At-risk youth in Mt Salem get summer camp
More than 150 at-risk youth in Mt Salem,
St James, are engaged in a summer holiday camp that is designed to keep them out of trouble while impacting their education and development. The youngsters range from ages four to 24.
"The camp is broken up into day and evening shifts. The day camp, which is held at the Mt Salem Primary and Junior High School has 130 children between the ages of four to 14. In the evening, there is an animation class at the resource centre for the additional 20 [youngsters] from ages 15 to 24," Venice Reid Williams of the Mt Salem Senior Citizens Group told The Gleaner.
The initiative is the brainchild of the Mt Salem Senior Citizens Group, which has spearheaded a number of summer camps over the years. This year, however, the group has partnered with the Mt Salem Community Development Committee (CDC), as well as the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), which is providing more than $1 million for the programme.
"Whereas in the other years we had to fend for ourselves or go to politicians to get help, this year, JSIF came on board, so we are able to enlarge our camp twice as many as before," said Williams. "We also believe that parents are recognising the value of the camp based on the drastic turnout of children. Normally, we would have to be begging persons to come, but now, each day we have more and more persons pouring in," she added.
Teachers from the National Youth Service, as well as the Citizen Security and Justice Programme have volunteered their service for the initiative. Representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, as well as elected government representatives, are also sup-porting the project.
"With these children being in a camp, they don't have to be running from here to there if something should happen in the streets. They are enclosed in a camp where they are safe and secure, and they are being taught something that adds to their education," noted Williams.
"This is also working with the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) initiative that is ongoing in the community. With our youths off the streets and in an enclosed environment, this will help the security forces to do a better to job. So this would be a plus for ZOSO and the community," she argued.
The Mt Salem Senior Citizens Group operates the day camp Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., while the Mt Salem CDC takes over the evening animation classes from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.