Inmates celebrate International Men's Day
Though they are locked away from society, 30 inmates at the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, yesterday graduated from the Fathering Behind Bars Training Programme, put on by the Men of God Against Violence and Abuse (MOGAVA).
The Reverend Jayson Downer, president and founder of MOGAVA, said the graduation ceremony was even more significant, in light of the fact that the world was celebrating International Men's Day.
The eight-week programme - which involved courses titled Accepting the Past-Engaging the Present, Impacting the Future, and Changing Mindsets - was targeted at assisting men impact the world and, most important, become better fathers.
"We know there are men who are negligent and irresponsible, but I also know that there are a lot more men playing their roles. Even the ones who have made mistakes and are trying to make a change and that's what this programme was all about," Downer said.
"The aim was really to remind, equip and teach fathers of their roles and responsibilities, even while being incarcerated. When we started, I was informed that for a programme like this, if you want 20 persons, ask for 30 persons because it will eventually dwindle, but we can proudly say that what we saw was an increase," he said.
"We see men get emotional when they think of the number of years they have been disconnected from their children. There was one, in particular, who told his 28-year-old son for the first time that he loved him. These are the changes we are seeing," Downer continued.
Downer, who disclosed that his father was also incarcerated when he was a child, said he is an example of an individual rising above the odds, despite not having a male role model around.
"When I was a toddler, I kept asking where my father was and my mother would say to me dat him de a 'farin' (United States). At age 10, they eventually told me that he was in prison, so he wasn't around as a child. He would send messages through my sisters, and so I know that these things can have an impact on a child's life," he declared.
The Reverend Courtney Morrison, chairman of MOGAVA, indicated that the start to any difference in society will have to begin with changing how men are socialised.
"We have a passion for seeing men being restored into the image of God, and the message basically is that better must come, and one which says that you should be free to give love. It's a concept of MOGAVA," he said.
"Most fathers will tell their daughters that they love them, but when it comes to their sons, they become sceptical, and it is a culture we have to change. We are encouraging fathers - even in their state now - to stay in touch with their children," Morrison charged.
"Persons were of the view that children under a certain age could not visit their fathers, but no such law exists. We didn't have any dropouts, and we ensured that there is sustainability, thanks to LASCO. We have seen men turn around, change in mindsets, and I am confident they will have a positive impact on the world," the chairman said.