With a view to reducing the impact of violence and increasing opportunities for a better life for young people and children in the most vulnerable sectors of society, the ICRC is supporting the Jamaica Red Cross in its efforts to facilitate their access to education through the two schools it runs.
This initiative, known as the School of Transformation, includes a sports and psychosocial component – the RIV (reducing the impact of violence) project – aimed at providing a more comprehensive response to meet the needs of young people who have dropped out of the education system and have difficulties entering the labour market.
The Jamaica Red Cross School of Transformation is a project that the ICRC has been supporting since 2008. An ICRC team came to visit the project, with camera at the ready. Here is a picture-by-picture account of the tour.
When we arrived at the Jamaica Red Cross school, an hour’s drive from the country’s capital, Kingston, the students were already in class. The camera was distracting them, so we left them to get on with their work.
One of the teachers, Ms Samantha Morgan, spends time with each of the students to make sure they understand the maths exercises. She also teaches other subjects, and we heard some of the songs she uses to help them memorize history and geography facts.
As well as their normal classes, students also took part today in a communication and conflict resolution workshop with a Jamaican TV personality associated with the Red Cross, journalist Allison Watson. We spoke to some of the students about the workshop, and they told us this about what they had learnt:
Josian: “Violence is something that I mustn’t get involved in; for example, when there is a fight, I should try to be understanding and walk away.”
Shantel: “I learnt about tools for avoiding fights.”
At the end of each workshop, the students are given a light meal that will provide them with the energy they need to make it through the day.
There are also sports activities today.
While the boys are getting changed to play football, and the girls to play netball, the ICRC delegate for the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) States talks to them about the sports they like. Football is the favourite, and they play it on and off the pitch. Just a few minutes before, they had been playing table football using a pitch made from cardboard.
This is the most exciting moment of the day. They are getting ready to play. Project coordinator Jamie Russell from the Jamaica Red Cross explains to us that they prefer team sports because they enjoy the feeling of togetherness and sharing their victories and defeats.
While they walk over to a pitch next to the school, their football coach tells us that many of the children are from sectors between which conflict is rife, but playing sports has taught them to get on with each other and settle their differences.
They all help, warm up, have fun and accept all those who want to play. Some play with special trainers, some with pumps, others with just socks and many barefoot, depending on how they feel most comfortable.
It is very hot, but there is no way they will stop playing until the school day is over. There is only one girl playing with them. She really wanted to play netball, but there weren’t enough girls to form a team today. Later, she had an idea: to ask the ICRC visitors to play with them.
Nobody from the ICRC team knew how to play netball, but that posed no problem as the only two girls who had stayed after school to play took it upon themselves to teach them.
Many of the girls attending the school have responsibilities at home and often have to rush back after class to do their chores. There is no time for distractions.
These seventeen-year-olds have already finished school and now want to take part in the programme’s community workshops, which provide vocational training in hairdressing, computing, plumbing and other trades, so that they can earn a living.
Until the courses start, they carry on going to the school to play football.
At the end of the day, we went to talk to the director general of the Jamaica Red Cross, Yvonne Clarke, and her deputy, Lois Hue, to go over the schedule for the next day. We will be going to visit communities near the school and will talk with some other beneficiaries. But that is a story we will tell you some other time.