I am once again able to walk and take the buses but it is advisable still to avoid certain areas and be aware of any shift in activity. Circling helicopters are rarely an indicator of good, though trucks of soldiers, if accompanied by water barrels and containers of food, can be less menacing then they initially appear.
On Monday we engaged the students in an informal Circle discussion. It provided an opportunity for them to share their experiences of the last two weeks and talk about the changes they would like to see. One of the most striking discussions occurs when one reviews the Rights of the Child (UN) and they identify that even the most basic rights of safe place to live, food, caring and love are not necessarily available to them. All have their own circumstances to deal with, and although there is much in common, at the programme the most productive thing we can do is work with each individually to strengthen their resiliency and provide them with an awareness of their choices and the consequences of different choices.
The week not only saw students who are suspended attend the programme but there was a steady stream of students who had previously attended, dropping in to sit and talk for a while. It is good to know the programme can provide a place of refuge and comfort when times are difficult.
I realise that with events in the city and with the restrictions on movement my focus has been almost entirely on Kingston, and yet Kingston does not reflect the whole of Jamaica. It is a country of different areas and each has its own distinct identity. The Parishes are proud of their distinction however all share the concern that the troubles of Kingston have an impact on their stability. Parishes receive more or less support from government depending on their allegiances, the bauxite and banana industries have suffered as a result of poor decisions and lack of support from government, the impact on the tourist industry is enormous as Jamaica's reputation is damaged by the troubles and the infrastructure that ensures this country of "wood and water" is crumbling due to lack of management and attention by the government. There is a remarkable road network across the country and through the mountains but the roads are full of potholes and the rains inevitably bring floods and washouts. There are the remnants of an extensive rail system that was shut down in the mid 90s due to lack of maintenance that, if retrieved, could save money and the environment but a contract providing support to build a new road is rumoured to have a clause that commits to not re-opening the rail transportation. Once again borrowing money from the IMF requires conditions that do not serve the people in poverty in Jamaica, and the majority of the people here live in poverty. Jamaica has such potential but seems to be very poorly served by its government and those who are elected to serve the country. Perhaps the current troubles are the harbinger of a much required change. There is always hope.
Next week brings a quick trip to North America to meet with colleagues in Washington DC. Although my life seems to be consumed with Jamaica (and very happily so!) I am still involved in other activities particularly that of helping plan the First Biennial Global Implementation Conference 2011 http://www.implementationconference.org/. Three days in Washington meeting with colleagues will take me to a different world, though what becomes evident to me is that what is needed to support children is remarkably similar wherever one is in the world and that the quality of life in any country is determined by how it supports its children. Perhaps we should demand that governments be required to pose one simple question about every decision they make, the question being "will this decision improve the life of children in our country?" It would bring an interesting perspective!