to tell queer students to be “less gay” to avoid bullying rather than teach students that it was unacceptable to bully others based on any real or perceived difference.

And I will never forget the Form 4 student who came to me lamenting that life was already so hard for him having to prepare for exams with now having the additional “burden” of being gay. He worried about friends, family and teachers finding out and being bullied, beaten or disowned.

The mental anguish that we place on our queer youth is UNFORGIVABLE and UNACCEPTABLE.

Bullying and violence are NOT the norm, and it is NOT a rite of passage for anyone.

Each child has a God-given right to achieve their fullest potential and a universal right to an education that is free from violence, fear, and intimidation.

As a country, we rob ourselves of the greatest minds when the best and brightest talent leaves our land to search for better opportunities and greater acceptance in other countries.

We must do better.

We have built a legacy of research, legislative advocacy, public education, and peer support, which has resulted in the publishing and modeling of two pioneering research studies across the globe through UNESCO. We’ve also been able to run several peer support groups for LGBTQ+ people and their families, and train over 80 secondary school teachers and school officials in conflict management, conflict resolution and diversity awareness; all of this in addition to continuing to advocate for greater inclusion and acceptance.

I am incredibly proud of and grateful for the team of committed and hardworking people who shoulder this responsibility with me, helping to pioneer this work that is needed to provide support and enact change. I thank the amazing group of volunteers and members at SLF for your collective vision, shared responsibility, and unwavering support. You continue to be sources of inspiration.

I am also very proud to acknowledge the network of allies, advocates, and supporters we have created through our efforts. Together, we stand united in our commitment to equality and justice for all. Your unwavering support is truly inspiring. 

As we celebrate our 12 years of existence, I am reminded of the late Colin Robinson’s plea for the liberty to love, that “every person is deserving of the chance, the space, and safety to be who they are and love who they love. The bedrock of any society is in how we treat others.”

I hope this message continues to resonate in our hearts as we build a future that allows LGBTQ+ youths to be celebrated and loved for who they are in every aspect of our society. We thank you for your continued trust, belief and support in us as we work together to build stronger families, safer schools and empowered youth.

Happy Anniversary Silver Linings!



Submit your application.

This form is currently closed for submissions.