Sunday, October 10, 2010

No obligation

The week has not been quite as wet as last however the rainy season is certainly more typical than my first October here! My umbrella has been pressed into regular service and my evening swims have occasionally been as wet out of the pool as in the pool. The days typically start with the sun rising strong and clear and only the slightest hint of clouds developing over the mountains. As the day progresses the hint of clouds changes to a mass of cumulus white that moves up and into the sky, by 4pm the clouds that looked like whipped cream spooned onto the mountains turn menacingly dark and move across the city depositing sheets of rain, typically just in time for my walk home! After an hour or so the clouds dissipate in preparation for the spectacular sunsets that accompany the rainy season. Through it all it remains hot, so I have no complaints!

This week I have learned more about the young men who get recruited into gangs. I am assisting in the writing of a proposal that will offer a brief intervention that is hoped to be the catalyst for the young men to abandon their guns and leave the gangs. It is interesting to explore who is vulnerable and why they are the ones who get the guns. It is also interesting to consider a brief intervention that will shift behaviour rather than a long term solution to the problem of gangs. The complexity of youth in gangs can be overwhelming and requires a multi-faceted approach, however we are exploring whether the use of a limited amount of funding and an intensive, targeted intervention may have some positive impact. It is a little chilling to think we will be able to offer personal invitations to 30 youth between the ages of 14 and 18 to join the programme. Equally disconcerting is the prospect of meeting with the "influential men" who recruit them so that we can get their support to offer an alternative!

Twice this week, whilst waiting at the bus stop, I have been offered a lift to work. On both occasions the people who stopped to offer me the lift had to go considerably out of their way to drop me at DRF but this was apparently not a problem. Having made the offer I was generously and graciously dropped at work as the drivers returned through busy traffic to their original destinations. Regularly I experience the ease with which offers are made and equally regularly I experience the ease with which Jamaicans ask for things. There is no awkwardness and no obligation. This can be quite disconcerting if one has been raised to "wait until offered" and "never impose on anyone". As transitory members of this society we are frequently asked "can I have your computer/ipod/phone etc... when you leave?". Initially this felt quite awkward for me. However what I have learned is there really is no obligation in the question and the request is reflective of the directness and practicality of Jamaicans rather than any expectation. This establishes that it is equally acceptable to answer with yes or no. More and more I appreciate the direct and uncomplicated interactions that seem dominant amongst Jamaicans.

The week has ended with a wonderful visit from Triple P colleague. We ventured up the mountain to Strawberry Hills for a lovely lunch on Saturday and despite torrential rain and one wrong turn we enjoyed the excursion. The rain stopped long enough for us to experience the amazing view across the plain upon which Kingston is built, to the harbour and sea. The visit has provided great conversation and stimulating discussions about how to manage the incredible uptake of Triple P across the world. Once again I was struck by the clear values and principled motivation of those who have dedicated their time, intellect and energy to Triple P.

The week ahead will be predominantly focused on the completion of two proposals and will end with the National holiday Heroes Day, celebrating the seven National Heroes, which means a long weekend. The week also includes the completion of my first year in Jamaica - how the time has flown!

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