Kazim Abasali Life’s Work: Chapter 1 – The Early Years – Arima, Trinidad & Tobago, Caribbean.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Kazim’s life is an account of his early childhood; those who influenced his life greatly; his education; his work experience; his travels; events that alter, shape, and change his life; and his ongoing social and community work.
Kazim Abasali was born in the town of Arima, on the island of Trinidad (and Tobago), in the Caribbean.
As a child Kazim witnessed his parents sheltering traveling elderly folks at their home. This showed him first-hand the love of God for another through his parents’ caring nature.
Then growing up, as a child he accompanied a church elder to the local hospital to comfort patients. After that first visit, one day on his way home from school he came upon one “patient” who was now well. This person expressed his thankfulness for the hospital visit, and the care and prayers that were offered for his healing. This coupled with his parents’ charitable nature certainly left an indelible mark on his life, which formed the catalyst for his love for social and community work, and serving others.
This tendency and love for fellow humans, family, friends, and pets, have been instilled and impressed upon him in his growing years by his loving parents, family, neighbors, and ‘community uncles and aunts’.
One such ‘community Aunt’ was Ursula “Auntie Babsie” Bleasdell. She played a huge role in his and other close families lives during this time. Together with Kazim’s dad and other like-minded adults, they worked tremendously to guide the children and youths of their generation.
Aunty Babsie was instrumental in forming a children’s club called “A-Teens” which did fundraising projects like Christmas Carol Singing for the building of Holy Cross College in Arima.Later on, Holy Cross Chapel served as a beacon of light in the early days of the expansion of charismatic prayer groups.
During Kazim’s childhood years, both his dad and Aunty Babsie served in the Arima Borough Council as aldermen. And, it is to their vision and love, and other like-minded individuals, that their society was molded with respectable, upright citizens. After her enormous contribution to her Arima society, by way of being actively involved in its affairs, and representation as a politician, Aunty Babsie went on to serve God in other communities around the world as a spiritual leader through Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Aunty Babsie role as a great influence in our upbringing is legendary.
Kazim attended Elemental School at Arima Boys’ Government School. Wonderful teachers guided his young mind. One such teacher was Sinanan Lacaille.
He passed the Common Entrance Examination and was enrolled for five (5) years at College Level at Holy Cross College, Arima.
At Holy Cross College he was shepherded by Principal Fr. Edward Foley. For two decades Fr. Foley labored as Principal and Manager of Holy Cross College, building up the minds and talents of his students. Fr. Foley was part of a “dynamic duo” that built and maintained the facilities of the entire Holy Cross complex at limited cost.
After Holy Cross College, Kazim attended Mt. St. Benedict, Abbey School for two (2) years. Altogether, he acquired GCE (General Certificate of Education) passes in English Language, Mathematics and History. During this time of learning, Kazim often visited the Mount St. Benedict church to pray. In his final year of study at Mt. St. Benedict, Abbey School, his father died on the job at the age of 48 years. He had become a director of the then BWIA – British West Indian Airways, owned his own business – Farm/Garden/Pet/Agricultural Supply Store, and lived a qualty life of service to famly, friends, and community.
Kazim then went on to study electronic engineering technology at John Donaldson Technical Institute. He also taught himself computer programming and song-writing through correspondence schooling.
After schooling Kazim worked in the family owned business: Farm/Garden/Pet/Agricultural Supply Store. He learnt first-hand to do sales, interact with the customers, purchasing, eventually to manage the business.
His growing years was in a home situated among orchards of fruit trees. He and his siblings learned at an early age hands-on caring for Mother Earth by tending to the upkeep of the family’s property – landscaping skills.
This experience fostered his close-to-nature skills and abilities, always lending a hand to family and friends in their landscaping needs over the years, sometimes as a property manager, wherever his travels took him later on in life (to New York and Phoenix, Arizona).
Very early on Kazim was a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees International), where he learned leadership skills. He was also a member of the Arima Tennis Club where he played tennis and helped organize events. Later on he was able to coach tennis for the local YMCA.
There came a time in Kazim’s life where his fervent prayers brought him to this scripture: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17
Kazim realized his prayers had to have actions, and so he set about to do social and community work. He was inspired by Mother Theresa, as were countless others, with her work in India. And although he dreamed he could work with her, the reality is that one can do the same kind of missionary work right in your own community, tending to those less fortunate in our society.
Kazim has years of wide-ranging experience in social service programs. From 1970 to 1990 he worked extensively with different organizations in a volunteer capacity in his hometown of Arima. He was involved in social welfare programs: Assisting with planning to facilitate the less fortunate in his community, working with counselors and social workers regarding the progress of participants.
It was the Santa Rosa Catholic church and Malabar Catholic church that Kazim became actively involved. Kazim’s love for music moved him to join their choirs. However, he focused his attention more on outreach projects. He joined both the Santa Rosa Parish and Malabar Parish St Vincent de Paul Societies. Activities such as meals on wheels and food bank operations he did, together with the other members and volunteers. He worked alongside Mrs Darbreau who was noted and nationally recognized for her social and community work helping the less fortunate in our society.
