Sunday, January 9, 2011

"Blessed I have life."

Getting back to work after the new year has been interesting and busy. Putting on the ground the new programme recently funded by UNICEF, increasing the attention to planning the 5th Caribbean Conflict Resolution Conference in April, work on the 1st biennial Global Implementation Conference and addressing the lack of funding but commitment to delivering the youth programme have made for a challenging week . The week ended with a wonderfully relaxing weekend in Fort Lauderdale which is the reason for the delay in posting!

Implementing the Burgher Gully Project has given the opportunity to test out some of the new processes and systems that will help DRF in its planning and management development, as well as assist the Youth Peace Facilitator and Manager increase their skill level at programme development, implementation and evaluation. These are primary objectives for one area of my work here and it feels exciting to see the results begin to materialise. The assistant youth peace facilitator and cook joined our team meeting on Friday and are enthusiastic about the programme, and I should get an opportunity to meet the young men who will be participating in the programme early next week. One question posed by the assistant YPF was whether girls could be enrolled in the programme. To my question about would girls be carying guns his response was "why not?" It led to an interesting discussion as to "why not" and different environments. He found it very hard to fully understand that there are places in the world where guns are not a readilly available commodity for young people.
The planning for the 5th Caribbean Conference is happening with earnest. It will be an international conference accommodating up to 350 participants and from my perspective the planning time left is frighteningly inadequate. I keep reminding myself that in Jamaica these events always seem to be left until the last minute and always seem to be a fine success!
The week was full of greetings after the holiday. By mid way through the week I was struck with how many people answered the question "Did you have a good holiday?" with "Iam blessed. I have life"! One evening after popping into the CUSO office and hearing this response from both the Security Guard and the Janitor my thoughts turned to how low an expectation this response reflects when uttered in a tone that does not resonate with joy. To expect more than merely life would be expecting too much seems to be the implicit message, by maintaining low expectations disappointment can be avoided. Life is still such a struggle for so many, and with the level of violence in certain quarters, is often threatened. It is understandable that continued life is seen as a reason to feel blessed, but it still strikes me as a lower bar than should be set for the quality of life that should be available.

The week ended in an entirely different place - Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Saturday was spent meandering along the beach and Ocean Drive in South Beach. The colours, simple lines and understated relief of the Art Deco buildings are immensely pleasing to the eye. The sky was blue, and although the air was cool the sun was strong and the shadows dramatic. It was a glorious afternoon. The miles and miles of highway, beaches, hotels and sunworshippers that constitute the south Atlantic coast of Florida felt so far removed from Kingston.
One of the greatest contrasts however was the point of entry! It took two and a half hours from leaving the plane to clearing Homeland Security and immigration in Fort Lauderdale, on my return, in Kingston, it took fifteen minutes! It was lovely to spend the weekend in comfort and in wonderful company.

The week ahead looks to be full of interesting activities, working with those trying to put Parent Places throughout the country, supporting the start of the programme in Burgher Gully, more work with the Violence Prevention Alliance and the week will end once again in the US meeting with colleagues about the Global Implementation Conference.

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