Street boys turn their lives around
Several students who are involved in the Possibility Programme - a multi-agency project aimed at providing support for children and youth at risk - have been performing well socially and academically despite their challenges. These boys, who are residents of the Possibility Hostel and attend prominent high schools in Kingston and St Andrew, aced their recent Caribbean Examinations Council examinations.
One boy who sat 10 subjects was successful with six grade one and four grade two passes, while another attained seven grade one and three grade two passes. Another student placed first in his class, with term and examination grades averaging A and B passes.
According to director Lolita Phillips, the objective of the programme is to assist in the reintegration of street children and at-risk youth with their families and/or schools where possible, in order to improve their life chances.
Phillips is happy that the boys enrolled in the project are doing well, which she says speaks volumes to the programme's rehabilitative efforts that include education and skills training.
"We are providing a service and we want to make sure that the boys that are here are doing well. They do not have to be very academic but we ensure that they are provided for, ensuring that their spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being are taken care of," said Phillips.
There are four intervention components designed to address the challenges of the target group. These are a care centre, skills employment and training centre, annual resocialisation camps and a youth hostel.
The care centre acts as the intake facility. It is where youths are assessed for placement. If the individual is six to 15 years old and is assessed as unable to read, the staff will decide if there is a need to get in touch with the family and find out why he has dropped out of school, and if there is a possibility of reintegration into the regular school system.
Youth who would not be able to function effectively in the regular school system would be encouraged to stay at the facility, because there is one-to-one remedial work that can be done.
However, if the youth is over the age of 15 and requires remedial work, he is referred to the Skills Training and Employment Centre, where he will get remedial classes and gain a hands-on skill. The combination of literacy and skills training is more suited to these individuals.
For the boys who have nowhere to live, they are assessed and, if they satisfy the requirements, they are housed in the hostel where they get to develop a number of skills.
The selection process is also quite tedious and includes obtaining relevant information pertaining to the child/children that help the administrators in the decision-making process to place them at the various intervention centres.
"We are very specific about the intake process. It is important that we conduct a thorough evaluation of the applicants. We cannot have a facility and not interview the persons that are coming in.
"It is not discriminatory but we have to have a fair idea of who we are taking into the facilities," said Phillips.
In addition, once per year the boys are taken on what the director calls a resocialisation camp, which is done jointly with the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), a partner in the programme for a number of years.