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Running for sanity: My story
For as long as Sheldon Monderoy could remember, his main and only goal was to run as far away from T&T as he could. However, circumstances found him wanting to return to T&T not only to live, but also to create an international awareness of his country.
Monderoy, a former national athlete and the founder of the Borders Festival that’s being held from May 26–28, didn’t have an easy start in life. While many bought into the façade of his apparently perfect existence, Monderoy silently struggled with scars from deep emotional secrets, for he was a victim of physical abuse (at the hands of a very close relative) and sexual abuse (by the hands of one of his former neighbours). Sadly, he believed he had no one to turn to and quickly boxed himself in, just dreaming of ways to get away from it all.
“When the sexual abuse started, I was too scared to tell anyone about it, especially my close relative because of the physical abuse,” he explained. His earliest memory was of a close relative abusing him on his sixth birthday. “What hurt most was not just the experience of what I went through at the hands of someone who was supposed to be nurturing me, but the failure to acknowledge that such acts were done.”
Another setback came when Monderoy decided to move out and go live with his biological father, who expressed feelings of regret for having him. Consequently, Monderoy quickly returned home to his mother and stepfather, a man for who he now has the greatest amount of respect and love.
“I am so grateful for him in my life,” Monderoy said.
It was at this point that his blessing in disguise appeared. He began his journey as a middle distance runner, not because he loved the sport but because he saw it as an avenue to get away. Realising his potential, he now focused all his energy toward the sport. “Circumstances pushed me to sport, which became the vehicle to get me out, because all I wanted to do was to run away. Not from other people and the country I love, but from the situations and emotions I was unable to control.”
However, as much as he focused on the sport, his issues were becoming overwhelming.
Though he lived in St James and also in Santa Cruz, Belmont became his permanent hometown. It was also the place where Monderoy started an almost destructive downhill battle with himself and life. The promising Queens Royal College student would find more comfort smoking “on the block” than from attending classes.
“I didn’t go to school for most of fifth form because of all the things I was going through and all the issues I had. So I used to leave home and go smoke whole day,” he said.
However, it wasn’t until he attended a sporting event in the stadium that things quickly changed for him.
“That change came from Laurence McDowell, one of the people responsible for sports at the school and one of my mentors. He always believed in me. I remembered being at a game in the stadium and Mc Dowell, in passing, saw me with a cigarette in my hand. Right there and then he muttered, ‘What a waste…’ I know he wasn’t saying it to be disrespectful or for him to be heard, but those words had a disturbing effect on me. That was the last day I smoked a cigarette and I hurriedly returned to school the next day with the initial goal to use my athleticism to get me out of the country.”
Running became his new drug, he endured the pain, which he called his ‘new friend’.
“I knew pain. I tortured myself, basically because I was in control. I knew how to deal with this pain, unlike the ones of the past. This pain was my friend.”
The pain paid off. Monderoy was soon able to secure a half scholarship to the University of South Florida (USF) in the United States and six months later, his half scholarship became a full scholarship and he pushed hard with his academic studies. Not only did he graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Systems Management, but he also achieved successful record —breaking championship titles in middle distance running.
“When I finished university I had a choice between heading to Trinidad, Finland or the USA. However, as I was still not mentally prepared and there was still some running involved, I chose Finland.”
At that time he was being sponsored by Amar Auto Rentals and got some assistance from T&T’s former BWIA airline. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury to his groin and had to have surgery, which hindered his chances and dreams of becoming one of the world’s top 20.
In 2005, he briefly visited Trinidad and then returned to Finland. As he made peace with himself, the yearning for his homeland grew stronger. But he did not return just yet, for he became a working man, and had landed several IT jobs in Finland.
While there, the observant Monderoy saw a potential market for parties that included selected music genres (including R&B) and soon began throwing events dubbed Red Hot Soul. Over time, they got so huge that he began introducing musical acts such as Sean Kingston, Lil Wayne and Akon to perform, and soon after that, he created and established another company called Livestream, which streamed events and conferences to eager viewers. This company was later sold to MTV 3, a Finnish television company.
Monderoy was on a roll, but feeling overwhelmingly homesick.
He soon landed another job at Blue Media, and from there, formed another company, Mexadia. Their specialty? Production of apps and cell phone software. Wanting to make T&T part of this venture, Monderoy, who was finally at peace with himself, returned home and began creating a sport database to assist the local industry. His need to give back saw him offering a $50,000 reward to anyone able to successfully break any middle distance record. And, marrying his love of throwing events with his love for country, he created the Borders Festival (see sidebar for more information).
No matter how much Monderoy had been through and no matter how hard he had tried to get away, his fate was not to abandon himself or his homeland. It is from here that he continues to contribute positively to the T&T landscape, proving that this is where his heart is, and that there is indeed, no place like home.
What is the
An amalgamation of Trinidad and Tobago’s music, food and the arts.
Why the name
Because of the different segments, music, food and the arts, which all have their own identity coupled with their own borders.
When will it be held?
May 26, 27 and 28, 2017, at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Jean Pierre Complex and St John’s Ambulance Hall
What does it involve?
Festivities for three days, four stages, more than 40 performers—local, regional and international.
Some of the members
of the team
Sheldon Monderoy—Founder/Chairman, Rhian Ramkissoon—Event Coordinator, Ronald Benjamin—Corporate Relations Director, Kim Bailey—Director, Jenny Om—Visual Space Designer and Stacey Weekes-Benjamin—Event Manager.
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