Rockfort fighting to leave gang violence in the past
Scores of residents of Rockfort, east Kingston, turned out early yesterday to access a number of social services on offer at a fair, even as the community continues to fight to shake off the shackles of gang violence that has held it captive for decades.
Some residents gathered at the community centre from as early as 5:30 a.m., long before the approximately 20 agencies had set up their booths for the day's activities.
"Last March, the Social Development Commission (SDC) partnered with the Rockfort Development Council (RDC) to do an assessment of the community issues. Five major issues came out of that," SDC field agent Alicia Bowen-McCulskie told The Gleaner.
Unemployment, crime, poor parenting, illiteracy and a lack of governance and involvement were the issues identified by the residents.
"In order to get someone on to an education programme, they need certification, they need the basic National Insurance Scheme, their taxpayer registration number and birth certificate. Most of these persons in the community don't have those basic documents. So that is what we are working on today, to increase the residents' access to some core services offered by government and non-government agencies."
A large number of the Rockfort residents are high-school dropouts, with many ending their schooling after the primary level. For this reason, entities such as the HEART Trust/NTA were critical to the fair, she said.
According to Bowen-McCulskie, "It's not just for persons to come here and sign up. We are going to be tracking the progress of the persons who participate to see if we can get them placed."
...Residents welcome the social intervention
The residents of Rockfort, east Kingston, were elated about the intervention they received yesterday at a fair hosted in their community. They were able to access a number of much-needed social services.
"I came today because I want to get my son on the PATH programme (Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education). Sometimes, I don't have it, to tell you the truth. I have been trying from he was a baby until now he is 15. It is just very hard for me because it's me alone," said Lurline Mackie, a resident.
For 70-year-old Wennetta Hall, "I come to get my pressure checked. They have medical checks for us here, but I am here seeking some help because I don't have anything to eat. So I think that this type of thing is good for we."
Sergeant Wickham Campbell, coordinator of the Community Safety and Security Branch for east Kingston, welcomed the initiative which, he said, was well needed in Rockfort's slow move away from decades of gang violence.
"Since the start of the year, we are happy for where it (crime) is. It can be better, but we are happy. If my memory serves me right, we have had no murders so far this year," said Campbell. "We have no gang issue in Rockfort. Most of our incidents are domestic violence."
He added, "We are very serious about domestic violence because of all the murders last year, I think domestic violence accounted for about 30 per cent overall. Whatever domestic issue we hear about, we are going to step on it same time because every case is a potential murder."