Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kingston has been home for a year!

As anniversaries often do this week has prompted much reflection about the past year. Kingston has now been home for me for a year. A year that has offered so much and included more than I had anticipated. I had anticipated the experience would expose me to a different world and challenges that would teach and stimulate me and I have not been disappointed. The year has also provided the opportunity for me to experience amazing support from good friends and family and warmth and concern from strangers. I have also learned that though the differences are many the commonalities are more and who we are and what we offer is the greatest determinant of our experience. Changing spaces promotes paying attention and it is the paying attention that offers the greatest opportunity wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

This week my attention has been focused on a few things: completing the final programme planning for a UNIFEM grant; further developing the programme for the adolescents in Burgher Gully; welcoming new volunteers; and of course the students at the Suspension Programme of which there have been many!

I spent two and a half days working closely with three other women finalising the activities to be engaged in for a proposal funded by UNIFEM. The focus of the proposal is to promote the capacity of women taking on leadership positions, from those in politics to those in the garrisons. It is an ambitious project but the women with whom I was working are wonderful examples of the energy and commitment that can be found amongst women here, despite the significant barriers to women assuming leadership positions. Another of those dichotomies of Jamaica - it is a country in which "mummy" has great respect and status but in which women have little power and influence. The capacity to support women assuming and maintaining leadership position needs to be built both institutionally and individually in both men and women. This is the ambition of the project and it was, although hard work, exciting to be able to contribute a little to the refinement of the project.

The Burgher Gully Project (affectionately named the Burgher Gully Boyz until a more appropriate title is settled upon) is feeling as if it might well offer a contribution to the range of things that could have a positive impact when trying to re-engage youth who have been recruited by gangs. It may successfully provide one first step to re-building relationships with the boys' community and parents but we will see.

My work with the students this week was to complete many discharge interviews. I was struck again by the fact that every week I will hear at least one story of a student who has witnessed the death by gunshot of a brother or other relative by either a gangster or police officer. The impact of exposure to this trauma is not really acknowledged and the capacity of the Victims' Services Unit falls well below the capacity required to support those exposed. It is evident that amongst the students, but as well the Youth Peace Facilitators, that it is hard to understand that there are places in the world where this is not the norm and it is reasonable to expect something different. Even our brief conversations at discharge seem to offer some relief and often the students return to check in. Having had a few weeks where my time has been more divided I realise how much I value and enjoy the time talking to the students. They are so responsive and engaging, with such energy. Spunky adolescents are an undervalued group!!

Three new volunteers arrived this week and will be joining DRF in the next fortnight. I look forward to getting to know them and hope they enjoy the opportunity of working at DRF as much as I am.

I have been very unambitious outside of work, doing little beyond my usual routine. The rain continues its almost daily deluge making for some damp walks. The stress on the infrastructure has been shown in water lock downs again (water,water everywhere and not a drop in the taps!) and occasional power outages. The traffic lights seem particularly vulnerable resulting in very congested streets and the advent of numerous police officers directing traffic at junctions. These can be wonderfully entertaining even if not necessarily particularly effective! There is one who accomplishes both entertainment and effectiveness. He is of fairly small build and wears enormous orange or white gloves making his hands look like large paddles at the end of thin sticks. The gloves serve to accentuate his dramatic, rhythmic and extremely energetic gestures, which, it should be noted, are not limited to his hands, and to which the drivers are very responsive! It is like watching a well choreographed performance with an extremely extrovert conductor!

This is a long weekend and The Heroes will be celebrated tomorrow so next week will be a short week which I hope sees the approval of the grant for the Burgher Gully Boyz!

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