Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Social interventions can fix communities, says Sweeney

Published:Thursday | October 26, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Deputy Chairman, Zones of Special Operations Social Intervention Committee and Managing Director, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, Omar Sweeney.

Effective implementation of community-redevelopment, citizen security, and public-safety initiatives can significantly transform vulnerable and volatile communities, stated Omar Sweeney, deputy chairman of the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs) Social Intervention Committee.

Sweeney pointed out that communities have already been benefiting from social-intervention activities and engagements being undertaken by various government agencies as a means of effecting positive changes.

He said that through the work of the committee, the agencies that are operating in these volatile areas every day "will now have a coordinated approach in providing the intervention that is needed, whether through work on the physical environment, skills and educational development, or social services".

Sweeney said that the social-intervention activities being implemented in Mount Salem in St James, where the first ZOSO is in effect, are expected to serve as the blueprint for similar activities in other areas.

He noted that three major areas of focus were identified for Mount Salem: enhancement of the physical environment, youth-engagement programmes, and civil registration.

In terms of the physical environment, he said that initiatives are focused on sanitation, solid-waste removal, utility regularisation, bushing, improving road conditions, and street lighting for public safety.


Youth programmes


As it relates to youth programmes and training initiatives, Sweeney said that "we identified a strong youthful population there, especially within the age range of 15 to 24 years, and a number of youth within the community need to be attached to programmes, whether secondary school, vocational, tertiary, internships, and jobs".

He said that "once we put them in the programme and they have matriculated out of the programme, we say to these entities and employers that we are the reference - I know where this person lives; I know where they come from; I know what they have been trained in".

Sweeney added that with this approach, the youth will develop trust and confidence in the system, knowing that their address will not be an inhibitor after they have invested their time and effort in a training programme.

In addition, he noted, they would have seen others in the community getting sustainable jobs and engagements after they have gone through these state-provided programmes.

Sweeney said that the objective of the interventions is to effect change and provide relief to residents. He said that the services being delivered will empower people to solve their own problems and, ultimately, uplift their community.

"When you leave a community such as Mount Salem, you want to return and see the community almost empty in the daytime because those people are at jobs, there is good infrastructure, there is social cohesion within the community, and there are no zinc-fence structures, but (instead) lines of visibility where you can interact from your home to the street," he said.