Sports camp giving Jamaican youth hope
Football, swimming, and 'the chicken dance'? Those were among the activities at the 2016 Jamaican Advantage thru Sports for Youth (JASY) camp.
The camp, in its 10th year, was created to bring hope and joy, positively impacting the lives of at-risk Jamaican children from desperate conditions.
JASY was started by David McEneany, who has a background in volunteering with Special Olympics for 35 years. A friend suggested he take youth from Rochester, New York on a service trip to Jamaica. McEneany agreed wanted but it to be sport-based.
"It's a sports camp, but it's about using sports for positive youth character development," said McEneany. "Lots of the children are coming from remedial education programmes in schools run by St Patrick's Foundation. The teachers work with them all year long and then they nominate them to attend JASY camp as a reward for good behaviour."
Children come from Seaview, Riverton and Waterhouse and participate in: Caribbean Games (which includes dancing); football, swimming and arts and craft. But there's also some basketball and tennis.
The activities usually take place at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. This year, the group has been using the pool at the University of Technology (UTech). McEneany believes sports brings people together, but is surprised the camp has been around for a decade.
"We started small, with 60 children the first year. We've got 140 now," he laughed. This year, the week-long camp will reach the 1500th camper mark. JASY also does field trips and for the Junior JASY camps (preschoolers) and gives scholarships to senior high school students, as well as provides school books and supplies for the St Patrick's Foundation.
The 2016 camp started on May 16. JASY receives a grant from the American Friends of Jamaica, and some sponsorship from Sutherland Global Services. But the vast majority of its funding comes from donations, mostly from US citizens.
"It's been a great experience, it's something that I've always wanted to do and it gives me an opportunity to give back," he said. "Throughout the years, different persons have come aboard, some persons volunteer and make it their duty to come. Whenever they know JASY is around, my phone starts ringing."
Javon Orr went to the camp for three years and is now a volunteer.
"It is fun to see inner city children getting together and having fun," he said. "This is my second year volunteering and I really try to help them to have fun while playing games and being competitive at the same time," said Orr who is now at UTech studying information technology and computer science.