Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Holidays Begin!

It has been week full of indications of the holidays and preparations for new work in the new year. Final days with the students, developing a workplan for a new project and hiring for another, shopping bonanza days throughout Kingston, Tasha arriving from Halifax via Toronto, Haley returning to Toronto from her annual US road trip and by tonight the three of us will be together in Barbados!
The Youth Programme was busy for the first three days of the week but on Thursday an eerie quiet set in as the school holidays began and no students were at the programme. This is a time for the Youth Peace Facilitators to catch up on the neglected paper work and get organised for the new year but this week had an added and uncomfortable dimension as the funding base for January is still uncertain. UNICEF staff had previously committed to continuing funding until it has completed the evaluation, which they have not yet completed, so we are hopeful they will honour this commitment which may provide another month of reprieve. Letters were sent to the MPs to see if they can offer some interim funding from their discretionary Community Development Funds but there are no certainties and in a climate of debt and cutbacks things feel very tenuous.
Given the reputation of the programme and the value the schools feel it has for them and their students it seems unconscionable that C$1000 a month per parish cannot be found to serve these students.
On a more optimistic note, the Burgher Gully Boyz - We Can Be the Change Project is getting underway. Budgets are finalised, equipment being purchased and the workplan created. The work will start proper in the new year and it will be a very interesting process to explore if this short-term, intensive intervention can interfere with the vulnerability of young men who are beginning to attach themselves to gangs.

UNIFEM also finalised the contract for The Way Out project and hiring will be completed before the Christmas break. I was included as part of the interview team for the Knowledge Management/Communications position and was impressed with the thoroughness of the process developed for hiring. Competition for jobs is fierce and a great deal is demanded from candidates through the recruitment process. The quality of the candidates available is enviable and the team that will emerge will undoubtedly be a dynamic and well-qualified group of five. One of the most interesting elements was as we rated the candidates there was without question a different cultural bias. My perceptions were focussed very much on attributes such as organising ability, task focus, clarity and others in the team much more focussed on storytelling and personal connections. One element that was particularly interesting was the difference in terms of expectations; the candidate whose resume had not raised high expectations exceeded those expectations and the one whose resume had generated high expectations was clearly at a disadvantage in terms of meeting expectations. It was evident that exceeding expectations definitely led to a more positive view at interview, obscuring whether the performance of the candidate was comparitively better or worse than the candidate for whom expectations were higher.
The week has seen shopping bonanza days in downtown Kingston and many of the plazas, though I must admit that I did not take advantage of them. The effort to re-establish downtown as a destination of greater draw and variety continues but the throngs of street vendors and density of people moving through the narrow streets is not an appealing challenge for me!

Tasha arrived on Monday and although the weather was disappointing for much of the week she has had an opportunity to relax and recoup after a very busy term. It is lovely to have her here and she settles very easily into the Kingston adventure, though the pounding music and screaming DJ that went on until 4:30 this morning was not a welcome experience!
"Night Noise" is a significant feature of Kingston and can be excessive. To those of us from places where decibels are measured and monitored and disturbing one's neighbours is unacceptable it is very difficult to tolerate the Jamaican propensity for huge banks of speakers and apparent oblivion to the impact of the volume for those who live within the 5 kilometres across which the sound travels! There is no way to eliminate the sound as windows and shutters are designed for air flow not sound obstruction. It seems, as the holiday season begins, that the noise levels and frequency of street dances increases. As I recall there is not quite the same propensity in Barbados!

As I write this Haley is on the plane to Barbados and Tasha and I will leave here in a few hours. It will be lovely to have time with them and with family there and I am very much looking forward to it.
Given I will not be "In Jamaica" my blog entries may be interrupted and in case this is so I wish everyone a very Happy Holiday Season in which you too enjoy time with family and friends!

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