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Girls from communities across St. James compete in one of the races at the St. James Social Development Commission (SDC) Summer Camp Sport and Fun Day, on Friday, August 5, at the SDC playfield at Albion, Montego Bay.
Photo: Sharon Earle

Five hundred young children in the St. James Social Development Commission (SDC) ‘Teach the Youth Summer Camp 2022’ competed in Sport and the Performing Arts and enjoyed the fun-day activities presented on Friday, August 5.

The event was held on the SDC playground in Albion, Montego Bay.

Parish Manager for the SDC in St. James, Randy Hayle, told JIS News that the three-week camps, held in Lilliput, Flanker, Canterbury, Mount Salem, Granville, Retirement, Dumfries, Bogue Hill/Ramble, Mount Horeb, and Retrieve, were used as a social-intervention tool to target the youth, eight to 15 years of age, from some of the most vulnerable communities in St James.

The camps were staged under the theme ‘Diversion, Development and Empowerment’, recognising the fact that during their summer holidays from school, children who live in these harsh communities are often exposed to a number of anti-social behaviours.

Mr. Hayle said the camps were aimed at “countering some of these antisocial behaviours with positive reinforcement”.

St James Social Development Commission (SDC) Parish Manager, Randy Hayle.

 

“We focused on building self-esteem, anger management, behavioural change, how do children understand [the importance of] developing positive habits, how do these children understand [the need for] developing a career path for themselves, and what are their values. We wanted to shape their values during this period, and we also wanted to expose them to how to [achieve their academic goals],” he added.

The SDC, in partnership with Community Development Committees (CDCs) and other community-based organisations operated the camps.

Participants were taught Spanish, History and Civics, and trained in dining etiquette, Jamaican culture, substance abuse prevention, anger management, behavioural modification, conflict resolution, dispute management, agriculture, job-interview skills, and tertiary-education matriculation.

Other main partners included the Ministry of Health and Wellness, National Water Commission, Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), National Council on Drug Abuse, Restorative Justice, Peace Management Initiative (PMI), the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Jamaica Spanish Foundation, Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College, Montego Bay Community College, the Forestry Department, Jamaica 4-H Clubs as well as schools and churches that offered their facilities for hosting most of the camps.

Private-sector sponsors included Sandals Resorts International, Intel Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited (CPJ), Jamaica Broilers Limited, and Caribbean Broilers Limited.

Camp Coordinators reported that participants showed genuine interest during their interactions with the motivators who led the sessions.

Rev. Lascelles Thomas from the Redemption Chapel, located in Canterbury, shared that children were “scared to tears” when they first saw soldiers entering their community, even though they were unarmed.

“We had a [team] walking into our community for the first time without guns… amazing! In fact, the soldiers initially thought it was a bit risky, but we had a squad of about 12 soldiers, and they came into the community to show the children and the young people a different side of the army. They had no guns, no [weapons of war], so that, in and of itself, was an experience… . Initially, they (children) started crying, but at the end of it, they all saw themselves as friends of the soldiers,” he said.

Another impactful aspect of the camp, Rev. Thomas noted, was the improvement in the campers’ self-esteem, adding that children in the inner-city Canterbury community tend to be underexposed to the customary codes of polite behaviour in society and so are usually timid and withdrawn in social settings.

Canterbury campers perform for the audience with their slick dance moves as they participate in the St James Social Development Commission (SDC) Summer Camp Sport and Fun Day, held on Friday, August 5, at the SDC’s playfield at Albion, Montego Bay.

 

He observed that many who initially were reticent and had to be coaxed to participate, by the end of the camp were more confident in expressing their opinions and emotions.

Rev. Thomas commended the St. James SDC for staging this year’s ‘Teach the Youth Camp’, which, he said, was refreshing to campers and coaches alike.

Retired early-childhood educator, Elaine Brown Heath, who coordinated the Retirement camp, reported that even though the camp was tailored for older children, a number of them who were below the minimum eight years, turned up for sessions daily and benefited from the presentations.

She said that sessions conducted by members of the JDF were popular with her campers, who made inquiries regarding entry and benefits.

Nicholas McIntyre of Lilliput declared the camp a success and attributed this to the joint efforts of members of community organisations and individuals.

He said that parents who were initially reluctant to send their children had to be convinced that the camp would provide a safe, healthy and motivational space that was geared towards the growth and development of their children.

Nine teams competed for trophies and bragging rights in sprint races, Spanish song competition and the dance contest at the event.

The Lilliput team, the sole contestant in the fashion parade, received commendations for their ‘Recycle Fashion’, with articles of clothing made from recycled plastic bags, newspaper and PEP bottles.

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