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  • Violence Prevention Alliance

Youth Empowerment Programme Transforms Lives in Kingston and Clarendon

Robin Rock, Community Liaison Officer at the Ministry of Justice addressing graduates at Craig Town.

Close to 100 young people from the inner-city communities of Craig Town, Hannah Town, and Jones Town in Kingston; Effortville and May Pen Proper in Clarendon celebrated their successful completion of Project X-Change, a youth empowerment programme designed to foster peace building, psychosocial support and economic opportunities.

Project X-Change, a component of the Positive Pathways initiative by USAID, has been implemented by the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) since March 2023. The programme exposed participants to peace-building activities, including conflict prevention, management, and resolution, as well as economic opportunities.

The participants, aged 17 to 29, received certificates at the closing ceremony held in Craig Town, recently. The young participants praised the programme's positive impact on their lives.

 "This programme allowed me to refocus and assisted me to aim for my purpose. It allowed me to identify what I want in life and gave me confidence that I can achieve anything. I give thanks to the organisers of the programme for this opportunity," said a resident of Jones Town.

A participant from Craig Town shared how the programme helped manage her anger and behavioral problems. "It helps me to react to stressful situations in a calmer manner. I also learned to be conscious of others and to be respectful, especially to the elderly," she said.

Another participant from Craig Town expressed gratitude for the life skills and business knowledge gained through the programme. "I learned about business as one day I would like to start my landscaping business. I am glad for the opportunities, especially the knowledge gained to pursue my business venture," said the 22-year-old.

Dr. Deanna Ashley, executive director of the VPA, encouraged the participants to build on what they had learned. “This is the pursuit of a journey towards living a positive and productive life. Believe in your second chance and work hard to achieve the goals that you have set for yourselves,” she said.

Dr. Ashley also commended USAID and Positive Pathways for funding the programme and the team that implemented it. She added that the programme stands as a beacon of hope and transformation, illustrating the power of community support and structured programmes in changing lives and fostering a safer, more prosperous society.

Robin Rock, community liaison officer at the Restorative Justice Unit of the Ministry of Justice and the guest speaker at the ceremony, urged the participants to use the knowledge and skills they had acquired to make a meaningful impact on their lives and communities.

 "You know, what you do with it is up to you," he stated, hoping the lessons learned would benefit not just the individuals, but their families and the broader community. He encouraged the youth to harness their newfound purpose, talents, and innovative thoughts, whether they be motivational actions or conflict resolution skills, to shape their future selves.

Assistant Superintendent of Police Noel Daley West also commended the programme, noting its role in engaging and uplifting at-risk youth who might otherwise feel detached from opportunities that could propel their development.

He also informed that the Kingston Western Division has been doing well in terms of major crime as there has been a reduction in crime compared to last year and this year.

“Compare last year to this year, we have recorded 12 less murders. As an organisation we have an ambitious target. We are trying to go below 1,000 murders across the island this year. So, we are happy for this level of intervention in our community, it really helps us to keep a lid on things and so as we partner with our many stakeholders we appreciate the effort that goes into these programmes,” he said.

Project X-Change targets high-risk youth who have expressed a willingness to make a positive change in their lives. By guiding these young people towards more positive life trajectories, the programme aims to steer them away from the potential of being involved in a life of crime and violence. The initiative was also implemented in May Pen Proper and Effortville, Clarendon.


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