For many of us, the word ‘atlas’ takes us back to school days. A large book of maps . . . the world at a glance. Global.
Out of the community of Choiseul hails a different type of atlas, which aspires to the same purpose as that much-loved reference book. I spoke with Annatalia Charles, who is currently Public Relations Officer for Atlas.
“Atlas is a group focusing on portraying the talents of young people in the community, as well as nationally, regionally and hopefully internationally. We are a holistic group; we try to cater to all young persons, regardless of interests and talents and provide avenues where they can express themselves,” Annatalia explained.
“Our aim is to keep the youth engaged in positive activity. Atlas wants to be a second home for the youth of the community, where they can meet, interact, learn and contribute to the community. We want to help groom the youth, promoting academics while developing their interests and helping them become all round individuals,” she stated.
“Even if they are not sure of their talent, they are still welcome to come and be part of the group, to be part of something positive. We have team building activities where we go out on tours to certain parts of the island, and these tours are not just educational. [They are a way to keep] the members’ minds stimulated, engaged in positive discourse and there’s also the interaction factor as well.”
“Within Atlas there are different groups for different interests. So for example, we have a group for sports, [another] for drama, and these persons would meet on certain days [to] practice or train together, and learn to enhance their skills. We know that many young persons are into sports, but we have tried to focus on areas of academics and other interests such as song, dance and drama,” Annatalia explains.
Co-founders Mrs. Joycelin Nuptial-Charles and Tanya Elias launched Atlas in July 2012. What started out as 24 members has now grown to 31 with ages ranging from 15 to 25 (although there is no age limit); this includes a board of directors which is assigned different responsibilities. Along with the co-founders, a hierarchy has been set up to oversee the group.
Annatalia explained the simple process in gaining membership into Atlas.
“First you would need to contact the Co-Founders, and they would provide you with a simple application form. This form is basically for your personal information, to get to know your interests and what you would like to bring into the group. Then we hold a meeting where you will meet the other members.”
I was curious to know where the name Atlas originated from. “The vision of the group is to have worldwide reach. We have gone regional, as the group is currently taking part in a film festival in Trinidad, and we’re hoping that we can represent Saint Lucia on a world stage. If we can’t accomplish it as a group, then we would want to be a launching pad for these young people, whereby the exposure that they get through Atlas would open doors and [provide] opportunities worldwide,” Annatalia explained.
Apart from giving the youth opportunities to develop themselves, Atlas also strives to make positive contributions in the community.
“Atlas encourages its members to not only be role models for other young people, but to be ambassadors of their community and country as a whole. We’ve organized clean-up campaigns, environmental awareness seminars and tree planting initiatives. As we speak, we are working on an energy project for the community which we hope will come to fruition.
“We’ve also organized panel discussions and debates, with the intention of engaging the other members of the community. In the same vein, we try our best to incorporate the group members into other activities in the community. So for example, if there is a show in any of the communities in the area, the organizers will ask us to put on a presentation, and we may put on a skit or something of that sort.”
Considering the expansive geography of the Choiseul area, I asked whether Atlas contained members from the various pocket communities within the district.
“When the group was launched, the majority of the members were residents of La Fargue. But we have branched out into other communities such as Morne Sion, and currently have members as far as Saltibus and Piaye.
“It would also be amazing if we could accomplish a worldwide membership as well. We know that we have to start small by first having members and groups across the island and then around the region. But if you’re going to dream, why not dream big?”