National Insurance – a service without excellence

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Its been a while since I’ve written about ‘customer service’ but today its my topic of choice.

Good customer service from many monopolistic agencies in my country is borderline bad. Our government agencies provide necessary services, and sometimes  government contracted services are given to established organizations. In many countries national health care plans are mandatory. You are charged a heath surcharge and /or National Insurance rate, whether you use the services or not.

For many folks the benefits offered are necessary when they become ill, disabled, injured, and retire. Many die before ever making a claim or receiving an ‘entitled benefit.’ Then there are some who advise, “the money will come whenever they are ready to process. You cannot depend on it. It is at the whims and fancy of the people working there.”

I recall chatting with a retiree who was injured on the job and she advised, “the process is, submit claim, and wait. Anytime before a year is a miracle.” she waited two years before her first payment and another year for the continuation to be processed. At fifty-seven she has a few years to go before retirement  and is happy her husband is gainfully employed. If she were single, she would be on the streets.

There is another example shared by a man who worked for a government agency. He fell from a weakened barrier while walking to his office. He submitted his claim and 2 years later he called to enquire if it was processed, ( he was checking every month during that time). He was advised by the clerk that the money was sent to his bank 2 months previously. He asked for a letter indicating the value and period of payment processed, and never received any information in writing. He is awaiting his continuation to be processed.

As I spoke with the gentleman, a wave of sadness washed over me. He looked dejected, and  had tears in his eyes. He then said, “listen, when you submit a claim you are at the mercy of the people working there. They think its a favor being done when they process a claim. Managers are always changing and as files are added they cover yours, they are quick to advise there are many people in front of you. There is no reason to improve if its bad from the top. I accept that they do not like to serve the people they are paid to serve.”  In 2015 this 49 year old man shared his story with me. I l loaned him my blanket while he waited at the doctor’s office. He deserved some kindness if only for a moment.

Why do they suffer in silence? There are many reasons, the main one being a fear of being victimized. A claim can take as long as the clerks and management determine. Files can go missing, and claims are then lost. The statutory time for appeals can also run out. Appeals are also not suggested if a claim is ongoing, because every possible action to frustrate the customer is exercised. This is an added burden on the unfortunate customer.

Throughout the years I’ve heard many stories, and I have experienced this ‘non-service.’ From my observations I think it is a deep cultural problem facing this society.  Having read several reports submitted to parliament over the years it is clear that the issue of providing a good National Insurance ‘Customer Service’ may be a challenge for many years to come.

One of the things I’ve come to realize is that ‘trumpism is not restricted to the USA’, its right here. If you claim you are doing a great job, then you are because you say so. It does not matter if the facts state otherwise. When himself tells himself he is good, he is in his mind. When himself investigates complaints against himself he will always be right. That is a universal culture of a lack of accountability, because those in power believe the public are not entitled to the service expected.

Defeat is never good to accept. Choose your battles wisely. However when it comes to  public expectation for a decent service, I’d give the NIBTT a 2 out of 10, and that’s on a good day. My best advice to anyone having to submit any claims is to pray. If you have never prayed, now is the time to do so. Pray for patience, pray for a pain-free life, but most of all pray for the people who lead. (Maybe try to record all conversations also.) Theirs is a job limited by attitude, poor work ethic and maybe little hope that they can change a service so bad, they simply go with the flow.

On a positive note, it is good to understand the dynamics of the service presented, so expectations can be adjusted to meet reality. An Advocacy Agency is needed for public support and research to help with ensure real change and improvement is possible. Maybe there is hope after all!

 

 

Culture & Christmas Trini Style!

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My thoughts are on Christmas…

I love the Christmas season. Actually, one of the most important and best parts of the season is our food. We have fantastic food which most homes will prepare to serve families and friends as they visit going from house to house. This season is about the richness of relationships and how we connect annually. There is a lot of love being shared, either through gift giving or hugs , kisses, and time spent. The poor and displaced are not left out as people dig deep to give everyone some Christmas cheer. I do wish Christmas was every day.

Here is a post I shared last year on one of my blogs, to show you just how much fun my Christmas past was, and my present is in Trinidad & Tobago.

Christmas Nostalgia – A Lime aka Informal Hangout!

Its a ‘Trini thing’ with a Trini meaning – Lime!
Growing up we learnt the value of togetherness through celebrations. A lime is simply the coming together of persons to share a few drinks and ‘shoot some breeze’ (talk)! At Christmas time its a bigger occasion, which tends to turn an ‘informal hangout’ aka ‘lime’ into party with family and friends, neighbors and children. There is music, talk, even card games and dancing. Everything is done in the home, in the backyard, or in front on the porch or stairways! As kids we were always given a piece of cake, sweetbread, ham & turkey slices and if lucky a ‘pastelle’!

