Sunday, January 24, 2010

Impact and Accomplishments

When talking to my older brother yesterday, who was liming in a beautiful bay in St Lucia and yet still answering calls from his patients (he is one of those rare and valued doctors who manages to be available to support his patients wherever he is and whatever he is doing), he asked me if I felt that the things I am doing are having an impact. As well, a friend who regularly reads the blog and writes thoughtful and encouraging responses noted that there is little on my "accomplishments" here. I realised that the blog has included little detail of what I am doing and how it is going, so today I will try and fill that gap.

The overarching goal of the work each of us is doing is to increase the capacity of the organisation so that it has a sound infrastructure from which to do its work - which is to further peace and justice through conflict resolution and mediation across the island. In addition, each of us has a specific area of focus, mine is to provide support and advice to consolidate the youth programme and build a plan that will enable it to be rolled out from the current five communities to all schools across the island.

The first three months has been gathering information and understanding the context from which we were expected to develop recommendations for consideration. This phase concluded this week in a report we tabled to the DRF core management team. It was received extremely positively and generated lots of energy for forward movement, which was very gratifying and a successful first step. We now have a joint team moving forward intentionally and collaboratively which would not have been possible without our contribution. By building capacity within the organisation the work it does will have a broader reach and greater impact, and any organsation that can change the response to conflict from violence to mediation and negotiation in this society is really important. The year end statistics for murder indicate why this is important, over 1,680 murders in 2009, of which over 200 were young people under 19 years old.

Before Christmas I tabled my observations and recommendations for the youth programme and met with the team. We have together re-structured and implemented a team response to the youth and the first two weeks following the holidays has seen very positive results and again an energising of the youth peace facilitators, not the least of which are some passionate end-of-day discussions about all we would like to do in the next six months of school! I have become a regular part of the service delivery team for intake and out-take (discharge) of students, which enables me to get to know them a little and work with them indivudally about some particular struggles. The students' group discussions are still a challenge for me to understand however this week the healing circle stories of one group were easy to understand. The question asked was tell us about the worst day you can remember. Of the group almost all told of a day that included being present at the death of a friend or relative by gunfire. It is chilling to begin to understand the life of these young people, but exciting to be a part of something that may make a difference for them.

Through the work I have as a volunteer I get to do all the things I love to do: work directly with some feisty and engaging adolescents; work with service delivery teams to revise and improve what is being delivered; and work to develop systems that will increase the breadth, depth and effectiveness of a positive intervention and through this work contribute to reducing the level of violence and crime in Jamaica, and increase access to justice.

So in answer to my brother's question, this week I can answer yes. Due to the work my fellow volunteers and the staff at DRF are doing together, and the commitment of people who will be here long after me and give considerably more, I believe the contribution I am making is having an impact and accomplishing something useful! Thanks for asking...

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