RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Voluntary Service: Boys' Town - a model for every community
Boys' Town has served over 75 years as a good example of partnership between government, private sector, civil society and community in promoting social development, particularly of children and youth; as well as promoting good governance at the community, local and national levels.
The idea for Boys' Town came out of a commission of enquiry in the 1930s, with the aim to establish work for young males in the prison system. After it was accepted and approved by the governor at the time, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), alongside Father Hugh Sherlock, broke ground at the Jones Town Baptist Church in 1940, for what was named the Kingston Boys' Club, before it moved to its current location in Trench Town, two years later.
The all-age school was established to accommodate 200 children, and sometime after that came youth/work integrated community development which, because of its reach, is occasionally confused with individual community-based programmes, community research, and other forms of community interventions.
Junior Lincoln, vice-chairman and president of the Boys' Town Old Boys'' Association, told The Gleaner: "In the 1980s, it became a matter of importance to meet with other organisations that come into the community, whether for an interest in sports, charitable outreach or cultural education and exchange, to show them Boys' Town can help to achieve the goals as a team in order to properly benefit the five districts that make up Trench Town. That's how the Community Development Committee (CDC) arm in association with Boys' Town was formed."
Now, some 1,000 individuals benefit from the Boys' Town Community Intervention Programme on a day-to-day basis. Areas of the programme incorporate the infant and primary school, after-school activities, vocational training, sports, scholarship support, community outreach, sports clubs, spiritual and cultural activities.
Developing the whole human being
The infant and primary school caters to 350 students; the HEART vocational training centre has a graduation number of 300 per year; the sports education facilities and clubs host another 300 youths; and about 40 to 50 persons are a part of the senior club at Boys' Town.
"The programme carries with it a three-prong model; it is a triangle of developing the whole human being to become a whole citizen. First is the spirit guided by a value system instead of denomination as we are not a church, but which gets the young people involved in Bible studies and various Sunday school programmes. Second is the mind tied into the education as well as the training and the cultural component. And, finally, the body, involved in sports and nutrition for the inner-city," said the organisation's chief executive officer, Trevor Spence.
The school and staff are funded by Ministry of Education, and Boys' Town partners with a number of stakeholders, including churches, service groups, and educational institutions across the island, HEART Trust/NTA, among other non-governmental and private-sector organisations, such as the CB Facey Foundation.
Its greatest resource, however, is the level of voluntarism from persons who have benefited, live in and around the community or have heard about the extensive programme and want to assist.
Many of Jamaica's local and international musicians and sportsmen (athletes and coaches) who have contributed to and positioned culture on the global map are products of Boys' Town. Some of them are Alton 'I'm Still in Love With You' Ellis; Joe Higgs known for tutoring Bob Marley and the Wailers; Hortense 'I'm Just a Girl' Ellis; Oneal Gordon Smith (Collie Smith); Locksley Comrie, past president of the Jamaica Football Federation; Carl Brown, professional footballer and coach.
Boys' Town is a model for other groups to follow, according to chairman, Professor Winston Davidson, "in the sense that the numerous successes have had great impact on all areas of cultural, social, economic and spiritual life in the inner city."
"When applied in the right way, it can create the conditions for the kind of sustainable development using the voluntarism of persons within the communities. One aspect of vital importance is how it
has given leadership in the communities in such a way as to reinforce and disseminate in the communities that are sustainable," said Davidson.
The objective of the diverse programmes provided by Boys' Town is made clear in its vision statement: "To empower people and communities and contribute to nation-building through development of human potential and training in responsible citizenship."