Sunday, September 26, 2010

Kingston from a different vantage point

This week has been one in which I have stayed close to home. No travels outside Kingston though being in Kingston has been quite different as I have the privilege of using a car at the moment. I realise my experience here would have been very different if I had always had access to a car, and it would have been a much more limited experience, though the occasional use of one is quite delightful! Cars are unquestionably a symbol of status here and when driving there are some clear assumptions about who I am. When I walk I generate considerable curiosity as white women in their fifties simply do not walk around Kingston and it causes some confusion, this appears to engage people as there is lots of conversation as I travel through the city. However driving a large SUV I fit expectations much more easily and it is interesting how this changes the interactions with people who are no longer curious about who I am as I fit their expectations. This makes me much more isolated from life on the street. Unquestionably life takes less effort with the use of a car but it is instructional to experience the difference and appreciate the opportunities I have had given a closer connection to the life style of the majority with less access to material luxuries.

The youth programme has been very busy. More schools are using the programme which demonstrates the importance of the programme but increases the frustration at the potential lack of funding come December. We are struggling with a location for the programme as it has outgrown the facility at the Peace Centre but there are no funds for securing an alternative. It is humbling to realise that $300 per month cannot be found to ensure the students have an adequate space to learn in.
There is considerable concern about funding from the Ministry of Education for even the basics as the government embarks upon an austerity budget. The level of debt is higher and the GNP is lower. The troubles have had an impact on tourism, many of the countries assets have been sold off. The economic difficulties seem overwhelming with a disproportionate amount of government funding being allocated to defence and policing. It will be interesting to see if the Public Service Transformation Process and Community Renewal Plan, two major government initiatives, can be implemented and can make a difference.

As usual the week offered a variety of activities for me one of which included being the CUSO-VSO representative at a reception for a Canadian Delegation of representatives from the National Judicial Institute and the Federation of Justice (though this has a much longer official name!) The eight person delegation was here for a week to explore the possibility of a partnership with the Judiciary in Jamaica to provide training and development and transformation of the administrative processes. It was apparent that the Canadian delegation was impressed with the capacity in Jamaica and looking forward to taking the next steps. The Chief Justice of Jamaica was extremely gracious to both the delegation and CUSO-VSO for its support in bringing the delegation to Jamaica. It was a very enjoyable evening.

My evenings and weekend have been spent at the house in the company of dogs, parrot and fish and it is lovely. I continue to enjoy the garden which has benefited from regular rain this week and enjoy the greetings I get from the dogs as I get home. The absence of hurricanes makes the task of house sitting a relaxed endeavour, though I am well prepped in use of generator, pump and support should a hurricane develop! Next week brings a week of participation in training sponsored by UNICEF which will mean I will not get much time at the youth programme. It will be a different kind of week...

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