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Story Highlights

  • For the past year, Saran Wilson and 10 of her peers, have been engaged by the OCR in the fight against child abuse.
  • This involves advocating for the care and protection of children, sensitising other young people about the problem of abuse.
  • Saran is appealing to parents, who abuse their children to stop and seek help.

As the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) invites primary and high school students to serve as Child Ambassadors for the period 2014 to 2016, to help in promoting the welfare of the country’s children, one such advocate is lauding the programme and encouraging others to get involved.

For the past year, Saran Wilson and 10 of her peers, have been engaged by the OCR in the fight against child abuse.

This involves advocating for the care and protection of children, sensitising other young people about the problem of abuse, and speaking on behalf of children at various functions organised by the Ministry of Youth and Culture, the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA), the Child Development Agency (CDA), and the OCR.

Saran sees the task as a privilege, and says it affords her the opportunity to do something honourable and far-reaching for her country.

“I am happy to have been chosen and I do not take this responsibility lightly,” says the sixth form student of St. Andrew High School for Girls and graduate of Westwood High School in Trelawny.

Saran tells JIS News that the experience has helped her to grow and mature and become a more confident speaker. “My most memorable engagement to date was that of guest speaker at the graduation for a preparatory school. My greatest opportunities for self-development and growth have come through my affiliation with the OCR and for that I will be eternally grateful,” she says.

Saran is appealing to parents, who abuse their children to stop and seek help. “The abuse of children does not have to be a continuous cycle. Get help! It can be stopped. No child should grow up in a family where they are subjected to abuse. Listen to them, talk to them, understand what they feel and include them in decisions”.

She also implores persons, who may be aware of cases of child abuse to report such incidents. “If you have knowledge of something and don’t act on it you are not contributing to the solution. Persons will be imprisoned for six months or be fined $500,000 if they know about a situation and don’t report it to OCR, CDA or police,” she notes.

As a sixth former, who is preparing for Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), Saran understands the importance of prioritising and balancing her activities.

“I am in Lower 6th Form pursuing five CAPE subjects. My teachers have been very supportive and ensure that I keep abreast of my work especially when I am out on official duties” she points out.

Principal of St. Andrew High, Sharon Reid is proud of the school’s two child ambassadors, Saran and Ashley Barrett, another sixth form student of the institution.

She says that “they are well rounded young ladies, who have had a positive influence on the school community. They are also very willing to be involved in the activities of the school”.

Ms. Reid also lauds the Child Ambassadors’ Programme, and its focus on engaging the youth in advocacy on behalf of their peers. “Young people are impacted greatly by their peers. When young persons are willing to take on the role, I have no doubt that it will have a positive impact to see a child leading the way. It is important that the children are seen and that their voices are heard,” she says.

The Child Ambassadors’ Programme was launched by the OCR as part of its fifth anniversary activities in February 2012. The child ambassadors volunteer with the OCR for a minimum of one year and help to promote the reporting of child abuse.

At the launch, Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna had congratulated the OCR team on introducing the initiative. She made reference to the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA), which states that “children are capable of forming their own views and that the weight given to these views is one of the factors used to determine whether a child’s best interest is being served”.

She also congratulated the children on their appointments and stated that their decision to participate was “an indication of their commitment to protecting the interests of their peers, who may be suffering in silence”.

Speaking at the OCR’s seventh anniversary church service held earlier this month, Children’s Registrar, Greig Smith, said that the child ambassadors span the six education region, and the hope was to have at least one representative in each parish.

He also indicated that the programme has been fully incorporated into the OCR’s public education campaign aimed at increasing awareness among the youth about child abuse, and encouraging them to report incidents.

Interested persons can download application forms from the OCR’s website at www.ocr.gov.jm, or visit the agency’s headquarters at 12 Carlton Crescent, Kingston 10, or any of its parish offices. The completed forms should be returned to the agency’s head office or any of its parish offices by February 6.