Church Care Centre

The interviewers revealed that the organizational structure is made up of a Board of Management, an Administrator who has an assistant, a Social worker, and auxiliary staff called orderlies. The Chairman of the Board is Mr Alvaro Casserly and the Manager is Miss Natalie Gentles. It must be noted that there are two other components (1) The Skills Training Centre located at 4 Hope Road Kingston 10 and (2) The Re-socialisation Centre located at Newcastle. The office at Ambrook Lane is mainly responsible for recruiting the boys and then sending to them to various other centres.

It should also be noted that there is a monitoring unit in the Office of the Prime Minister. Board meetings are held regularly in order to ensure that there is adequate funding for the various activities of the Care Centre. According to the information provided by authorised personnel, the present budget is six million dollars. The government assists with the salaries of the staff and other organizations assist with donations of both cash and kind. For example, the Japanese and American Embassies make regular donations to assist the centre with its work.

The government assists through its Poverty Alleviation Programme; but the land on which the Centre is located belongs to the Anglican Church. There are presently 140 boys registered at the Centre. The boys not only get hot meals and academic training but they are also supervised in organised recreational activities such ad football and cricket. The youngsters need much help because they are growing up without adequate parental guidance. Yet most of them have homes; but these homes do not have a positive impact on these young people.

Many of them want to change their lives but they have no one other than the staff at the Centre to help lift them out of poverty and despair. The main problems facing the boys are psychological. They seem to experience much rejection from the general public. Many people do not trust them even though they may give them donations at the traffic lights. They sleep on the streets and often get into conflicts with each other and with passers-by. These boys have low self-esteem and a negative self-concept. From observations carried out, many of them seem depressed, unkempt and hostile.

Some are, however, polite and helpful. When some would insult motorists who would not give them money, there are others who seem rather satisfied and would clean the motorists’ windscreens nonetheless. At present, the Centre is experiencing a serious problem with the boys. It has been reported that the people in the community dislike the boys because of their behaviour and their dishonesty. This has led to hostilities between the residents and the boys. The situation has become so dangerous that the residents have forbidden the boys from coming into the community of Ambrook Lane.

As a result, contact between the Centre and the boys has been broken and the relationship is now strained. The researcher has tried to investigate this new development but she was unable to ascertain more information. Those who are in authority seemed very guarded and unwilling to discuss the details of this problem. It would appear that they want to protect the reputation and image of the programme. The researcher has also tried to get the Centre to arrange face to face meetings with the boys themselves but this was discouraged.

Nonetheless, she made some contact with some of them on the streets but this also did not yield any information about the Centre. The boys’ main interest was hustling for money. A very senior official claimed that researchers have exploited the boys on previous occasions and so the Centre does not want to expose them to any further exploitation. Although this writer has sought to convince the authorities that in her case this project would not disclose confidential information to anyone, the authorities have remained unrelenting. Evaluation and Conclusion

When the British settled Jamaica, the Anglican Church was introduced to help in the stability and development of the people. The church was mainly responsible for the spiritual and educational development as it was felt that these two areas were vital if the society was to maintain itself and grow. The early church did a fairly good job, as more and more people became Christians. Throughout the period of slavery there is no record of children being neglected and left without supervision because the plantation owners made the children work on the plantations with their parents.

After the abolition of slavery, the ex-slaves were able to keep their children under control. Additionally, there were vagrancy laws that deterred young people from roaming the streets begging and getting into mischief. However, as time progressed and Jamaica became independent, there has been a decline in family life and the phenomenon of street children started as parents became more and more irresponsible. The harsh economic conditions and migration have contributed to this undesirable trend. Today, many children leave their parents home in search of money on the streets of Kingston and other townships.

Many of them run away from home because of the slum conditions they were experiencing. Others left home because of the violence in their respective communities. But being on the streets of Kingston often exposes them to all types of dangers. Also, it cannot be good for this young nation for some of its children to grow up on the streets without any parental guidance. It has been unsightly to see young people sleeping on the sidewalks, wiping windscreens and wandering from place to place often poorly attired.

Although people would give them money, there was no organized body that undertook to provide the basics for these unfortunate youngsters. The St. Andrew Parish Church decided to assume this responsibility by starting the Care Centre from observations made through visits to the office and by the street corners, there are no visible signs that the problem is diminishing. The numbers seem to be growing as the economic conditions in the country worsen. The work of the centre seems to be hampered by the rampant indiscipline of the boys and they low academic attainment.

The Centre, however, has not shown that its work is successful because at present the boys cannot even visit the office. The empowerment of the street boys appears to be a moving target. The more effort that is put into the programmes, the more boys seem to appear on the nation’s streets. If one should visit South Odeon early in the morning, one would see almost a dozen boys sleeping on pieces of card, dirty and hungry. The Anglican Church was generous to permit its property to be used to site the office of the Care Centre.

