- CSJP signed a MoU with the JDF for hundreds of at risk youth
- Under the programme, the youngsters completed vocational skills training and worked alongside soldiers
- The programme has also changed the way participants view the security forces
Three young men who, in the past, were characterized as “at risk youth” from volatile and vulnerable communities, have now joined the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and are committed to the nation’s fight against crime and violence.
Last year, the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the JDF for hundreds of at risk youth to receive on-the-job training in the Force.
The three young men were involved in this programme, which the CSJP reports as one of their most successful and impactful initiatives.Under the programme, the youngsters completed vocational skills training and worked alongside soldiers in the JDF’s Engineering Regiment.
“I am extremely excited and very proud of the accomplishment of these three men; it just shows what determination can do. It also proves to me that there are other youngsters like them who have potential, and all they need is an opportunity,” Senior CSJP Community Action Officer, Denise Adams, tells JIS News in an interview.
Nehru Brown, now Private Brown, recalls how he and others initially viewed the programme and how he was transformed.
“We went to an orientation at Cassia Park Community Centre and for most of us it was very hard to work with soldiers, because we are not accustomed to people telling us what to do. Later we started to see their way of life and that they were not just men with big guns. They are disciplined persons, so I got more interested,” he explains.
He adds that he was encouraged by some soldiers to use his skill, which is electrical technology, and join the army where he can make a positive contribution.
“I was given an opportunity to do the test, passed it, but still was not interested in becoming a soldier. When I got the official call, I really gave it some thought and accepted. I believe it is one of the biggest steps I have made thus far,” Private Brown says.
He tells JIS News that participating in the CSJP programme has catapulted him into a future he never dreamed about.
In addition to the job experience gained, the programme has also changed the way participants view the security forces.
“Some of the soldiers were my mentors. The transformation for me from a civilian to a member of the JDF is a great feeling, thanks to the CSJP,” confesses Private Brian McKenzie, another CSJP participant. He is from the community of Mountain View, in St. Andrew.
For Private Jermaine Ellis, joining the JDF means he can now provide for his family, and he is seen as a respected member of his community.
“Persons congratulate me and others express how proud they are; that has made a tremendous difference in my life,” he tells JIS News.
Privates Ellis, Brown and McKenzie say they are eternally grateful to the CSJP and encourage other youngsters to get involved in the programmes that are made available to them through the CSJP and other social groups.
Meanwhile, Ms. Adams says that for the CSJP’s JDF initiative, the motto is: ‘If you come as a chicken, you leave as an Eagle’.
“I believe these young men have actualized that motto. I just want to say to other young people that the sky is the limit; however, you have to be determined and have a desire to achieve a goal. I always tell my youngsters that it is not about how you start the race, instead it is about how determined you are to finish it. In spite of the financial struggles and setbacks, you have to be determined and resilient to defy the odds,” she encourages.