Feature
Students at the Glendevon Primary and Junior High in Montego Bay, St James, enjoy a performance from ‘DJ Chinny’ during the I am Purpose concert held at the institution in 2018.
Photo: Contributed

Story Highlights

  • Over 15 schools and citizens living in volatile and vulnerable communities are to benefit from the Ministry of National Security’s ‘I am Purpose’ campaign.
  • The campaign which started in September 2018, focuses on the value of self-worth, self-empowerment, parent and child interaction, volunteerism and community participation.
  • Communities in St. Catherine, Clarendon, St. James and Kingston and St Andrew are being targeted under the year- long initiative.

Over 15 schools and citizens living in volatile and vulnerable communities are to benefit from the Ministry of National Security’s ‘I am Purpose’ campaign.

The campaign which started in September 2018, focuses on the value of self-worth, self-empowerment, parent and child interaction, volunteerism and community participation.

Communities in St. Catherine, Clarendon, St. James and Kingston and St Andrew are being targeted under the year- long initiative.

Acting Director of Crime Prevention and Community Safety in the Ministry, Renee Steele, tells JIS News that the campaign forms part of the Five Pillar Crime Reduction Strategy with emphasis on crime prevention through social development.

“The purpose of this pillar is to identify the risk factors of a socio-economic nature that contribute to violent behaviours and attitudes and help to reduce them through activities such as this campaign,” she notes.

Statistics indicate that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are involved in a significant number of violent crimes.

“We have found in many cases that we have youth as young as nine are involved in criminal activities. They may not pull a trigger, but they are impressionable and not attached to any positive systems and hence can be recruited by criminal elements,” Ms. Steele says.

“The campaign is important because it is a deliberate effort to take the positives to the source themselves, as children develop, they tend to depend more on their peers, so the peers become more influential, so we go to them in their space,” she adds.

The initiative include the ‘I Am Purpose’ school tour, which is implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; a concert, as well as a men’s reasoning session. There is also a parent-student sports day, and peer to peer mentorship for the targeted schools.

So far, some seven schools have benefitted under the campaign. These include Vere Technical High, Bustamante High, Denbigh High, St James High, Kemps Hill High, Spot Valley High, Glendevon Primary and Junior High School.

“We use edutainment to promote the positive messaging and you get to engage with students one on one. Following the campaign, we will establish a peer to peer mentorship programme within the schools where we will be aiming to use students from the upper grades to work with students from the lower grades as a means of positive role models,” Ms. Steele explains.

For the community-based activities, the Security Ministry works with several stakeholders such as Community Development Committees, as well as gospel artiste, Rondell Positive to engage individuals from at risk feeder communities, in which the targeted schools are located.

“We identify young men who are deemed to be at risk and we facilitate a man to man reasoning session. So the facilitators of the programme, Rondell Positive and his all-male team are able to get into the nitty gritty as to why these young men are departing from the straight and narrow. We also use the forum to determine the support they need to not participate in criminal activities,” Ms. Steele tells JIS News.

The Acting Director of Crime Prevention and Community Safety points out that the campaign has achieved the expected outcomes of increased self-worth among students; reduced incidence of disruptive children in schools; and increased respect for self, school (including authoritative figures) and community.

“The students have been receptive to the message as well as they have expressed gratitude and appreciation for having the opportunity to share their views and perspectives. They go through a lot as young persons and this helps to guide them to move forward with a sense of purpose,” Ms Steele states.

The campaign has also had a positive impact on the participating communities.

“For the reasoning sessions, there have been several young men who decided to change their pathways subsequent to being hosted in the reasoning sessions. In Clarendon, we worked with the peace management initiative (PMI) to identify the men and following the session they will now be working with the PMI on a case management basis to turn their lives around,” she adds.

The campaign will continue this year, with planned visits to at least eight schools and their surrounding communities in St James, St Catherine and Kingston and St Andrew.