Sunday, July 11, 2010

Broadening my scope...

The week feels as if it has been full of opportunities, and consequently the time has disappeared. I am getting involved in a wider range of projects at DRF, becoming more involved in the community renewal process for West Kingston, met a group of volunteers - Students Crossing Borders - who have done some amazing work and had a lovely trip up to Ocho Rios on the weekend.

The increase in scope at work is in part as a result of the impact of May 24th and the continued focus on the garrison communities. The crime stats for June were an improvement though still extremely high, there are still large numbers of soldiers moving around placing one community or another on curfew. Curfew means you can only move in and out of the community if you have the correct I.D. and many do not, it also means the soldiers are entitled to search homes, cars and people as they choose. Given how intrusive and difficult this is I really hope it increases safety and in the long run contributes to things improving. My focus has been two-fold - one short term and one long term. The short term activity entails working with the West Kingston Working group to contribute to the co-ordination of summer camps.The long term is developing and writing a proposal to open or expand Peace and Justice Centres in four of the most trouble parishes as the government strives to find a means of re-establishing some level of trust and a means to establish non-violent methods of resolving disputes. The final draft of the proposal was sent to the CEO tonight (today was spent writing and calculating hence the late blog entry!)
It has been a catalyst to articulate a replicable model with a clear understanding of the capacity available and funding required. I think the model has good potential to help in proposals and expansions for a few years to come so feels as if it is a significant piece of work in our goal to increase the organisational capacity of DRF.

In addition to these activities I had the pleasure of seeing a friend from Kinark. She and her daughter are in Kingston for two weeks doing volunteer work with Students Crossing Borders. They are involved in work in schools and in centres that care for children with HIV/AIDS through an organisation called Mustard Seed Communities. The group welcomed me one evening for dinner and to share my experiences here and then invited me to join them for dinner yesterday at a great fish restaurant in Port Royal ( a favorite spot!) Dinner followed a day in which we had headed to the north coast to swim with dolphins (which we didn't do!) but did enjoy swimming in the Caribbean and the two visitors swam and snorkelled with the sting rays! We went north through Stoney Hill through the twisty, narrow mountain road that leads tiny villages, follows the river and ends as one drives through banana plantations as one reaches the coast road to Port Maria. The trip home was via the craft market in Ocho Rios where bargains were accomplished as well as a wonderful discussion with one of the vendors about how to change Jamaica. Once we left Ochos we drove through Fern Gully, which has not dulled in its magnificence despite many trips through. Two kilometres of deep green gully with steep stone wall, hanging vines and rain-forest lushness, a canopy that filters the sunlight creating a sense of mystery in the muted depth and then one emerges high in the mountain with the sun shining and the moutains and pastures stretching ahead. It was a lovely day and it has been such a pleasure to spend some time and talk of how things are in Ontario.
At the end of the evening I drove back from Port Royal round the Palisade and into Kingston. There was an army checkpoint on the road, though nothing unpleasant, it was another reminder that all is not yet well in Kingston.

Next week will bring more travel, to Spanish Town and Montego Bay and I hope one more opportunity to see the friend from Ontario.

(apologies for the lack of images but a glitch is interfering with the upload!)

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