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Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the government will be increasing its zero tolerance approach to the abuse of children and that steps will be taken to ensure that persons who abuse children or know of cases of abuse but fail to report it are brought to justice. Mrs. Simpson Miller said attention would also be given to the issue concerning fathers who do not support their children.
She was speaking on Wednesday (Dec. 19) at the official opening of the Goodwin Park Hostel for Youth, which is a joint project between the Rotary Club of St. Andrew and the Possibility Programme in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Mrs. Simpson Miller said the number of children living on the street was a telling reminder of the need for proper parenting. She said parents needed greater support and encouragement to enable them to be more responsible parents. She said the values and attitudes programme as well the activities of services clubs like Rotary, could help to instill good family values and responsible parenting skills within the society.
The Prime Minister said the Youth Hostel for boys was an important achievement of the partnership between the Possibility Programme for street children and the Rotary Club of St. Andrew. She said the construction of the facility was an example of what could be achieved with a partnership approach to development. She added that the new hostel was a symbol of hope for children who face danger on the streets. Thirty-two boys, several of whom are in participants in the Possibility Programme, will be accommodated at the hostel. Plans are already being considered for an expansion of the facility.
The hostel is the brainchild of past president of the Rotary Club of St. Andrew Mr. Earl Samuels who initiated the project based on his concern for children who live on the street. Donations from agencies of government including the Ministry of Housing, Water, Transport and Works, as well as many private sector sponsors all contributed to making the hostel a reality.
In giving an update on the achievements of the five-year old Possibility Programme, Chairman of the Board of Directors Dr. Jaslin Salmon said approximately 234 boys and young men have benefited from the programme. He said many of them have either been apprenticed in various skills or have gone on to further training. The re-socialisation component of the programme also provides family counseling that has enabled several of the beneficiaries to be reunited with their families.
Persons who will use the hostel as well as residents of the surrounding community, were all implored to treat the facility with great care.