JIS News

Does, “Talk it out, don’t fight it out,” sound familiar? Well, this is basically the tag-line that some residents in the Corporate Area’s inner-cities have started to live by, and they have been reporting high levels of success in reducing violence.
President of the March Pen Road Community Council in St. Catherine, Ivan Barnes, says that due to the presence of the Animation Programme, courtesy of the Ministry of National Security’s Citizens Security Initiative (CSI), there has been a dramatic decline in the number of young persons on the streets and, more often than not, people in the community have been settling their disputes in a more amicable way.
“The community is fairly quiet now. Currently we have over 100 young persons, some of whom used to sit on the road, who are now in the CSI programme. We also have some of the same persons joining in with the Animation Programme, seeking a different way out, in terms of dealing with issues that may confront them on a daily basis,” he informs.
In April, the Ministry of National Security, through the CSI, launched the Animation Programme. It aims at bringing together community leaders, and other interest groups, as well as members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), in a setting where persons are trained to make informed decisions on behalf of the community and to resolve issues without resorting to violence.
“This Animation Programme has brought us to a level…a level where we can now sit down as a community and talk to the ‘dons’, or whoever is in conflict. We can explain to them how to go about resolving their problems, who to talk to and all that,” Mr. Barnes reveals.
He says that he is satisfied that the community has responded very well to the new initiative.
“The programme is beyond anything I have ever seen. Residents from the March Pen Community are very enthusiastic about it. We are training trainers, so they can go back into the community and deliver what they have learnt,” he says.
“If anything happens in the community, we are the first ones they run to, before it escalates. So that level of understanding is very much alive in the community. We don’t have to force anyone to join. I think they have grasped the fact that this is the best way to resolve their problems,” he explains.
He is, however, calling on the private sector to play a role, as the Government alone cannot reduce crime and violence in these communities.
“I am imploring the private sector to help fund this programme, because it can only benefit their businesses. If there is war in the community you will not have good business, you won’t make money; so please support this programme, because it will be beneficial to you, so place emphasis on the youths in the community,” he urges.
Trainee Danniee Williams has high praises for the programme, as she outlines how it has changed her life.
“It is a wonderful programme, and it gave me a great experience. They developed the animation component, which basically deals with conflict resolution and self assessment that I am now a part of,” Ms. Williams asserts.
The catering student from March Pen, Spanish Town, explains that through the programme she has been given a second chance to make a difference in her community.
“I was introduced to the Animation Programme by the president of my community council, for the catering programme under the CSI and then he told me about the Animation Programme. I am happy that I joined up, because already I have learnt a lot from the programme, such as skills training,” she adds.
Sharing how much the Animation Programme has helped her community, Ms. Williams said that March Pen is no longer the same.
“March Pen was a troubled community, but it no longer is. When violence or conflicts occur, we just have to deal with them and do it in the right form. The CSI developed this Animation Programme, which I can’t stop saying that I am grateful for,” she states.
Ms. Williams is imploring Jamaicans to be less confrontational and, instead, talk out issues and, if they find that they can’t, to seek help.
Already two batches of persons have been trained for six weeks and, according to Director of the CSI, Patricia Balls, the programme has received overwhelming interest from the communities since its inception.
“We find that there are a number of communities that we did not have on our list, because we wanted to start with about eight. These communities would be those that the CSI and Peace Management Initiative (PMI) are already working in. But, we will be including communities such as Tivoli Gardens, because of the popular demand,” she says.
“Apart from having to widen the number of communities we have had, we also had to add some additional things to the programme, such as etiquette and protocol,” she states.
She says that there has also been an increase in the number of persons who have been recruited from the first batch to be trained as trainers.
“The first batch that we trained included over 40 persons, including eight members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. There are some persons who participated in the first session, and they have come back to be trained as trainers. So we are looking at training residents, as well as members of the JCF and persons from the Ministry of National Security, as master animators, so they too can take the message out”, she explains.
Miss Balls is urging the private sector to support the programme as it will benefit their businesses, tremendously. She also wants other communities to join the programme when it starts in their community.
“Our experience has shown that communities that participate wholeheartedly with us in our social intervention programmes, tend to be more stable than those who do not. The Animation Programme is one way of getting residents to work together, and to sensitise them as to how they can work together in their communities to address certain issues,” she emphasises.
The Animation Programme has already trained more than 80 persons from eight inner-city communities in Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine. The initial eight communities were March Pen, Trench Town, Highlight View, Dunkirk, Greenwich Town, Denham Town, Hannah Town, and August Town.
During September, the programme will roll into other communities, such as Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston.

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