To further facilitate the less fortunate, Kazim personally undertook research and investigation of the needy cases. The reason being, he embodied this old Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” So in order to better serve he joined the Trinidad East Lion’s Club in Arima to join their fund-raising efforts. In this way, lunch boxes for the meals-on-wheels would have a steady sponsor from the Lion’s Club. So together with them, projects included researching and finding jobs for the displaced; organizing small businesses, and provided job training and support services for those in need. He helped organize the fundraising for these projects. Also together with the local scouts they looked after some of the elderly with home repairs.
However, it was with Dr. Lloyd Ramcharan in the Lions Club that he was guided in lots of these activities. Dr. Ramcharan involved him in working in the Diabetes Association, Historical Society, Memisa Home for the physically challenged, and other community projects.
At this time when Dr. Ramcharan was the area’s Lion’s President, he became involved in a program sponsored by the Lions International. It was a National Drug Awareness Drive which involved ways to help those who became addicted in Trinidad & Tobago. He witnessed this turn of events in young peoples lives, some of whom he grew with, and loved. His heart went out to them. And he helped them in ways he could, together with the social services agencies with therapy to support their recovery.
Kazim was moved as countless millions the world over were, by the Ethiopia famine of 1984. The haunting images of countless starving, dying humans filmed by one of the greatest photojournalist of our times Mohamed “Mo” Amin caused a mass outpouring of humanity’s compassion. Perhaps for the first time in its history, the human race acted in concert for the benefit of their fallen human beings.
Live Aid and USA for Africa with the song “We Are the World” was organized to raise funds for the famine relief.
A tremendous 16-hour Live Aid marathon screened worldwide – one billion people watched this biggest pop concert in the world which went on record as the greatest single charity event ever.
A monumental amount of support came from all over the world in the form money, grain, transport, labor, medical supplies. The world’s financial floodgates had been flung wide open.
Such was the outpouring that the scale of giving had never occurred before, nor has it since.
3 million people were saved from dying from this famine, through humanity’s intervention. However, 1 million died. That 1 million fellow humans should die of want in a world where there is a surplus of food is a reflection of our tendency to close our eyes to the suffering of others.
Our role should be to do our part in whatever ways we can to support others. In the words of Mother Theresa “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
Kazim also assisted Paddy and Mayotte O’Connor at their House of Light during the 80’s and 90’s, and loved being part of this prayer and healing ministry.
They ministered with help from volunteers in the Community of Arima, with Healing Prayer Service, Food Bank operations, Healthcare, and Elderly Care.
Rene Boissiere was also very actively involved in the House of Light. He went on to serve his community with The Home of Our Lady of Reconciliation with Healing Prayer Service, Food Bank operations, Healthcare, and Elderly Care.
After much involvement in social and community work in his hometown of Arima, Kazim was invited as a guest speaker at one the local Kiwanis Club meetings to share his story.
It should be noted that Kazim like any teenager or young adult during this time in his home town of Arima, and his country Trinidad & Tobago, was subjected to vices growing up. In an honest, frank, and open account, as this one is, he must own up, and share those things that he is not proud of also. There are things he disliked during this period of his life. For at this young age, temptation is not easy to resist, because the mind is young and character is still being built.
Indulgence in the vices caused him to experience hunger. The blessings of God dried up in his life. Brought to his knees, as God wanted him, and to get to know who his Master is, he prayed earnestly. He found his Saviour to help him out of his predicament. He turned to a life of prayer, witnessed miracles in his life. For God sent earthly angels to provide for his needs as answers to his prayers. He knew now the power of prayers. And having experienced hardship because of his life choices, he knew then the pain and anguish others go through because of these inappropriate choices. He responded by helping those who now needed answers to their prayers. He became an earthly angel to those in need. His prayers were followed up with action, deeds. His social and community life’s work is the fruits of God’s Spirit working in him. He is doing God’s work. And so the praise and glory belongs to God.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
This is an experience that he shares in the hope that young people will heed advice and learn from his mis-takes. We must show ourselves to be authentic. We have all fall short of the glory. We must realize that no one is perfect, and it is quite okay to share the good and no-so-good deeds we did in our lives. For they are learning experiences. And talking about these experiences is a way to enlighten others. And most importantly to help steer others in the right direction, and to not make the same mis-takes as we did. It is just like when we made a mess as toddlers and our parents had to clean up after us. Well, throughout life we do mess up from time to time. That is because we are trying completely new things, and not having a road map to follow, we venture off course. We take the misguided route. So what we do is to get back on course. This is what learning is all about. It involves mistakes, mess-ups, short-comings, trial and error. All lessons we learn in this schooling and university of life.
What are his regrets? He regretted not using this time and energy more wisely. For instance, he has a voracious appetite for learning new things, more so now. He wonders how further along he would have been had he heeded the advice of his parents, teachers, and others. He thanks and appreciate those who took the time and braved circumstances to inform him the truth, whether he liked it or not. It meant they loved and cared for him. Just as how he feels loving and caring for others. And this is why he shares this dialogue. To inform others about the truth of life.
So, he takes full responsibility for his life. Whether they were circumstances beyond his control or not. The point is to keep learning, and not to err the same way again. This body of work is a reflection of his life. Constructive criticism has helped molded him. It causes him to re-evaluate or examine himself, on the road to improvement.