JIS News

I would like to first of all commend the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA), the humanitarian and community development arm of the Seventh – day Adventist church, which has played an important role in this country since its founding some 25 years ago.
I cannot forget the significant relief work which ADRA did just after Hurricane Ivan. ADRA signed an MOU with Jamaica National and USAID through which $22 million was channeled to beneficiaries in the five parishes most affected by the hurricane. ADRA has also completed other projects funded by USAID, namely the Cedar Grove Community Centre and Clinic and the New Hope Children’s Home, which have contributed to social well-being.
I was pleased to learn, too, that just recently ADRA handed over pharmaceutical supplies valued at over $75 million to the Ministry of Health.
Clearly, the Seventh – Day Adventist Church is faithful to the mission of its Founder and Lord Jesus Christ whose ministry was characterized by a deep, passionate commitment to the poor and marginalized. Jesus said “in as much as you have done it to least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me”, and He made it clear that on the Day of Judgment we were not going to be judged simply on the doctrinal beliefs we hold but on how we treated the poor.
For He said there would be those coming to Him saying that they have cast our demons and have healed the sick in His name. But he will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you”. Those who would gain His favour, He said, would be those who visited the sick in their affliction, those who took in the homeless and those who fed the hungry.
Jesus spent a lot of His own time feeding the hungry and healing the sick. It is gratifying to know that His modern-day disciples today in the Seventh – day Adventist church are doing the same.
This project which is being launched today is one whose significance goes way beyond the numbers of persons being reached. Forty-two young men from six schools located in inner-city communities across Jamaica-St James High School, Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, Spanish Town High School, Denham Town High School, Tivoli Gardens High School and Donald Quarrie High School, Kingston-will be involved in a programme called the Society for the Collaborative Lifting and Advancing of Inner-City Males-S-CLAIM, for short.
Any programme which can be initiated to help our young men, is most important to this nation’s future. Our young men are particularly at risk in Jamaica today. They are over-represented in crime, both as perpetrators and victims; delinquency, drug addiction, various kinds of anti-social activities as well as and underachievement in school. Something has to be done to rescue our young men at risk.
As Prime Minister, and as an inner-city Member of Parliament I have a particular burden on my shoulder for our young people at risk. This is one of the reasons I told my office that I would not just send a message to this launch but I wanted to be here personally to underline my own strong commitment to the upliftment of Jamaican young people.
Some of our young men suffer from serious problems of low self-esteem and identity. They live in a society which has become increasingly obsessed with money, possessions and status and which defines masculinity in terms of these things, as well as sexual prowess. So when some young men can’t show the Bling, they feel like, or feel they are less of a human being and have to turn to sexual promiscuity or the gun to prove their worth and to gain respect.
We have to teach those young men true values and pry them away from the notion that, to paraphrase the Lord, “a man’s life consists of the abundance of the things which he possesses”. They have to come to understand that their net worth is not what is in their bank accounts or in their physical assets.
Some men are taught certain notions about leadership and when they don’t do well at school and consequently cannot get employment or the kind of employment which can meet their demands they feel less of a man and that leads to all sorts of problems.
But even with these problems, there are still those mothers and fathers in our country who make an effort every day to instill high standards of behavior, morals and ethics in their children from day to day. There are also those young people who are seeking to travel on the straight and narrow. We must never forget those persons, and must always recognize them for their efforts. The path of goodness, righteousness, morals and values is not always the easy road to take.
This is why a programme like S-CLAIM is so important, for introduction and reinforcement of these values. This programme can instill such positive values in the participants that the multiplier effect could be enormous. The ability of the participants to pass on what they have learnt to others must not be can have a significantly positive impact.
I endorse that objective of the programme, that seeks to inspire hope and inspiration among young males. This is critically important. Young men need to have a sense of hope; they need to know that there are things worth striving for; that tomorrow can be better than today. People do all kinds of destructive things when they believe there is no hope.
If you believe there is no hope, you won’t have any inspiration or motivation to plan positively for the future. The decline in values and attitudes among some of our youth can be traced to the fact that they too many have given up and do not have the drive to go on. Our young men need to raise their sights. They need to see another life. They need to see other possibilities. This is what the -S-CLAIM programme is attempting to do and it is a most laudable initiative.
Fatherlessness is a major contributor to a number of the social ills in the society and one of the almost debilitating factors holding back the inner-cities. Young males who lack self-esteem and who see a constant need to prove themselves move on from one sexual conquest to the other, ever in search of affirmation and respect; creating social disaster in the process. Not being taught responsibility, these young men use their sexual organ as a weapon to establish their identity and to stake out a space in their inner-city world. The young girls are abandoned soon after they get pregnant, leading to a whole cycle of poverty and marginalization.
Some 47.5% of Jamaican households are headed by females caring for a large number of children. It has been estimated that per capita consumption in female-headed households is less than 80% of what it is in male-headed households. As the latest Situation Analysis on Excluded Children in Jamaica by UNICEF says, “Simply put, a Jamaican child living in a female-headed household has access to a smaller amount of resources than his or her friends living in other types of households”.
Dr Maureen Samms-Vaughn, noted early childhood development -specialist, revealed in her Grace Kennedy Foundation Lecture this year, that “the proportion of children living with their mothers is between 75-80% throughout their lives but the proportion living with their fathers sees a fall from just under 50%, at 5-6 years, to just under 40% at 15-16 years”.
And listen to this, while almost all children have lived with their mother at some time in their life, one in every three has never had the experience of living with biological father. The problem of fatherlessness is a major social issue in the country and this cannot be solved by economic growth alone.
There has to be a moral and social revival in Jamaica. I am not saying that economics plays no part, but simply giving young men jobs and training them how to make a living will not be able to instill the moral values necessary to deal with some of the psycho-social problems which affect them.
ADRA is not just cursing the darkness. ADRA is lighting a candle. This is what the S-CLAIM project represents. I was delighted to read that your project is, and I quote, “designed to mould their characters, build on their moral development, instill positive values encourage them to respect themselves and others and expose them to a world far removed from the one to which they are accustomed”. I like the balance, with the emphasis on providing proper nutrition, medical and dental care and educational opportunities along with the character development tools.
The lessons in grooming, etiquette social graces and deportment must not be seen as attempts to impose middle class values on anyone. It is a matter of developing rounded people who can fit into any social setting. We must not limit our people or express the prejudice that our inner-city people cannot rise to any occasion. This -CLAIM programme is one which proclaims its confidence in the people of the inner-city and their capacity to achieve whatever they set their minds to.
I laud ADRA for this important project and take great pleasure in launching it today.

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