 The ‘pastelle’ is a cornmeal patty cooked in banana leaves. Its a tradition to stuff this corn-cake with a meat filling and wrap in the banana leaf and boiled. Its then frozen for use throughout the season. Its served warm with a special mustard sauce called ‘chow chow’. We were given the tasks of washing the leaves and ‘singeing then over the fire for softening and cleaning with the heat! In searching for a picture of pastelles I discovered a great recipe on the link http://www.simplytrinicooking.org via Google. The picture is also from that site.

Liming requires drinking and that’s when the liquor cabinet gets tested. There are beers, whiskey, rum,vodka, ponche de creme, sorrel and ginger beer to name a few. I was always happy to get a ‘taste’ of ponche de creme as it was made with milk and rum and some aromatic Angostura bitters. My mom thought it was okay for us to get a little if we were good during the season! To this day enjoy a glass whenever offered!

As Children we were given the tasks to peel the sorrel leaves off the seed and fill a bowl. The sorrel was then rinsed and boiled with spice and clove and sugar! The grating of the ginger for the ginger-beer was something I did not like doing, but did it anyway, because I loved the sweet burning sensation of the drink!

Every lime has music and there is a steady mixture of carols, parang, soca and calypso to keep everyone entertained. Children were allowed to stay up late during the ‘lime’ at Christmas as it was a special time. We learnt a lot about the value in sharing and ‘living’ with other people during the Christmas season – the other people being family and friends who stayed over not wanting the lime to end. Life was simple and children simply accepted the easy joy of the festivities!

img_20151226_181400Yes my friends, this year I will be making pastelles  which I have not done for a couple years. The process takes time but the results are worth the effort!
What is a cultural experience you enjoy in your country? As you think about it, that smile and joy is sure to warm your heart as it does my own! I’m in the Caribbean, so we have a lot of sun and rain, and though there is no snow, we all share this season of love in a special way!
Happy Christmas season!
D-wordslayer
Credits: *Special credit to GoogleTT for the photo of pastelles from http://www.simplytrinicooking.org
Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Let’s Talk – The morning after…Carnival!

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Cooling Down!

Carnival always ends with tired feet. Those feet which never walked a mile, will do many miles dancing, walking and even running to the rhythm of soca music. It makes me laugh just thinking about the physical preparation for carnival, and its ultimate end in a ‘cool down!

Baywatch is the name of the beach party this year. For many revelers taking the day off from work is expected. The feet and body need the ‘salt water’ and even more music to cool down! It’s beach party time and the roads going to the major beaches are packed with bumper to bumper traffic. Swimsuits, music, drinks, sun and sand….imagine!

Ash Wednesday

As a child we would head out to school on Ash Wednesday and line up to go to church. It was important to become clean again by acknowledging our sins and receiving our ashes on the forehead. To my little mind, it was okay to have fun, and then ask for forgiveness. It was expected, and even ritualistic. This was our way of life, our Trini way.

I love the beach, especially when there are not many people around. I’ve been to maybe two beach parties after carnival many years ago. Further exhaustion from the masquerade on the beach, but very satisfying.

Our carnival precedes lent, and with as much or more vigor as the revelers, our religious followers embark on the journey to repentance. The culture and heritage of our people is passionate, energizing and real.

There is a symbolic washing away of the past days, as we enter into our Lenten season – the end of the carnival season!

Engage with me and share some feedback on how this message works for you!  Thanks for reading,liking, commenting and sharing. Enjoy your wonderful day!
You can also share on Facebook and Twitter
Artwork: Artistree -andrew.innocent@hotmail.com
© Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Let’s Talk: Carnival-Evolution or Revolution

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Carnival Mas….

Carnival in Trinidad&Tobago is different now from when I was growing up. I have been around during the evolution and revolution of our culture, our mas. Evolution is about change. A revolution is the taking over of something which exists, making it different.

Getting ready to ‘play mas’ for J’ouvert starts on Carnival Sunday night, most times after a party. Arriving at the meeting point for 2:00am Monday morning and partying in the streets. The costumes for this event are covered in paint, mud or signs describing our local political or social controversies.

As the band, comprising ten to one thousand or more persons parade the streets, the steel-bands and DJ’s play music to ‘chip or trot/jump’ dance.

The Monday road party changes around noon as masqueraders return home and change into a part of their costume for Tuesday masquerade! The party continues until very late, sometimes stopping after 10pm.

