Between 1997 and 1999 at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College it was not uncommon to see students of the Division of Arts, Sciences and General Studies clustered in small groups, heads bent in rapt attention over a crumpled piece of paper held by the student with the most social status. Titters, giggles and the occasional gasp would float up from the collective as they perused the latest fevered imaginings fresh from the talented teenage mind of A.C.I.D. – aka Ted Sandiford.
When we weren’t fighting over the privilege of handing the hand-drawn paper scrap to the next group in the pecking order of eager students, we were clandestinely listening to the latest A.C.I.D. mixtape. The skits in-between popular songs were raw, edgy, and hilarious. Guest talent like Kendell Eugene (you may know him as Scady Dot P) featured regularly on the tapes, which spanned a whopping sixteen iterations.
Over the years that teenage artist grew up to become the favourite art teacher of a generation of Samarians. Carrying on the tradition of such luminaries as Luigi St. Omer, Ted has helped hundreds at his alma mater discover their creative spark expressed through the visual arts.
As many people do, Ted saw the need to further his studies and his skills. He enrolled himself in art school, pursuing a BSc. in Media Arts and Animation – seeing that as the next step in his artistic journey. After three years of homework, projects and group assignments, while juggling his full-time teaching job and freelance gigs, he was almost there.
But finances were stretched thin – two public servant salaries are barely enough to support three children, far less a university education. Searching for answers, Ted decided to see if his community was willing to provide some support. Hesitantly, in mid-June he set up an account with popular crowdfunding site Indiegogo, and published an introductory video on his Facebook page. His goal was US$19,000, a couple of thousand dollars short of the total amount needed, but what he thought was an achievable (if aspirational!) goal.
It took a while but the donations eventually started trickling in. In typical Lucian fashion, everyone seemed to be watching and waiting, “maco-ing” the activity on Indigogo and on other social channels but not opening their wallets and making that commitment.
In the interim, Ted put his all into the fundraising effort. With his students out for summer holidays, Ted took the opportunity to put out a series of videos and images encouraging people to support his dreams. He offered to draw a caricature in exchange for each donation. Local youth celebrities like Arthur Allain and Keidel Sonny activated their fan networks in his support, and former students sent in their video tributes.
Supportive messages poured in from near and from far shores. After sacrificing my weekly treat – an enormous fruit smoothie – in order to donate to the cause, I even felt moved to harangue my own social media network for similar donations.
The upswell of emotion in the last few days was palpable. Ted kept posting his progress, people kept sharing, commenting, and liking. The feeling of elation as he crossed the 100% funding line was a shared thrill felt by many Saint Lucians. And even then, in the last few hours of the campaign, the gauge kept ticking higher. When the clock finally ran out, cumulative donations stood at a whopping 105% of the requested US$19,000. A good thing too – he lost over a thousand dollars in “platform fees” – a charge for using Indiegogo’s service.
For Ted, the overshoot of his goal was validation of the highest order. “Saint Lucians gave me a scholarship,” he opined in an exclusive interview. “They are my investors.”
And, as such, he believes that they deserve to know exactly where their donations are going. He has kept his community up to date every step of the way, going so far as to post when the money finally got deposited into his local bank account.
As a final sprinkle of pixie dust on this modern Saint Lucian fairy tale, Ted recently got word from his school: they’d got wind of his country’s collective effort to finance the final year of his education, and wanted to help him cover the extra fees he would otherwise have still owed.
At times like this when it feels like everyone’s only looking out for themselves, stories like Ted’s show the enduring power of community spirit and community effort, offering the optimists out there the hope that the outlook on life in “simply beautiful” Saint Lucia may not be as grim as it seems!