Mentorship project thrives in Boys' Town
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I found the editorial (Gleaner, February 6, 2015) very interesting as it outlined the challenges of moving forward after the Tivoli Gardens enquiry is completed. The editorial addressed a question: "Where is the mentorship programme in these communities to rescue young impressionable, often fatherless boys from the clutches of these evil influences?"
Boys' Town, which, incidentally, is celebrating its 75th anniversary, was established by Father Hugh Sherlock for that specific purpose. The concept is mentorship based on a 'big brother, little brother' system. Later in the 1970s, girls were included in the programme.
Dealing specifically with the boys, the late Collie Smith remains our main mentor, along with others like Carl Brown, Pops Anderson, Junior Lincoln, Gladstone Robinson, Victor Hunter and others both here and in the diaspora.
Over time, funding has affected the implementation of the programme, but in 2009, Canadian International Development Agency offered a two-year sponsorship that enabled us along with HEART, JFLL and NYS to target the 15-17 at-risk age group. Some 300 youngsters were prepared to sit the grade nine English and maths entrance examinations.
Some 80 per cent were successful in entering the HEART Academies, with the others being employed in various jobs. Twenty of the successful students were from Tivoli Gardens, which is a stone's throw away from Boys' Town. There is one particular success case from Tivoli of a young man who is the nephew of a person of influence who passed the HEART admission and is now a Level Three welder awaiting an overseas employment programme.
Apart from funding, we have challenges getting volunteers to act as mentors, so we have to concentrate on group mentorship, with known individuals addressing the students. We have also paired the HEART graduate with the present student body.