By Chantalé Fletcher
SHE’S a Fighter.
After surviving a gun attack in 2013, advocate for peace, 55-year-old Caron Asgarali is focusing on the future rather than the past.
Her latest initiative is Project RARE, “Raising awareness on the ripple effect of gun violence” which is an educational nonprofit organisation that advocates against gun violence and all forms of violence, advocates for peace and teaches resilience-building skills.
Asgarali, a former Chemistry teacher, author, motivational speaker and now founder of Project RARE shared a once painful tragedy with AZPnews.com, which now blossomed into a ray of hope for others.
She said, “It all started out of a desire to stop the hurt, pain and emptiness left by one act of gun violence.”
A victim of gun violence herself from an attempted carjacking in January 2013 at her Marabella home, Asgarali was intimately familiar with that middle place.
She said, “My faith gives me peace and the strength and courage to forgive and persevere through that difficult and painful incident, ultimately leading to hope.”
She added that forgiving and having hope required that she could not sit silently. That fated day has since changed her life but she refused to remain a victim.
An avid runner, Asgarali enjoys the outdoors.
“However, I enjoy reading self-help books, meeting new people and volunteering with philanthropic causes.”
Asgarali told AZPNews.com that Project RARE was birthed to transform her hurt into hope for herself and for others.
“It also encouraged others to take at least one positive action for peace and against violence because every positive action is significant.”
She said the inspiration behind Project RARE was captured in a quote by a victim of violence – “With a single bullet lives change, people change, financial situations change, social circles change. There’s this whole middle place that a lot of people are left in. That middle place can be filled with rage, confusion, depression, anxiety, despair and a need for revenge.”
Asgarali described crime as a leading social problem globally, as murders still bleed onto headlines even in the midst of a pandemic, states of emergency and curfews.
“In Trinidad and Tobago during 2000 to2010, (the period for which I could find accepted stats) the average murder rate was 25.1 per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 20.9 for the Caribbean average and 5.4 for the US during the same period according to an IDB study by criminologist Dr Randy Seepersad.”
She added that the pandemic and its restrictions held gun violence at bay briefly but numbers were going up again despite a call for a global ceasefire in areas of conflict by the UN Secretary General in March 2020.
The pandemic caused everyone depleted economically, emotionally, health wise, socially and otherwise.
Asgarali said, “We had to adapt, become more creative, more technologically responsive and more resilient.
A step further
She said to become more technologically responsive and to promote peace and resilience, Project RARE set out on a new mission through a video campaign.
“The campaign was circulated via social media, Facebook to focus on building a more equitable and peaceful world by standing up against acts of hate and by spreading messages of compassion, kindness, love, peace and hope.”
This project Asgarali said, “Involves spreading shared positive feelings and ideas or values using a simple method following an alphabetical journey,” as described by one of our partners, Candice Campbell.
ABCs of values
Asgarali said, “The ABC’s of Values added value to all life by adding values to your life.”
The concept was simple she said, “One video, one person, one letter, one value and one week.”
American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
She said that he spoke to the disconnect between words and actions. “We are all guilty of that at some time in our lives but the idea is by having these videos in circulation we will remind people that our words and actions must be in alignment or that at least we should always strive for that.
“We need guiding values to inform our thoughts, our words and our actions, to help us grow and develop, to fulfil our divine purpose.”
Asgarali defined values as a collective conception of what was considered good, desirable and proper or the opposite, bad, undesirable and improper.
Project RARE regarded values as an acronym such as, “Virtuous, affirmations that help you to, live your best life, understanding that principled choices and Edify self and society.”
Asgarali said, “The series launched on September 21 to coincide with International Day of Peace, a day for strengthening the ideals of peace and also a 24-hour period designated for non-violence and ceasefire.”
She said, “Now, we have more than 26 partners (so some letters may be doubled up). People and organisations with a range of backgrounds and age groups as each produced a short video or did an interview to say why values were important and to share on one value that matters to them.”
Asgarali said, “The videos will be posted on a weekly basis to give each one some steeping time or as one of my mentors Phillip Rochford would say a gestation period.”
She highlighted a list of participants who contributed to the ABC’s of Values, who completed several letters of the alphabet.
Freelance editor, proofreader and voice talent, Candice Campbell began with A for Authenticity.
Some of her key messages were, “I have a God-given identity and purpose. Values bring about the best in us and those around us and I am intentionally created to be a blessing!”
“The second addition went to a single mother and motivational speaker Johanna Andrews took B for Beauty while other partners include Principal, St Andrews’ Theological College Reverend Adrian Sieunarine with Compassion, attorney at law, Colin Denoon with Determination and Aneila Mahabir, NESC lecturer with Endurance.”
Asgarali said, “We also partnered with Fazeer Rojan for the letter (K), Hansley Ajodha who is doing Q, author and entrepreneur Vashti Bowlah (H), executive assistant at InvesTT, Chara Hoseinee-Friday (M) and President of the Chaguanas Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Richie Sookhai (P).”
Her bravery and accomplishments granted her recognition by BBC in 2018 as an Outlook Inspirations nominee for her strength and resilience to recover and redefine herself after being shot in 2013. She was also the recipient of the Award for Determination in Dallas, Texas at the Amway Hero Awards in 2019.
An inspirational author of four books with, her latest book, Hot Cocoa on a Rainy Day which was a compilation of short stories by numerous writers published in July 2020.
Asgarali’s message is: “Challenge yourself to think critically so that by your deliberate choices and actions you can contribute to achieving a life of dignity, well-being and purpose.”
She also urged the public to help flood cyberspace with positive messages of compassion, love, peace and hope.
“I ask people to join in this movement for peace and positivity by liking Project RARE page on Facebook, browse and share our videos and content. Also, subscribe to Caron Asgarali on YouTube for more content.”
Say No to Gun Violence! Get Aware and join Project RARE today http://www.facebook.com\ProjectRAREagainstgunviolence.