Sat | Jan 19, 2019

Gleaner Editors’ Forum | Volunteers stumped by crime

Published:Monday | October 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Neville Whittaker
Joan Andrea Hutchinson
Eleanor Jones

Scores of Jamaicans with a desire to volunteer in the communities most in need of their services are not doing so because of fear of crime.

This was underscored last week by four persons who have spent countless numbers of hours volunteering across the island and will be awarded today for their service to the nation at the National Honours and Awards ceremony at King's House in St Andrew.

Trade unionist Senator Kavan Gayle; storyteller and cultural icon Joan Andrea Hutchinson; educator and parish councillor Neville Whittaker; and environmentalist Eleanor Jones last Friday shared concerns about the impact of crime on Jamaicans who want to volunteer.

Among the most gripping stories was one from Whittaker, who shared his experience of volunteering to teach an evening class that was invaded by an armed man attempting to rob the persons there.




According to Whittaker, two frightened students dove to the floor and held on to his feet, preventing him from fleeing as an armed cop, who was also a student, opened fire on the would-be robber.

"After that incident, nobody was willing to come back to evening class anymore. So even if I was willing to go back, the students were too fearful to come. So it has robbed them of their quest to advance themselves," said Whittaker.

"Violence has had an impact. It has impacted so many things, and even if you want to continue volunteerism, depending on the area, you are not going to get people coming out after an incident such as what I went through," stated Whittaker.

Crime also cut short efforts by decorated cultural honouree Joan Andrea Hutchinson to teach literacy in an inner-city community.

"When I came back to Jamaica, I met a helper who couldn't read and who lived in Trench Town. I went down to Operation Restoration and started literacy classes. At first, persons were suspicious, asking, 'Who is this stranger?'

"Three persons came to classes, but when they realised the classes were fun, then suddenly [more] started coming. I did that for about eight months, and then the violence erupted in the community, and that stopped me from continuing," Hutchinson told the forum.

Jones concurred on the effects of crime and violence and bemoaned how it has prevented individuals from benefiting from the experience and generosity of many Jamaicans.

"You realise you can't broad-brush, but crime and violence is a major, major problem," said Jones.