Wed | Jun 19, 2019

Work of Teen Hub lauded

Published:Monday | May 27, 2019 | 12:21 AM
AT LEFT: Outreach officer at the Teen Hub, Jerome Edwards (second left), and Centre Manager Nicola Walker (third left) engage students at the Half-Way Tree facility in St Andrew.
AT LEFT: Outreach officer at the Teen Hub, Jerome Edwards (second left), and Centre Manager Nicola Walker (third left) engage students at the Half-Way Tree facility in St Andrew.

Several adolescents are lauding the work of the Teen Hub, which was established at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre more than a year ago, to offer career guidance and clinical services to youngsters who frequent the facility.

It was introduced as a response to reports of negative behaviours, including violence, truancy, and risky sexual practices by adolescents, and also as a space for young people commuting the Kingston and St Andrew and the St Catherine metropolitan areas to access educational and social services, help with their homework, research facilities, and mental-health support.

“Without the help of my counsellor, Jerome Edwards, I wouldn’t be this mature now. I am really glad that this institution brought him here so I could be where I am now,” fifth-form student Saliha Bogle said.

She added that the free Internet at the Hub, which is manned by certified counsellors and peer educators, has helped greatly in her examination preparation, and enabled her to get full marks for her school-based assessment work.

“The Teen Hub is a very valuable place, and I don’t think it should be closed down anytime soon, because it is very helpful to the younger ones. It can help and build them to be better persons; and to know that you have a place to always rely on to do your work and get counselling,” Bogle said.

Non-traditional Access Point

The Teen Hub commenced operation in April 2017 as a non-traditional access point, offering several counselling services, career guidance and support to youngsters and their parents, where necessary.

It is a partnership among the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

For Akeem Kent, going to the Hub has helped to improve his social skills and “to get along better with others”.

“When I have difficult tasks, Uncle Jerome and Auntie Nicola (Walker) will help, or they will find someone to assist,” he says.

For Alton Curtis, the Hub is a “good place”, as it helps him to gain important information and to learn from other persons, while Kevanese Lodge said that outreach officer Jerome Edwards and Centre Manager Nicola Walker “are persons that you can talk to”.

“If you have an issue, you can go to them, and if you want somebody to talk to like a friend, you can go to them,” Lodge said.

LEARNING NEW THINGS

Another student, Natascia Bowen, shared that she has learnt new things at the facility, and that confidentiality at the Hub is very high.

She said without that space, she believes that during schooldays more children would be exposed to smoking and other harmful practices.

The Hub is fitted with computers, a television, whiteboards and counselling rooms. There is also a waiting area.

On average, some 50 adolescents visit the Hub daily, and during 2018, some 6,000 young persons accessed the services that it offers.

Operating under the health and wellness ministry’s Adolescent Programme, the Hub’s main focus is on career development, mediation efforts, mental health screening and counselling, and HIV counselling and testing for adolescents 16 years and older.

Walker said that youth can walk in and get counselling from a trained professional, and that all the empowerment sessions are geared at giving positive messages to the youngsters so that they can handle the various issues that they face.

“We deal with coping skills, grief management and behavioural change. Some of our teens would be going through situations with their parents. They would mention that they want to run away, and you have to stop that and let them see the ills of running away and what could happen to them. We teach them how to develop a conversation with their parents,” she said.

Walker also includes mediation interventions at the Transport Centre, where students often have confrontations.

She noted that security officials at the centre have reported that a lot of the youth who were once troublemakers are now spending their time at the Hub.

Meanwhile, coordinator for the ministry’s Adolescent Programme, Joy Chambers, said discussions are taking place to establish a Hub in western Jamaica, and that over the next month, they will be utilising technology to offer the services to youngsters in other parts of the island.