Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hurricane season is not quite over

The week has been somewhat challenging as much of what I have been involved in focussed on children as the victims of violence. I attended a two day consultation on the National Children's Action Plan - Children and Violence in Jamaica Workshop; worked on the implementation plan the for gender equity project The way Out; and had an exciting afternoon discussing the implementation of a new initiative - Parent Places - with an extremely committed parent education scientist/advocate. My time with the students was limited this week and I realise that my sense of accomplishment is always diminished when I have less time with the students!

I have spoken before of one of the gifts that those who come to contribute to Jamaica can bring is a sense of hope and optimism but there are times when sustaining a sense of hope is difficult and a week that is focused on the violence perpetrated against children certainly makes it difficult. There is an awareness of the need to make changes at all levels from how children are parented to how communities are supported, from how the bureaucracies operate to how leadership is effected. There are many documents with plans for change, and another soon to be released. Many are working hard at exploring how changes can be made, are enormously concerned about the future of Jamaica as the levels of violence and poverty increase and the levels of education and the country's infrastructure deteriorates. However, the opportunity to make changes that appeared to have potential following the incursion seems to be slipping away as it is clear there is no political will to effect fundamental change in the current power structure and no strategy to address corruption. The fierce pride in being Jamaica also seems to be a barrier to making change as the national identity includes pride in being an aggressive and competitive people. At the workshop there was discussion about whether this contributes to the difficulty in reducing the violence. Discussing the violence and its roots, who is responsible and the possible solutions is a national pastime, from taxi drivers to Permanent Secretaries, however implementing a sustained strategy to take action that will promote significant change seems seems to be notably absent.

The work week ended with a delightful dinner, in the garden of Star Apples, welcoming new
volunteers and a number of South-South interns. South-South volunteers are those who come from one developing country to learn from and contribute to another and this group will spend two weeks in Jamaica on a training programme to increase their knowledge of dispute resolution and human rights.
When sitting at a table of close to thirty people whose ages cover a range from early twenties to mid-sixties, whose nationalities span the globe, all engaged in animated conversation that shifts from one language to another with an ease that is daunting, all whose time, energy and intellect is devoted to contributing to improving the quality of life for those experiencing poverty and oppression, my hope and optimism returns. There are so many who contribute locally, nationally and internationally and I am fortunate to be surrounded by them. On that note, congratulations to Cathy Dandy and Tracy Folkes Hanson ( (friends in Ontario) for their commitment and success in local elections. Their contribution will definitely be an asset to their communities!

The upcoming week is beginning with the threat of Hurricane Tomas, which appears to have potential to hit Jamaica by midweek. It also has the potential to hit Haiti and I truly hope it does not. For me, today will include preparation to ensure I have batteries, water, and food that does not require cooking or significant refrigeration as the inevitable consequence of a hurricane and the rains it brings is no power and no water for a period of time. I am once again house-sitting and the evening also promises some trick or treaters in the safety of this well secured community. Happy Hallowe'en!

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