KINGSTON — West Kingston residents now have a victim support and counselling centre, where they can benefit from expert mediation and receive psychological and emotional support.
Established as a response to the May 2011 operation by the security forces in the area, the centre is staffed by counsellors provided by the Ministry of Justice’s Victim Support Unit as well as volunteers, and provides general and crisis counselling for community members, proactive and reactive mediation and parenting education support.
"We intend to extend the days and provide other types of services, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and others who may come in alliance with counselling services,” said Senior Coordinator at the VSU, Rev Osbourne Bailey.
Volunteer at the centre, 24 year old Jodi-Ann Bowie, a clinical mental specialist, says the objective of the facility can be met, but that it will require more trained persons to become involved it its work, which covers a wide area including psychotherapy as well as individual, group and family counselling.
"We see persons who have had significant others in their family who have been victims of violent crimes. We also see persons who have been in accidents, but it is mainly persons who have had traumatic or frightening experiences," she explained.
She is urging volunteers, especially persons trained in counselling, to give even a few hours a week to these people who need it.
Expressing his vision for the use of the centre, former Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for West Kingston, Hon. Bruce Golding, suggested that it could be used to uplift the area.
"We can look at this counselling centre as a means of not just addressing the stresses that are caused when people are victims of crime or atrocities of one sort or another, but how this facility can also be used to help to transform the lives of West Kingston people, and help to transform the perception that is held, and a perception that has held them back,” he states.
Mr. Golding pleaded for "a deliberate effort" to engage the community, when the facilities are being developed and the services are being rolled out.
"They are persons like everyone else who need to work, who want to see their children grow up and become honest hardworking citizens, and there is no reason why a perception of them should be anything other than that,” said Rev Bailey, who is also a member of the community.
Jodi-Ann Bowie believes that a lot needs to be done to remove the stigma associated with seeking treatment, and seeking counselling for those problems.
"Over time, if we get the support of the community and, once persons are educated and are aware of the services that we provide and they see that it is working, we can definitely help in a tremendous way,’ she predicted.
The West Kingston Satellite Counselling Centre was made possible through a partnership between the Ministry of Justice, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Open Bible Standard Churches, among other agencies.
The Justice Ministry instituted the Victim Support Unit (VSU) to facilitate ‘Healing and Justice for all Victims of Crime’, and to help them understand that others care about them, and that the ministry is reaching out not only to prosecute offenders, but also to assist those who suffer from the attacks that may take place,” said Minister of Justice, Hon Delroy Chuck.
Through its provision and administration of various programmes of therapeutic intervention, the VSU assists persons against whom certain offences have been committed. It is also committed to the best interests of the victims, by actively supporting them, identifying their needs and advocating their rights. The Unit is now in its 13th year.
Chief Executive Officer of the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF), Donna Parchment-Brown, in an interview with JIS News, ranks the unit as one of the important national institutions.
“It has been doing fantastic work, in partnership with other organizations… recognizing the victim is a critical part of preventing escalation when people suffer,” she noted.
In imploring communities to make use of the West Kingston facility, the DRF head states that personnel from the VSU, and others, will assist in lessening tensions and conflicts in the area, once the residents utilize the expert services.
"There will be victim support services, the Child Development Agency, the Dispute Resolution Foundation and a number of other partners. Counselling is an area that requires a great deal of expertise and that is what the staff members and the trained volunteers bring to the table, here in West Kingston," Mrs. Parchment-Brown stated.
The centre came on stream “as part of a multi agency grouping to address the deep hurt and trauma suffered by significant sections of the community, and to assist the community in returning to being a safe place,” stated Director of Crime Prevention and Safety at the Ministry of National Security, Courtney Brown.
He outlined that the "joined up" actions generated around the project, demonstrates that when different groups, with the same aim, pool their resources they can better tackle challenges.
"The end result is a counselling centre/solution close to the source of the problem, serving people in need within their community that any of the partners, by themselves, would have had great difficulty delivering. This is sustainability, and will be of little burden on the recurrent budget of the Government,” Mr. Brown said.
Deacon Eric Hosin, of the Open Bible Church, states that acquiring the premises at 54A Spanish Town Road to house the centre was a strategic move, as it is a point where several West Kingston communities meet.
"The location of our social outreach centre is strategic, as it provides easy access for several communities to the services offered now and in the future,” Deacon Hosin said.
ByGarfield L. Angus, JIS Reporter