Social intervention initiative impacting young men in St James
The Ministry of National Security, through the 'Goals for Peace' (GFP) social intervention initiative, is achieving positive behaviour change among young men in Montego Bay, St James.
The GFP initiative is a collaboration between the Ministry's Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) and the 'I AM Voluntourism' programme, which engages neighbouring communities in St James through football tournaments and social development workshops.
Its aim is to educate and motivate young men to become agents of peace in their communities, located mainly in tourist areas.
The programme focuses on the development of positive values and attitudes through lessons in conflict resolution, problem-solving and life skills.
The GFP initiative caters to approximately 1,100 boys between the ages of 12 and 18 from different communities in St James, such as Canterbury, North Gully, Norwood, Mt Salem, Green Pond, Anchovy, Flanker, Granville, Adelphi, Lilliput, Barrett Town, Bogue Hill and Retirement.
There are football games within communities, and tournaments featuring communities against each other.
According to Minister of State in the Ministry Rudyard Spencer, the programme, which began in September 2017, is one of the many strategies the ministry has been employing to engage young men in challenged communities.
He points out that the programme has been a successful method of youth engagement that reduces opportunities for crime and violence through its multidimensional interventions.
"It is critical that we intercept and prevent the recruitment of our youth into gangs. These initiatives target vulnerable and 'at-risk' individuals, such as young offenders and unattached youth, and are directly aligned with crime prevention through the Social Development Pillar of the Ministry's Five-Pillar Crime Reduction Strategy," Spencer explains.
He notes that although only 15 communities participated in the football tournaments, "the behaviour change and maturity displayed when these boys take part in a healthy competition is what fosters peace".
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of I AM Voluntourism, Christopher Rose, tells JIS News that sports can be used as a vehicle to develop Jamaica's youth.
"Football has been shown to be powerful in creating harmony in some of the most depressed areas. We want to give youngsters the opportunity to avoid the pitfalls of their older siblings and friends by creating positive habits for them while developing their athletic abilities," Rose says.
Following the success of the tournaments across St James, the ministry, CSJP and I AM Voluntourism have partnered to coordinate training clinics for persons from the various communities to be groomed as leaders.
"We recruited at least 24 persons from each community to train them as mentors and or football coaches, so they can become internationally licensed coaches and role models for members of their community. The aim is to have sustainable peace; therefore, these persons are equipped with skills such as conflict resolution, the ability to instil positive affirmations in others while developing positive habits and their athletic talent," the CEO explains.
Rose says the reception to the initiative from community members has been positive.
"People are so impressed by the impact of the work we have done that they have started to have training in the communities on their own, as they have caught on to our vision," he adds.
Rose also notes that a future component for the programme is the establishment of a football academy in St James.
"We will recruit potential beneficiaries from among the players in the GFP programme to be a part of the academy. These talented players will have the opportunity to develop and showcase their skills locally and abroad," Rose says.
The expansion will also introduce a tutoring aspect to the programme through a partnership with the Peace Management Initiative. This is expected to give the young men a well-rounded experience, balancing the growth between their academic and athletic potential.
"The intention is to prepare them to access scholarships, so we will be assisting them with improving their grades to meet the necessary requirements. We will also be seeking opportunities for players who want to become professional footballers," the CEO tells JIS News.