Tuesday comes and the city comes alive. Everyone makes their way to a major city, for the road parade. Port of Spain is the main city, and its where over fifty thousand revelers adorned in full costume are ready. They all want to pass the ‘big’ stage in the Queens Park Savannah. The dance starts and goes non stop until midnight. This is how we party. This is how Trinidadians have fun. The spectators line the streets and mingle within the masquerade bands. Everyone dances, even children.

There are many discussions about whether we have gotten better and improved our carnival. The older folks think maybe we have lost ‘our’ perspective on what makes ‘real mas’. Others, the younger folks believe its a great revolution of creativity. I have played mas many times. The masquerade is an experience which one should know to understand how it affects our society. I love costumes, and becoming a different character to dance and party on the road – our streets, our stage.

A couple years ago I discovered a picture of me playing mas when I was 20 years old and at the time my costume was considered risque. As my kids looked at the picture they said, “mom that’s a lot of costume!” I laughed, I recalled the costumes now, many are beads, feathers and adornments for swimming suits, with a headpiece. My son, chuckled and advised some women have started using pasties and body paint. In fact, I did see this a couple days later in our daily newspaper.

The YouTube video above is the best illustration of what will be seen for carnival 2016 ongoing as I write.

Machel Montano has been making music from a very early age. He has won, the Soca King of the world many times. His music, is quite similar to zouk – a French Antilles  tempo. It invokes rhythmic sensuality and Machel Montano never misses a beat! His lyrics are mostly about revelry, culture and freedom of happiness and enjoyment!

I would love to see more costumes and less swimsuits.. simply because it is exciting to capture the story. It’s also good to be in character, as acting the dance creates something for the imagination to dream about. The creativity and the designers have this challenge. Give the people what they prefer (nudity) or tell the story and maybe the economics will be affected. Innovation is good, mas is good, storytelling is our culture!

Trinidad&Tobago a destination for carnival!

 

Engage with me and share some feedback on how this message works for you!  Thanks for reading,liking, commenting and sharing. Enjoy your wonderful day!
You can also share on Facebook and Twitter
Artwork: Artistree -andrew.innocent@hotmail.com

Credits: YouTube  machelmontanomusic

© Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Let’s Talk: It’s Carnival – Trinidad&Tobago Style!

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Carnival…

There is no other carnival anywhere in the world like Trinidad&Tobago! Its about a total release of  music, rhythms, masquerading, showmanship, freedom of expression and culture!

Just that word in passing can conjure up dancing in the streets. The total abandonment of social conformity takes over as men, women and children dance to the sounds of the steel-pan and soca artists & calysonians!

Ahhh, there is that music… this how it feels!

 

Masqueraders are in costumes which are gaily colored. Some are fully clothed but many are two piece swimsuits with glitter, feathers and beads adorning the bodies of the actors..’all players of the mas’. I have been there and the feeling is exhilarating, unlike any you will ever feel unless you are in Trinidad for Carnival. Anyone can ‘play mas’, by registering with a ‘band’ and approximately nine hundred USD!

Music flows at the highest frequency. The beat moves and everyone synchronizes movement. It is an inbuilt sensory of a vibe, a feeling. Our soca artists can stir crowds with a single beat and song. Social commentary takes over when Calypsonians both old and young express and incite revelry !

The season starts at the beginning of the calendar new year, but preparation starts from a few months after each carnival season. On the Saturday before Carnival Monday and Tuesday – always two days before Ash Wednesday- children take over the streets, masquerading in costumes. Our junior steel-bands are there together with the music DJs all lining the streets of Port of Spain and other cities nationwide .

It begins.. it is here! Our culture, our Carnival – Trinidad & Tobago! Join me for a cultural fiesta of sharing over the next few days.

Share your feedback and any topics you’d like to have covered. Let’s talk Trinidad & Tobago carnival!
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DWordslayer
*Please note the undermentioned are a couple of my personal favorites from the hundreds of tunes released for the 2016 Trinidad Carnival season! They are shown for your personal enjoyment and credit is given to the artists and YouTube for making publicly available.
Credit: YouTube Video TooReal Music Lyrikal ‘Freedom-2016 soca'(Prod. By Kubiyashi)(Trinidad) Performed By: Lyrikal
Credit:YouTube VideoJulianspromosTV | 2016 Media Aaron Duncan’Can you Feel It -2016 soca’ (prod. AdvoKit Productions)

Artwork: Artistree -andrew.innocent@hotmail.com

© Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Donna-Luisa Eversley and D-WORDSLAYER with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.