Violence Prevention Alliance Empowering Young People


The Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) is continuing to empower youths from inner-city communities through the use of technology to help them improve their skills and interpersonal relationships.
This time it is through the use of the Autoskills computer software, the acquisition of which was funded through partnership with the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Foundation. The JNBS Foundation purchased the software licence for
$1.4 million last year for use in several community centres.
The computer software provides users with an individualized, highly effective and scalable literacy intervention solution. It is designed to help struggling students of all ages, skills and abilities, to master the fundamental skills of reading. The Autoskills products use a research-based approach that is proven to generate significant and sustainable gains for at-risk students of all ages.
It is currently being used in several learning centres established by the VPA in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, in a number of inner-city communities including Tel Aviv, Jones Town and Rose Town. It is also being used in the JNBS Foundation’s network of all-inclusive resource centres, which provide a stimulating learning environment for youngsters, in four communities – August Town, Maverly, Treasure Beach and Ocho Rios.
Special Projects Manager JNBS Foundation, Mrs. Claire Harrisingh, said that as a result of the use of Autoskills, many young persons have made significant improvement in their literacy and numeracy skills and increased their self-confidence.
“In Maverley and Treasure Beach, the stigma of illiteracy or difficulty with reading has been removed by providing this (software), which simultaneously improves computer literacy,” Mrs. Harrisingh stated.
The St. Andrew South police division recently received two resource centres and Inspector Linval Phoenix, said the facilities would “certainly complement our community policing strategies, as we seek to target at-risk young males, so we can help to channel their energies into more productive areas.”
Chairman of the VPA, Dr. Elizabeth Ward, in the meantime, stated that the project is about using technology to bring harmony to the communities. She noted that violence places pressure on the country’s infrastructure.
“Violence continues to be the leading cause of death among males, costing the health sector more than $2 billion annually to treat injuries resulting from violence,” she pointed out.
Dr. Ward noted that the young people have already reaped a “host of benefits” from the programme, particularly males, many of whom were only functionally literate.
“Many young people have been empowered by the knowledge they gain, and it impacts positively on their attitudes. Many of them have also been able to find jobs as a result,” she said.
In addition to the literacy and computer skills the youngsters gain, the programme provides linkages to entrepreneurial and job placement opportunities, as well as skills training through the HEART Trust/National Training Agency.
Launched in 2004, the VPA is a network of government, non-governmental and community-based organisations, private, international and inter-governmental agencies working together to create a violence-free Jamaica.

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