by Donella D Hosten
The Olive Branch Programme, founded by Martial Arts Master Melvaughn Coutain, was officially launched on Friday, 13 October 2017.
In an exclusive interview with Master Coutain, who also founded the Grenada School of Martial Arts and Taekwondo, he stated that he came up with the idea of the Olive Branch Programme approximately 10 years ago when he had to change his diet and lifestyle due to a medical condition. According to him, the Olive Branch Programme has been endorsed by the ministries of Sports and Education and is designed to include all children, regardless of their background.
Master Coutain also stated that the programme consists of 3 main branches: ‘Healthier Living,’ ‘Anti-Bullying’ and ‘Martial Arts’ as a discipline.
The healthier living aspect of the Olive Branch Programme has much to do with practising good eating habits, proper posture and awareness of their surroundings. ‘Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.’
The anti-bullying branch is geared towards teaching students anti-bullying techniques. This also ties in with the Martial Arts Branch, which aims to create a sense of discipline in the children involved. According to Master Coutain, all 3 Branches of the Olive Branch Programme look at the ‘home of the child, the school of the child and the physical ability of the child.’
He also used the opportunity to reference recent findings of the United Nations, which indicated that child obesity is a big problem in today’s society. “At the end of the day we’re digging our graves with our teeth.”
The martial arts master spoke of the social and economic benefits of the programme. According to him, Martial Arts is not given the necessary attention that is needed by the Olympic Association, especially since persons in the diaspora have assisted with the introduction of Taekwondo in Grenada. He believes that more emphasis is placed on traditional sporting activities such as football and netball and not enough is placed on Martial Arts and Taekwondo.
“It’s not about teaching children to fight, it’s teaching children to build their self-esteem,” said Master Coutain. Additionally, not only can new levels of self-awareness and conscious discipline be reached through Martial Arts and Taekwondo, but it can also contribute to the generation of revenue in sports tourism, both locally and internationally. The Olive Branch Programme can also lead to the creation of jobs, as he would like to have communities involved in the process.
He testified that the programme could teach students how to resolve issues in using non-violent methods and how to practice self-control in certain situations. The Master spoke briefly about children with negative attitudes, which, according to him, the disciplines of Martial Arts and Taekwondo can assist with changing their mindset and help to lead them on the correct path.
Master Coutain, who is a member of the Norway Taekwondo Alliance, and is currently in charge of the Caribbean, has sent out a clarion call to persons who may be interested in learning and teaching the disciplines as part of another initiative ‘Train the Trainers.’
When asked about the involvement of other Martial Arts schools in Grenada, he affirmed that he is currently having dialogue with them. “We need to build the community.” However, much more assistance is needed for the programme to be as effective and wide-reached as possible.
The Olive Branch Programme is currently being funded by the UNDP Small Grants Programme, and it is the hope of Master Coutain that schools throughout the island will come on board and be part of this initiative.