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The Honourable Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, speaking at the Possibility Programme Christmas Dinner last evening, said she was “making a special appeal to the private sector to join us in this very important effort.”
Minister Grange noted that the Possibility Programme had taken in some 500 street boys and had helped to connect a number of them to the traditional educational system while assisting the majority to learn skills and to be certified through the HEART/NTA.
“However, our concern is that while the Programme has very good intentions, it has not made the impact that we would like to see on the twin-problem of street children and child labour.”
The Minister said funding was still a major problem in light of the fact that the children were coming on to the streets much faster than the programme could cope with them.
She said the Prime Minister has made public his personal disappointment with the degree of attention paid to the Possibility Programme and that she had no doubt that the Programme will be given special attention in 2009-2010 Budget.
“But the fact is that a programme like this will need much more than government funding. Don’t worry about the returns. The returns are invaluable and transparent, in the context of the crimes and the level of violence and extortion affecting the environment, and the businesses themselves.” Minister Grange said she would continue to rely on the zeal, commitment and experience of those who have been playing important roles over the years, and the network provided by their NGOs.
She said that as the Minister who now has responsibility for the programme, “I am determined to make it a success. I intend to bring all the parties together, so that we can create a national partnership to save our youth.
“We will be re-assessing and re-organizing it in order to provide much more effective intervention for the street boys because they are some of the most vulnerable and dysfunctional children in the society. I promise the girls that I will be looking at the possibility of extending this programme to include you too.”
The Minister commended the staff and board of directors of the Possibility Programme for their “tireless efforts” to improve the lives young men taken from the streets.