Wed | Jan 22, 2020

‘PMI let mi eat with knife and fork’ - Tel-Aviv residents praise body for community transformation

Published:Sunday | December 15, 2019 | 12:40 AMNadine Wilson-Harris - Staff Reporter
Tel-Aviv resident Wendy McGlashan says she has personally witnessed the transformation in the Corporate Area community since the Peace Management Initiative started working in sections of central Kingston in 2015.

The murder of his 17-year-old brother in central Kingston in 2017 was a horrible period for Howard Daley but, despite the terrible memories he has incurred while living in one of Jamaica’s tough inner cities, he also has some fond ones, like the first time he learnt how to eat with a knife and fork.

That experience came courtesy of the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), which took the 22-year-old Tel-Aviv resident and scores of other boys on a field trip to Ocho Rios, St Ann, that same year, in a bid to show them a different way of life.

“Mi eat with knife and fork, and mi don’t eat with knife and fork at my yard. A glass plate mi eat out of, and Wi-Fi and swimming pool [was there]. When I am here (Tel-Aviv), I don’t even know where to go get a swim, because if I go too far, a dead mi dead,” he said.

“Mi go pon all boat and all them things deh. Is a whole heap of us, all youths from other garrisons. We start correspond with each other and build back a unity. Youth from all Denham Town, Tivoli; all bout mi know youth now,” he shared with The Sunday Gleaner while standing at the intersection of Laws and Hanover streets in downtown Kingston, which in the past was a battleground.

After his brother’s murder, Daley grew very hopeless.

“It affected me a lot. It let me feel that I would just lose out more while, too. But from PMI come around, a little strength is there,” he said.

“Them take us and carry us go places and let us meet people, and let us see that change is there. Don’t feel like because of where you come from, you are going to hold back and say, ‘Yow, mi come from garrison, and it don’t good and nobody not going to want to hear mi’. Them make wi know say, yeah, people want to see you and know you in person,” said Daley, who was encouraged by the group to go back to school and has since graduated with certification in construction from HEART Trust/NTA.

Currently, Daley has a full-time job, and, in his own way, is making a contribution to the much-touted development of downtown Kingston through the construction company he now works for. He is happy that many of his friends have also been converted and have been more productive citizens following their interactions with members of the PMI.

LACK OF GOV’T FUNDING

“The PMI even start a little class programme where a day time, the majority of my friends gone to HEART and them things there, so you really don’t have any idling to do because everybody have a class to attend on a daily basis,” he explained.

Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang contends that social intervention programmes like the PMI have not been working. With no commitment for funding from the Government beyond March 2020, the 17-year-old organisation will have to cut back significantly on its offerings to more than 40 inner-city communities in Jamaica.

This news has devastated Wendy McGlashan, a resident of Tel-Aviv. She said she has personally witnessed the transformation in the community since the PMI started working in sections of central Kingston in 2015.

“You have man that usually kill them one another a walk past them one another, a hail up them one another. They may not sit down and drink, but them a walk past them one another. People feel more safe a walk. You couldn’t get me stand up here so one time, because right here was a shotta field. You couldn’t stand here for not even a second,” she said, while standing on Hanover Street.

Impressed with the work of the group, McGlashan decided to become a violence interrupter (VI) and advocate for peace in her community.

“From we step in, we started reasoning with the man them and make them know say, ‘Listen to me, it is two roads this leads to; it is either death or prison. If unno don’t done unno foolishness, police coming to kill unno’,” she said.

Andrew Payne, who lives in the nearby Southside community, decided to get involved with the PMI when the group came to his area to do a peace march in 2015. Since then, the community activist has been working assiduously to maintain the peace.

“What the PMI is doing is empowering the youths here to know that they should take responsibility for their community,” he said.

“What PMI does is to help you to better yourself and lead you in the right direction through schooling, training and even to get some form of employment,” he said.

The organisation will have to depend on international donors like UNICEF to continue to maintain a small staff.

The international organisation said the PMI is one of the few civil society organisations that work to reduce and mitigate violence against children through community-based efforts in highly volatile communities.

“The bulk of UNICEF’s support for PMI’s work focuses on the area where PMI plays a unique role – providing close support for youth who are at high risk of being recruited into gangs and criminal activities in an effort to lead them away from these paths. This involves a great investment of time and one-on-one efforts by trained violence interrupters and other community workers, as it involves shifting mindsets, countering strong negative influences, and providing youth who live in resource-deprived environments with viable income-generating opportunities to rival the promise of quick financial gains from illegal activities,” a representative from UNICEF noted.

“While the impact of this work takes time, we have seen some promising progress. In 2018 alone, PMI helped 460 high-risk youth 15–25 years old (all males) to disengage or refuse membership in gangs and provided them with counselling and other psychosocial interventions to help them cope with the impact of violence to which they are regularly exposed. The PMI also helped about 230 of these boys and young men with job-seeking, remedial education and vocational training opportunities. We believe that many of these adolescents would have followed a path of violence without PMI’s interventions,” the organisation said.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com