JIS News

Although they have been serving for decades, the work of organizations such as the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Boys Brigade, the Scouts Association and the Girl Guides Association oftentimes go unnoticed.
However, they continue to play a pivotal role instilling such values as discipline, commitment and dedication in the nation’s young people and even with changing times, are still meeting the needs of today’s youth.
Chief Commissioner of the Girl Guides, Lillyclaire Bellamy, tells JIS News that the organization has been able to remain topical throughout the over 90 years of its existence, to keep up with the changing times.
“We have things that are topical.there is extra focus on HIV/AIDS awareness, and we have been encouraging girls to work on getting their HIV/AIDS awareness badges. We give service to make people feel and be useful, we have continuously explore the arts and if you are a loner, there is a place for you in guiding, as we encourage people to think for themselves and to develop decision-making skills. From a young age the girls get a chance to play a part in the decision-making in the organization, so it is really about shared involvement and shared experience in guiding,” Miss Bellamy informs.
A strong religious base has also been credited for the organization’s longevity in working with young people in Jamaica.
“Here at the Girl Guides we seek to develop the full potential of our members and everyone makes a promise towards ‘Duty to God and Duty to Country’ and to help other people as well as to keep the Guide laws. These are basically 10 laws, which look at good living, and even though our society is changing, the tenets of guiding are basic and fundamental that we can utilize them. They go with time, they are not static,” the Commissioner notes.
The Girls Brigade also shares the importance of religion, and National Organizer, Blossom Hoad, tells JIS News that supported by a good structure of accountability and having the girls witness to the standards of Christianity, the Girls Brigade has managed to serve the young people in Jamaica for more than 90 years.
“We are driven by the aim to make the girls responsible and we have always maintained our philosophy of having them witness to the standards set by Jesus,” Mrs. Hoad emphasises. In order to meet the needs of today’s young people, the organizations have had to keep current and relevant.
Mrs. Hoad outlines some of the programmes that the Girls Brigade have put in place to stay current. “We are divided into three divisions and we focus on the spiritual, and carry out community services. We distribute booklets to guide young people, we visit children’s homes as well as the elderly and comb their hair, so we are doing things to ensure our young people give back to the community,” she tells JIS News.
Meanwhile Miss Bellamy citing the longevity of the Girl Guides, Miss Bellamy stresses that the organisation is also not static. “We change.what we were doing in 1950, we aren’t doing now and if we are doing it, we are doing it in a totally different way,” she adds.
Another feature that has kept these clubs going and continuously giving to the nation’s young people has been the achievements of its members.
“It is such a joy to see the girls achieving their dreams and seeing their efforts bear fruits. We have seen our girls get awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh award and we have several outstanding past members,” Mrs. Hoad tells JIS News.
Miss Bellamy also informs that the achievements of the Girl Guides have helped significantly to sustain and garner support from present and past members.
“Recently we had a representative in the Youth Parliament, and two of our guiders recently won International Youth Year Awards for service in St Andrew. Another recent achievement has been the appointment of one of our guiders to the position of Public Relations Officer on the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) Board,” the Chief Commissioner informs.
The organizations carry out several activities with their members, including community service, skills training and various voluntary missions.
Easton Daley, National Organizer of the Boys Brigade tells JIS News of some of the activities which the organization carries out, including a prison ministry.
“We focus on skills training, wherein we teach the boys leather work, badge work, we train them in first aid methods and we also do voluntary service in the form of a prison ministry in which our boys go into the prisons and witness to the inmates as well as do counselling,” he explains.
He also says the Brigade is also actively involved in doing community service with the elderly. The organizations have not existed without their challenges, with inadequate funding on top of the list.
“Funding has been a chronic problem for us. Organizations like ours receive subventions from the Government but of course this is oftentimes not enough to meet our agendas,” Mr. Daley tells JIS News.
He points out that the organization has had to conduct fund-raising events to meet the shortfall. “We have our yearly fish fries and next year we will be having a regional fellowship camp where groups from across the Caribbean will come together and carry out various activities,” he explains.
The challenges vary from club to club. Mrs. Hoad tells JIS News that for the Girls Brigade, the problems include getting support from past members as well as increasing the number within the organization.
“We are calling on those past members who have benefited from such scholarships as the Mayhard Scholarship Fund as well as bursaries, to remember these good deeds and look to give back to the country and the Brigade,” she urges.
She also says the organization is in need of new members and is calling on interested persons to get involved.
“In March 2006, we will be having a big fair in Kingston and we are looking for support, so we are calling on all interested potential members and donors for their support,” she says. Meanwhile, Miss Bellamy says one of the problems facing the Girl Guides is finding suitable and capable adult leaders.
“Part of our challenge is in getting enough adult leaders, because there is a great demand among the girls for guiding, but it’s finding sufficient and capable female adult leaders that’s the challenge,” she points out.
“We are, however, hoping that for next year we will be able to identify some persons who can work with us on a full time basis and who can go around the island to assist existing leaders to start the movement in schools and communities. The persons do not have to be middle age women as girls 18 and 19 can lead brownies or guides and so we’re going to be encouraging women in that age group to really become more actively involved in leadership roles in the movement,” Miss Bellamy says.
Plans and strategies are being considered to expand the reach of youth organizations as well as their operations, including a possible merger of long serving organizations such as the Girl Guides, the Girls’ Brigade, the Boys’ Brigade and the Scouts Association of Jamaica in order to garner increased financial and membership support.
“We are trying to merge the organizations and get them to work together, this has been in the works for a while. It is not an easy thing to merge these organizations as they have their own individual plans to expand themselves, but we are earnestly looking into this venture,” Mr. Daley says.
He tells JIS News that for the Boys Brigade, there are plans afoot to build a multi-purpose building for the boys. The facility will include living quarters to accommodate the boys as well as facilities for conduct skills training.
“We are also looking to increase our numbers to about 3,000 within the next four years and really and truly to get the organization back to its hey days. We are on the move, there are good things happening and we will continue to instill discipline in our boys to make them better men,” Mr. Daley emphasises.
Miss Bellamy tells JIS News that the Girl Guides is open to all interested persons, irrespective of race or religion. “We are open to everybody, there is no special criteria. You can be a Christian, Muslim or Hindu. We are about helping the young ladies to discover hidden talents and who knows, you could become an outstanding member of society,” she says. As for the Girls Brigade, Mrs. Hoad informs that a new action plan is being drafted by the organization to help gain funding, garner support from past members and for the girls to become more project oriented.
“We are looking to carry on our good relation with the youth in the country and to continue achieving and helping our girls to achieve their goals and dreams,” she notes.