Sunday, February 6, 2011

Two Cities

This week has once gain seen me in two countries, two cultures and two climates as I started the week in Jamaica and ended it in Canada. The early week in Jamaica included the launch event for the Burgher Gully project and a focus on Restorative Justice and in Canada included planning for tomorrow's meeting about implementation with the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation, planning for what comes after Jamaica and enjoying time with Haley and friends.
The launch event at the Eastern Peace Centre for the Burgher Gully project was delightful. Over 30 youth were present (it can no longer be called the Burgher Gully Boyz as there are 4 girls participating in the programme). Start time was 11am and the youth were ready. They had spent time during the two weeks prior painting and preparing the centre. It looked clean and tidy as did the youth. Invited to the launch were the local MP, the Regional Director for UNICEF, the CEO of DRF, local community representatives and a local artiste. Sitting in rows, quiet and attentive it was hard to understand that these are the "bad" boys and girls of the community, those that have bullied, threatened and more. Two of the boys spoke to conclude the formalities and I was struck once again about how little it takes to support these young people to change. They take advantage of the smallest opportunities, ask for so little and demonstrate time and again that given a positive alternative very few would choose the negative path into which they have been drawn. They are creative and energetic. They have reasonable ambitions and are willing to work hard. Their negative behaviour really is as a result the failure of the adults around them. It is a complex society with a long history but unquestionably the political leaders, the community leaders, the international developers have some responsibility in contributing to the lack of choices available to the youth of Jamaica. Perhaps the events this week in Egypt will inspire us to be more active and optimistic that change can be achieved.
The final presentation at the launch was a very moving song written and performed by a local artiste. I have asked permission to share it and, if I can, I will do so. The working title of the song was Faces on the Wall which refers to the tradition of painting on the garrison walls the faces of those killed through gang warfare, and the salient question - is this all we want for them?

The week was full of events to raise awareness for Restorative Justice in Jamaica and so was busy for many of my colleagues whose focus is disseminating and establishing Restorative and Community Justice in Jamaica. The events ended last night with a concert in Emancipation Park that I was sorry to miss as last year it was a wonderful event.

On Wednesday evening I flew to Toronto somewhat anxious about my ability to cope with the threatened 30 cms of snow. However the anticipated snow did not materialise and the cold has been manageable! The contrast in weather is not the only major contrast between Toronto and Kingston. The orderly, affluent appearance of Toronto, the development and growth, the efficiency and functionality, the safety and opportunity, are in marked contrast to Kingston. As Torontonians we may complain but with the objective eye of some distance, Toronto is truly an amazing city. Despite its flaws, a city that can embrace the many cultures, peoples and this climate is something to be proud of!
That being said I will have no regrets in returning to Kingston, with its warmth and challenges, on Tuesday following my day with ONF.

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