Sunday, September 19, 2010

Too soon to leave

The week has provided a broad range of activities which has underscored for me how fortunate it is that circumstance gave me the opportunity to extend my service here. As the last of the volunteers with whom I arrived prepares to leave, it is clear to me that now would not feel like the right time for me to be leaving. Over the week I have been invited to contribute to a number of system-wide activities and been asked to provide my perspective to expand the dimensions of understanding to some of the complex issues that need to be addressed to change the trajectory of Jamaica. All of this in addition to the pleasure of spending time with students who, as school settles in, are again being suspended and referred to the programme. There is a strong community in Jamaica that works consistently and diligently toward finding solutions to Jamaica's complex difficulties. This is a community of many, whose commitment and intelligence is remarkable and I seem to have been invited to join, an invitation which I am excited to accept given I have time to participate.

Early in the week I participated in a Violence Prevention Alliance Committee which is providing leadership in pulling together and trying to rationalise the many disparate peace and justice initiatives in many of the 783 communities in Jamaica. Through this, discussion is generated about the role and responsibilities of local government, community-based organisations and national government and although these discussions address complex issues there is a real recognition that action must be taken soon and that co-ordination of everything is likely too ambitious. DRF is seen as a key organisation as it is has the capacity (though not yet fully realised!) to operate island-wide and has a value set and vision that is deeply entrenched in achieving peace and justice in Jamaica. Though the issues are complex and long-standing it feels as if a critical mass is building and change may be achievable and supporting some strategic initiatives in various communities may well have a positive impact.

Next on my agenda was a meeting at the Ministry of Education to assess a Behaviour Management Toolkit to be available and useful to all classroom teachers. The toolkit includes many of the strategies and activities developed through the Positive Behaviour Intervention Support system but requires further development. It will be a challenge to roll out the toolkit and from this meeting I was invited to join another group whose responsibility it is to develop a comprehensive implementation plan for all the Ministry of Ed programmes. This is a task I think I will enjoy participating in!
As the week drew to a close I focused on organising the planning work for the 5th Caribbean Conference on Conflict Resolution. The conference will be held in Jamaica in April 2011 and there is much to do between now and then. This will likely be the final event of my sojourn at DRF and I hope will be a good culmination of what I have been involved in.
These activities were punctuated by work with the students, programme development with the Youth Peace Facilitators and work on organisation structure for DRF. I feel extremely fortunate that I get so many opportunities!

The political environment continues to be unpredictable with internal issue for the ruling JLP, the Prime Minister's credibility being seriously challenged again and the Opposition seemingly unable to provide a viable alternative to a Government that only has a majority of one. Curfews continue as it becomes clear that "re-socialising" those communities in which the gangsters have power is a more difficult task that that of immediately disrupting them. Scandals in which sitting politicians are embroiled continue to surface and the possibility of the Government falling before the end of its term looks more likely again. However, despite the dissatisfaction with the current Government the prospect of an early election does not seem to excite anyone.

For the next two weeks I will be house/dog/parrot/fish- sitting for friends which means a very comfortable two weeks in a lovely house with a beautiful garden. It is from the garden that I am writing my blog. The sound of the birds and the running stream breaks the silence of the morning as the sun rises over the trees. The garden is a tranquil haven of lush vegetation, with orchids growing from the trunks of tall palms, banana trees in flower, blossoms of pink, purple, white and yellow interrupting the many shades of green.
In the decor and design both the house and the garden reflect the beauty of Jamaica and a respect for what the people and environment of Jamaica have to offer. It is a lovely place to be and a pleasure to house-sit, particularly as "the girls", two delightful little dogs, are very good company!
The past eleven months have been rich with developing friendships and respectful working relationships, and learning. The next seven months will provide me with an opportunity me to contribute in a way that had I been leaving in two weeks I would not have achieved. I hope I make the most of it!

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