Unfortunately, this decision was not a good one because of the problems in that community. It would have been better to continue using the old courthouse. This building is right in the mainstream of Halfway Tree; it is adjacent to the traffic lights where the boys hang out to wash cars and clean windscreens for money. Moreover, it is situated about fifty yards from the police station, so that if there is a flare-up of violence at anytime, there can be a quick response from the police. Furthermore, the old courthouse is accessible to the boys and the general public. It is also beside the Parish church.

This could help to make a good impression on the boys as well as the public who might want to contribute to the project. The Centre needs to have personnel who can meet with the boys on the streets and also visit the homes of their parents and close relatives. Every effort should be made to reintegrate each boy into his home and community. This would help to provide somewhere for them to sleep at night. The Centre does not seem to have a rigid timetable for its clientele to follow. The visits by the boys are done on an ad hoc basis – only when there are looking for something. But this is wrong.

They should be required to visit the Centre at specific times; go to classes at specific times; have meals and games according to a set plan as the Centre gradually wean them away from the streets. The boys are too disorganised and scattered all over the Corporate Area. There is little the authorities at the Centre can do to monitor their behaviour and activities. Hence, it is almost impossible for anyone to know whether or not the programme is a success or failure. The boys have too much free time and this is dangerous and unproductive. The Centre should try to encourage them to spend most of their time in formal schooling.

There does not seem to be any attempts to convert the boys to Christianity. The Centre should have planned religious activities for there boys, so that their spiritual appetite can be satisfied. Every boy should be enrolled in the Sunday school. There was no evidence of this sort of outreach. According to various writers success would depend on a holistic approach to the streetlights boys. There must be programmes to develop the boy’s body, mind, soul and hands. The 4-H movement approach to the training of people is the best way to try to rehabilitate, these young people.

The church must aim at developing their heads, hearts, hands and health. Recommendations and Conclusion No problem can be solved before it is properly investigated and understood. The researcher thinks that money should be set aside to investigate the street children phenomenon properly. In fact, there is need for a proper assessment of the socio-economic situation as it impacts on the children of Jamaica. The country should find out why children run away from home and prefer to feud for themselves on the streets even though their lives are at risk.

After the problem is thoroughly researched, the findings from such studies should be implemented through pilot projects in various selected urban centres throughout Jamaica. With regards to the Care Centre, the office should be moved from Ambrook Lane and placed in a locality that is friendly to the boys. The project needs more funds so as to enable it to hire more professional staff in areas such as psychiatry and psychology. Efforts ought to be made to get every boy to attend church and Sunday school, as this is likely to help them to overcome their anti-social behaviour.

The researcher also recommends that more church members be involved in mentoring the boys. These members can be organised into cells and each cell should be responsible for at least two boys. They should take them hone and expose them to the fine things of life e. g. good classical music. The mentors should also try to have their charges re-admitted to school to enable them to become literate and academically qualified. Gradually, the boys should be discouraged from begging on the streets. Of course, all efforts would be made to prevent adults from exploiting the boys.

The necessary checks and balances should be put in place to guarantee the boys safely and morality. These youngsters are growing up without proper parental guidance, care and protection. Although the church is attempting to fill the void left by errant parents, its work cannot be seen as a great success. The problem of the street boys is not diminishing; it appears to be increasing. This can be verified by visiting all the major centres where there are traffic lights and informal car washing establishments. Many of the street boys also visit betting shops in an attempt to beg or place bets hopefully to make some money.

Professor Aubrey Phillips writing in Adolescents in Jamaica (1993) argued that the teenagers were in trouble because of the adverse socio economic conditions facing them and their parents. For too many have to grow-up in substandard living accommodation and they also lack sufficient nutrition. Being of poor parents, many of these youngsters have to go on the streets to sell newspapers, push carts, wash cars, wipe windscreens of vehicles, beg and steal to make a quick dollar. Some take the money home to their parents, but the majority of them live on the street.

They eventually become juvenile delinquents. Many of these young people do end up before the courts of the land. Burrowes 1973 showed that between 1977 and 1981 there were 3,475 boys who were taken before the courts for various offences. It therefore follows that if something more is not done to arrest the problem of street children, the problem will get worse and the nation will soon have no place to put them when they get into trouble with the police. The researcher further recommends that the Centre established a medial unit to cater to the medical needs of the street boys.

In this unit, the boys would be given various psychological and psychiatric tests to probe their mental heath and stability. Where there are early signs of illness, they should be treated free of cost. Finally, Jamaica needs to introduce the Borstal System to take care of teenagers who are difficult to be managed. The Americans have established Tranquillity Bay here to take care of their juvenile delinquents. Why can’t we do the same for our own street boys if their behaviour cannot be changed in more civilised ways. The Anglican Church must be commended for its vision and dedication to the upliftment of the street boys.

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