This is currently the main activity. It begins with the awareness that violence in Jamaica is very widespread and that the punishment is very severe and results in the fear that many have for their own safety. This punishment is obviously directed at the young and poorest groups, the famous ghetto boys. No serious attempt has been made to rehabilitate them. Consequently, those imprisoned experience great anger and resort to repeating exactly what they were punished for, or they learn to lead a life of crime. It is urgent to rehabilitate so many young people, it is urgent to make sure that the time spent in jail is not a moment of desperation, of wasted time, but must become an opportunity to learn, to acquire the necessary tools to do better, to become human. We have opened a school that now numbers 150 students. Studying means knowing how to defend oneself and how to use one’s rights. It also means that once the prison sentence has been served, they can return to homes and help to own children, who have been left alone for too long, with their study and homework.
We have started computer and graphics labs as well as a huge musical laboratory. The talent of the Jamaicans is endless and their ability to express themselves through music is like a gigantic explosion that is capable of extending beyond the prison bars.
We have also created FREE FM, a radio station. It broadcasts all day long and makes it possible for us to reach many people with our program, with our discussions, with our teachings. It is a voice for everyone and it is a precious idea for all those, like us, who have so much to do and few volunteers to do it with.
The rehabilitation project has just become a part of the projects funded by the European Union for the next 18 months. It is a fantastic opportunity for Stand Up for Jamaica to widen their range of activity. The number of schools will be doubled. The radio stations will extend to all 5 penitentiaries, including those for women and minors. There will be musical instruments for their studies and we will pursue our ambitious project of making a CD so that everyone can listen to the beautiful music and the free voices that come from behind the prison fortresses.
Drapers, near Port Antonio, in Portland, is a small town with a kindergarten, the only one in the entire area. “Stand Up for Jamaica” has sponsored Draper’s kindergarten which had to be relocated. The place where it was situated before was small, with little light, and requiring many repairs which the teacher had to pay for since the owner refused to so. So, in a beautiful place, we found an old house to refurbish. This involved a great deal of work, from the redoing the roof to painting the walls, to redoing the bathrooms. The inside space had to be divided into two classrooms plus an area for naps and a small infirmary was also created.
Big Daddy, the teacher’s husband, cooks every day and is loved by the children, not only because of the delicious dumplins he makes but because he plays with the children. We asked for help from the community for all the repair work that had to be done. The Draper’s football team came to shovel and eliminate the waste material and stones in the garden; many parents help build the surrounding wall; other volunteers came along to dedicate a few hours to the work that needed to be done, in exchange for a bowl of Big Daddy’s soup who had a fire going in the courtyard and was cooking for everyone.
Big Daddy is an exceptional person who can be seen at work from 6 AM to sunset, hoeing the garden, digging, painting, and transporting waste materials.
We had to stop all activity for two days when Miss Carmen fell from the ladder she had climbed on in order to sand the ceiling in one of the classrooms.
Then, with a few stitches, and loads of determination, work was resumed. The school slowly became beautiful, with its freshly-painted yellow walls and its classrooms full of games and drawings. Swings were set up in the garden. Slowly, wheel barrow after wheel barrow of dirt, the grass started to grow, even if the children are always walking on it.
After all this , a party took place on Jamaica Day, for fund raising. Dinner, music, a performance by the children and many passer-bys who stopped for a chat. Even some tourists came to help. In the meantime, thanks to Miss Carmen’s determination we decided to use the premises to hold courses on Friday and Saturday afternoons for the children from nearby grade schools. In fact, the schools are overcrowded and the children who learn more slowly actually learn next to nothing. So, since two months, we have started our remedial and literacy programs. We would also like to organize a monthly seminar for the adults.
A huge thank you to Carmen and Big Daddy who are living proof that with a bit of determination, things can be done and done well.
Jamaica is far away from you but through the message ONE LOVE it will not be forgotten. This is not merely a slogan; it is a way of life which we honour everyday through the thousands small gestures of all those who work with us.
It has gathered many abused people and offered concrete aid by providing economic support in emergency situations as well as a counselling service for anyone suffering from traumatic experiences. Each week, we receive many people, especially children, whom we help, counsel, encourage and for whom we seek to find harmony and balance. Often, this activity requires the involvement of family members and teachers so as to create a support network which can help recreate that lost harmony.