Saturday, November 28, 2009

Busy at work and lots of travel

This week has been a busy week at work, including working all day Saturday. There is so much to address within the organisation as well as the ongoing funding and resource issues that are pervasive in a country whose productivity and GNP are reducing at a staggering rate. However despite the pressures the work with the Youth Programme is very gratifying. My days can include meeting with Mininstries, writing proposals, managing a roomful of rambunctions teenagers as the day begins and the Youth Peace Facilitators have not arrived. I am beginning to understand a little more when people speak patois, but when the youth are involved in animated conversations I still miss most of it (and I am quite sure there are occassions they intend me to miss most of it!)

The week included being driven by Mr Mason in his trusty blue van, to 4 other locations. The Spanish Town Peace and Justice Centre, Flankers Peace and Justice Centre, Montego Bay Peace and Justce Centre and Trelawny. Each different but each important in their communities.

Spanish Town is about half an hour from Kingston (when the traffic is moving) The Youth Programme was pilotted at Spanish Town and is a strong programme at this centre. Flankers is a community on the edge of Montego Bay that has struggled with violence and poverty.

The Flankers Centre is a testament to what can be achieved by community will and lots of donations and volunteers.
The centre is vital and full of programmes and people from home work clubs to seniors support groups. With a stairway called "the stairway of hope" that leads to a yet non-existent second floor!

Montego Bay is the second largest city in Jamaica, but unlike Kingston, is a tourist destination. In contrast to Rose Hall, Half Moon, Sandals and Breezes, the inner city displays poverty and violence not dissimilar to Kingston and experiences high levels of violence within its own communties, though this is kept far from the tourists and the resorts provide both employment and community support. Trelawny, about half an hour from Montego Bay is a much quieter, small town. The services in these 2 locations are largely to reduce the backlog in the courts through mediatd settlements rather than long and expensive court battles in Regional Magistrates Courts that may sit only once a week.

More glimpses of Jamaica's history this week. Spanish Town is one of the oldest cities in the 'colonies' , and has old limestone buildings, and Spanish inflluenced architecture. The Mona Campus of the Unversity of the West Indies is a sprawling campus nestled right up against the Blue Mountains and here I was given another glimpse of the history as there is a ruined aquaduct that traverses the campus, broken in parts but with long stretched of many arches still standing. And on Saturday I took a coaster bus (minibus)to Morant Bay where there are beautiful beaches and a long history. This was the location of a major uprising in the 18th century protesting the treatment of the poor in the courts. Apparently the discontent with the court continues to the present as the historic court house was recently burned down.

Dinner on Saturday night was with a wonderful Chinese-Jamaican family in Morant Bay. The introduction to this family was through connecting with another Canadian who lived here in the 70s and is back doing work on violence in schools. This large, warm and welcoming extended family invited me in as if I was part of the family. As is not unusual here there is a strong Canadian connection with all but the patriarch of the family being Canadian citizens as well, and all having lived in Canada for extended periods of their lives. It was a deligthful evening and a delicious dinner. Each evening of conversations with Jamiacans provides me with more insight into this complicated society. And each encounter underscores the openess with which people include you in their homes and families.

Sunday will be devoted to domestic chores and relaxing.

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