Sunday, February 7, 2010

Christmas Trees, Coconuts and Colgate Tubes

This week was declared Restorative Justice Week by the Jamaican Government. From meetings with students and parents, writing funding proposals, to a concert in the park on Saturday night the week has been reflective of the principles of 'RJ'.
The meetings with the students, who seemed to be potentially lost boys (they appeared to be further down the road in trouble than others) were focussed on one of the fundamental tenets of Restorative Justice - taking responsibility. The discussions took time as this principle is one not quickly embraced in Jamaican culture. More often than not there are strident declarations of why responsibility lies somewhere else.
The School Suspension Intervention Programme is based on Restorative Justice principles and uses circles extensively but despite the apparent commitment, funding from the government is not forthcoming. Hence the writing of another proposal in search of funding to continue and extend the programme across the island.
The final event of the week took place at Emancipation Park - an outdoor concert with music, theatre and dance and a delightfully amusing MC who provided the audience with information about RJ as he introduced the various performances. The huge posters that decorated the stage included a Canadian flag in recognition of the shared commitment to adopt Restorative Justice. It was a lovely event.

The weeks seem to be rushing by at breakneck speed and I am finding my involvement in the busy-ness of day to day activity is reducing my time for reflection. However I am safeguarding one precious time of the day, my walk home from work, most of which I do alone. It is about 6 kms from the office to my apartment past the largest, and I think oldest, army camp on the island, past the library that has provided me with wonderful Jamaican fiction to read, past the Edna Manley Arts Campus of the University of the West Indies at which there are always half a dozen young men lounging under a tree with guitars close at hand, past the banking towers owned by one of the most financially successful sons of Jamaica and a name familiar in Toronto, Michael Lee Chin. At about the halfway point I reach my first stop - the swimming pool at the Jamaica Pegasus. The pool, set in lovely gardens, is almost invariably empty. The hotel was kind enough to give the CUSO-VSO volunteers a complimentary pool pass for the year of which I am taking full advantage. I take a break in the walk and swim for a little while as the sun is setting. Then, relaxed and refreshed I finish the walk home. This is an absolutely glorious time of the day in the city. The heat and humidity of the day has dissipated and there is often a pleasant breeze. The walls and pavements hold the heat from the height of the sun and a warm glow emanates from them. The light changes from brilliant and uncompromising to soft and muted and the night flowering blossoms start issuing their heavenly scent. There is little as beautiful as sunset in a verdant tropical climate.
And now the dichotomy! Jamaica has tremendous natural beauty but this is diminished by an ever-present blight - litter. There is evidence of littering everywhere. Walking down the street yesterday provided me with the alliteration above. Christmas trees, coconuts, and Colgate tubes were but a few of the items scattered, or in abandoned piles, at the side of the street. Plastic bottles, fast food wrappers, papers, refuse: everywhere one looks there is evidence of litter. On country roads through the mountains people throw all kinds of items out of their car windows. Often it is piled but not picked up, sometimes it is bagged but left until the bags are shredded by feral dogs scavenging for food. The folliage and flora grow so quickly here that much of the rubbish is quickly hidden but more is dropped to replace it. Perhaps there are the makings of a community project here?!
Tomorrow my week will start with the DRF Management Tour of the service points - a 6 am start which will include 10 hours of driving, breakfast of saltfish and akee and stops at five different service points across the west. It will be good to be on the road again!

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