Author brings 360 degrees of influence, inspiration for Jamaica’s children
While Jamaica has had several intervention programmes for steering children away from negative behaviours and influences, author and publisher Dr Jermaine Gordon has aspired to positively influence children, their parents and teachers through his Inspiring Our Future 360 Degrees programme since its launch in 2015.
The programme, which has been taken into some 65 schools across Jamaica over the last four years, uses music and journaling activities for students up to the high-school and college level as a way of allowing them to express their thoughts and feelings. Parents and teachers are also targeted with the aim of helping them to better understand how to relate to the children under their care.
Gordon told The Sunday Gleaner that the programme started out of his desire to address society’s decrease in morality. According to him, he was inspired to create Inspiring Our Future after seeking divine wisdom on how to resolve that concern.
“I started this programme about four years ago, in response to some concerns I had when I looked at the society’s decaying morals and values. I asked myself, ‘What kind of intervention is necessary to fix some of these issues that we’re seeing coming from our young people’?” Gordon recalled.
“I sought the Lord and asked Him what I could do to help the society, and He said to me, ‘Use what I have given you, the arts.’ I am gifted in the arts, as I play various instruments, I do painting, and I am the author of colouring books and journals through a publishing company that I have.”
For this year, Gordon and his associates want to take the Inspiring Our Future programme to 200,000 children across Jamaica. Since January, they have gone to 24 schools in three different parishes, encouraging students to focus on forgiveness instead of taking revenge and acting violently against persons who have wronged them.
200,000 CHILDREN TO BE EXPOSED
“We want to expose at least 200,000 children to the programme this year, and we want to just go in and make presentations, use storytelling with music, and bring home our points and messages. We encourage forgiveness, and we talk about the fact that we’re advocates of forgiveness, because that is playing a key role in how our society behaves, where there’s a never-ending saga in which we retaliate,” Gordon explained.
“Since this year alone we have done about 24 schools in St James, St Catherine and Kingston. The feedback has been quite positive and tremendous, and even now we’re looking at how we can do more. The tools we use are both preventative and corrective, in terms of preventing potential violence and correcting it as well.”
Students who take part in the programme are encouraged to write in journals and play music as a means of redirecting their energies from violence and other negative outlets. The programme also analyses and provides assistance in developing the relationships students have with parents and teachers.
“We give the children journals that are for 40 days in which they are supposed to journal their issues. We encourage them to vent on the pages of their journal, so whatever is bothering you, instead of venting on another student, you vent on the page of your journal,” Gordon explained.
“When we say 360 degrees, we’re also looking at it from the parenting perspective, from the home perspective, from the school perspective, and in other areas where children interact,” Gordon added. “We want to impact parents and also teachers, those persons who impart information to children, because how many teachers know how to identify a gifted child versus thinking the child talks too much and needs to sit down?”
The objective of Gordon’s programme is similar to the Violence Prevention Alliance’s (VPA) Child Resiliency Programme, which began in 2006 as an outreach arm of the Hope United Church. That programme, which began operating out of the VPA in 2014, promotes the physical, social, cognitive, vocational, and moral competence of pre-adolescents.
There are also parallels to the Ministry of Justice’s child diversion programme, which is scheduled to be rolled out this month and is designed to steer children away from wayward activities.