Feature
Youngsters in attendance at the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) four-week children’s summer camp in Salt Spring, St. James. Some 120 children benefited from the initiative.
Photo: Nickieta Sterling

Story Highlights

  • Long considered volatile and prone to violence, the inner-city community of Salt Spring, in St. James, is starting to show glimpses of a future that residents say will assist in restoring Montego Bay’s status.
  • They point to what they see as a flurry of social intervention programmes and also a genuine attempt by persons living overseas and here in Jamaica to make Salt Spring “a place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”
  • “We have a plan for Salt Spring that is coming straight out of the Vision 2030 Jamaica playbook,” explained President of the Boston, United States chapter of the Salt Spring Community Outreach Programme for Empowerment (SCOPE), Dalton Clarke.

Long considered volatile and prone to violence, the inner-city community of Salt Spring, in St. James, is starting to show glimpses of a future that residents say will assist in restoring Montego Bay’s status.

They point to what they see as a flurry of social intervention programmes and also a genuine attempt by persons living overseas and here in Jamaica to make Salt Spring “a place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.”

“We have a plan for Salt Spring that is coming straight out of the Vision 2030 Jamaica playbook,” explained President of the Boston, United States chapter of the Salt Spring Community Outreach Programme for Empowerment (SCOPE), Dalton Clarke.

Mr. Clarke, who along with other Diaspora members attended a health and job fair in the Salt Spring community on August 19, told JIS News that there is a strong urge and commitment from former residents to do their part to ensure that the days of violence will be a thing of the past.

“We are looking at this as the dawn of a new era…the beginning of something special…a type of renaissance,” he argued.

“There was indeed a time when Salt Spring was known only for love and kindness, when we were our brother’s and sister’s keeper…not for guns and violence and a community under siege.”

Mr. Clarke stressed that it all begins with targeting “the at-risk youth,” showing them an alternative to violence and having their minds embedded in the knowledge that education is the key to a life of stability.

He noted that Diaspora members are working overtime to find a resource centre where children can have access to computers and where they can also do their homework.

Youngsters in attendance at the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) four-week children’s summer camp in Salt Spring, St. James. Some 120 children benefited from the initiative.

 

Mr. Clarke said he was particularly touched and inspired by a recent statement by Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, that there are some very bright and promising minds in the inner cities who just simply need a chance to prove their worth.

“Like in Dr. Chang’s North West St. James inner-city constituency, there are some very bright minds that have emerged out of Salt Spring and who have been making meaningful contributions to this society,” he said

“We have had our fair share of doctors, engineers, Olympians, lawyers and teachers. Unfortunately, we often hear about the negatives…the bad things that overshadow the good things. This is the kind of narrative that we want to change,” Mr. Clarke emphasised.

Dr. Chang, at a St. James North Western Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Education Grant Award Ceremony Programme 2019, at the University of the West Indies Western Campus in Montego Bay, St. James on August 15, said that there are a lot of great things happening in Jamaica’s inner-city communities, where many young people have been making their mark in a positive way.

The Minister said that the success stories have also been helpful in changing the narrative in some of these communities, which have been stigmatised and vilified over the years.

“There have been so many success stories that have been happening but have gone mostly unreported,” he noted.

For her part, SCOPE’s local director, Rochelle Cawley, said she has seen the positive effect the social intervention programmes have been having in Salt Spring, citing a recent case where some members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were visibly in tears following an equally visibly show of love by a group of youngsters “who wanted them to stay in the community longer than planned.”

“The love is returning to Salt Spring. In addition to a health and job fair, we also had a summer programme for kids which was sponsored by the JCF and we also have members from the Diaspora and former Salt Spring residents who are here doing their thing. This is part of ‘Operation Restore Paradise’ here in Salt Spring and I am just happy to be a part of it,” Ms. Cawley said.

In the meantime, resident, Annmarie Hood-Morris, said that she yearns for the glory days where the community was peaceful and known for “only the things that were good.”

“When I see summer programmes for children…when I see a health and job fair…I can only say a silent prayer of thank you,” she told JIS News.

“I like the idea that the youth are being targeted because that’s where it all starts,” she said.

For Woman Inspector Yvonne White Powell, the JCF’s four-week children’s summer camp in Salt Spring, where some 120 children benefited from the initiative, was a winner.

She said there are plans by the JCF to replicate the camp in other volatile communities in the parish.