Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Half-Way Point...

This week it struck me that I am past the half-way point in the year. As I have been organising things for the week in Ontario I am more concscious of the time. What, at the beginning of the year seemed to be an endless year stretching ahead of me, now seems to be far too short. That being acknowledged I am also conscious that I do not want to be distracted from providing 100% here by investing too much energy in planning what's ahead. Half way through means still half way to go! The work here is strongly influencing my perspective and has served to highlight the incredible strengths of the Ontario system for children and families, as well as the remarkable organisation Kinark is. Things in Ontario may be far from perfect but there are strengths that are the envy of many. I am excited to catch up with the changes that have occurred in the last six months, and know the changes will illustrate the creativity and innovation of the organisation, as well as the tremendous commitment and capacity of the people that are part of it. Although it is still many months off I feel very lucky to be able to look forward to returning to such an exciting place to work with such a fine group of colleagues, where there is the continued opportunity to make a difference!

It was a short but busy week in which I pulled together the input and information from the Building Organisation Capacity Workshop, so that all in the organisation can see that there is active follow-up to their insightful and invaluable contribution. In addition, the final touches were put to another proposal, and at the end of the week the Youth Programme team got together for refresher training and a team meeting. The team meeting was a fine day spent at the Spanish Town location. It gave all the Youth Peace Facilitators time to get together, explore the subtleties of conflict resolution and anger management so critical to the work done with the youth, and time to share some of their own concerns and struggles. There are moments and events that remind me of the uniqueness of this society and one of these moments occurred in the team meeting. In sharing personal stories about resolving conflict and managing anger we were asked to rate the level of anger certain events generated and then talk about what led to those feelings. Of seven peace facilitators, two spoke of witnessing the murder of a loved one at home. I was struck by how unlikely these stories would be in most team meetings of a group of child and youth workers in Ontario, though recognise the parallel with some of the First Nations communities. Oppression has some desperate and long-standing consequences.

Outside of work, this week is Carnival Week, which means this weekend is the culmination of Bacchanal, many weeks of weekend parties and music with a weekend of various parades, music and dancing in the streets! Carnival here is not only the parade that offers the spectacle provided by Mardi Gras or Caribana (that parade is today, and watch out for paint whihc is apparently thrown liberally!)), but is a reason to take music to the streets and play it extremely loudly. Street music is one of the characteristics of Jamaica. There are street parties (PasaPasa) to be found somewhere everynight. Huge banks of speakers are erected and music is played at a volume that is probably damaging to the hearing of anyone within a five kilometre radius! The difference at Carnival is that the speakers are erected on flat bed trucks and driven through the streets throughout the night. One colleague experienced the "parade" returning four times to her neighbourhood and the music created such vibration that all the car alarms were activated! Music is enormously important in Jamaica, both as a means of expression and a potential means of escaping poverty. From reggae to dancehall to Gospel Jamaican music is influential across the world. Some of it is easy to appreciate, some is offensive and harsh but all reflect the nature of the country. The music created shows both the darker side of Jamaican life of violence, abuse and oppression, as well as the desire and drive to promote peace and unity. It is used to express all the passions and emotions that are intense in this country of dichotomies. In the city, the country or on the mountain roads, one sees the banks of speakers and can hear music from every rum shop. More than anywhere I have been the music is almost exclusively local. From every radio station to the street hawkers of CDs, the music is created and recorded by Jamaicans in Jamaica. Whether through the choirs of the churches and communities, or the DJs and MCs of street music, music is an integral part of life here.

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