JIS News

The Ministry of Health’s ‘Teens are Terrific’ Summer Camp is taking teenagers to a whole new level. This is the view widely expressed by teenagers and youth programme Co-ordinators from the six inner-city communities in the Corporate Area, who participated in this year’s one-week event.
“We are especially proud of our young men,” says Director, Health Promotion and Education in the Ministry of Health, Takese Foga, who co-ordinated the camp.
“Even though our ladies continue to impress us, the young men have really stepped it up a notch or two this year,” she tells JIS News in an interview.
Speaking of the phenomenal achievement she has observed in young male participants, Miss Foga says that, “we know they have been faced with many things, some of them have been involved in fights and are face-to-face with individuals in their communities who may be reinforcing negative and aggressive behaviour, so to see them come to the camp and even hear them speak differently, trying to make a difference, we see where it has made a difference between when they came and when they left”.
For instance, when 17 year-old Mikhail Wedderburn returned from the camp last year, he believed that he benefited from it so much that he hoped that more of his peers in Arnett Gardens could have the same “life changing experience” he had.
This year he got his wish, as some 47 youngsters between 13 and 17 years of age from the Corporate Area, many of whom he knew, were selected to attend the all expense paid summer camp.
“Before the camp, I never used to talk much, but afterwards, I realised I was much more confident talking before people and expressing myself more,” Mikhail says.
Even more, he was crowned Mr. Terrific Teen at this year’s camp. Of this experience, he says, with a smile, that he “never knew he had the potential to win a competition of this kind, especially since it involved an interview on stage”. The young man says he was pleasantly surprised, and has come away with a wealth of new life skills, which he believes, will make him a better person.
Outlining how the scope of the camp was widened, Miss Foga Tells JIS News that, “this year, we looked at persons from the different communities that our unit has worked with before, such as Hannah Town, Rose Town, Jones Town, Arnett Gardens, August Town, the Bay Farm Road area and Olympic Gardens”.
The camp, which was held from August 13 to 19 on the grounds of the Knox High School in Spaldings, Clarendon, was sponsored by the Ministry of Health.
Miss Foga says that she expected this kind of embracing reception to the camp, as over the last three years in the 21-year camp, “greater emphasis was placed on involving as many inner city communities as possible on a budget”. Some $1 million was allocated to the funding of the camp.
“The goal of the camp was to provide a source of positive social influence primarily, but not exclusively, for inner-city youth from low income families that will enhance self-esteem, build self confidence, develop and improve relationships with youth and adults from diverse backgrounds, and lead to personal, social development,” she tells JIS News.
She says that the camp is seeking to remedy issues affecting teenagers, who may lack community and parental support to stem societal problems daily.
“Teenagers are impressionable and react rapidly to stimulus. As individuals, they need a general and personalized plan with their decision- making, to develop their inherent qualities. And, besides academics, children need to learn practical living skills, and spiritual practices, which provide a foundation for living in society as useful adults,” she adds.
Miss Foga says she is impressed with the feedback from participants. “They are a lot more focussed and they appreciate who they are. They have better ideas of how they can impact their communities,” she says.
Notwithstanding their backgrounds and daily experiences, “teens are capable of choosing healthy lifestyles and, through our many community partners, the ‘Teens Are Terrific’ camp provides the tools to foster a healthy transition into adulthood”, Miss Foga tells JIS News.
According to Marlene Rowe, President of the Bay Farm Villas Citizens Association in West Central St. Andrew, there has been, over the 21 years of the camp, marked improvement in the behaviour of teenagers in the area and this year was no different.
“They keep talking about it, especially how it will help as they start the new school year,” she tells JIS News.
Miss Rowe says she believes that, “guidelines for teenage behaviour at home and at school should be set by the parents”, but since this is somewhat lacking in her community, the camp “was a ray of hope for them; it was very helpful and next year I would not mind if more of them can participate, because we see how it has impacted the young people who went”.
“As adults, we have golden opportunities like Teens are Terrific to inspire and bring out the best in our teens who are the next generation. It would have been great to be able to practise much of what was done at the camp, to uplift our teens through our words and actions, but not everyone is equipped to do so,” says Miss Rowe, intimating that although this is a move in the right direction, she would appreciate more initiatives that involve parents.
Meanwhile, General Manager of the Area Youth Foundation, James Bell, tells JIS News that he has benefited from the fact that some 20 young persons under his care were involved in the camp. He says that over time, he realised that non-aggressive means of enforcement was more effective.
“When enforcing our rules, we do not always have to play the tyrant. We can give in on small points. Then when the big problems come, we can stick to our principles without the child feeling that we are never flexible. This attitude, a compromise, shows the teens that each event in life requires individual consideration, that one pathway will not be the wisest choice in each situation,” Mr. Bell says.
Furthermore, Miss Foga says the unit intends to do follow-ups on this year’s participants to sustain the positive changes in the lives of the youngsters.”This will give us a better glimpse of how different they are now from where they started. This way we will be able to see that they progress beyond what they accomplished at the camp, growing every month, every year,” she tells JIS News.