THE DISTINGUISHED — VOLUNTEERISM
Adenike Stephenson has been working assiduously to be the change for young people in at-risk communities in Montego Bay, St James.
As project manager of the Community Renewal Programme (CRP), coordinated and monitored by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), she provided a platform for the coordination and enhancement of the delivery of government and civil society services to volatile and vulnerable communities.
The programme, established in 2012, provided a mechanism for coordinating activities at the community level, with a focus on social transformation, socio-economic development, physical transformation, youth development, governance and safety and justice.
“To address the issue of crime and violence that continues to plague Jamaica, the PIOJ, through the CRP, provided a platform for the coordination and enhancement of the delivery of government and civil society services to these targeted communities,” Stephenson said.
The work of the CRP in St James was also further enhanced by the PIOJ with the implementation of the Partnership Towards Youth Crime and Violence Prevention in Montego Bay Project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Local Partner Development (LPD) project.
“LPD and PIOJ coordinated the delivery of a set of services to engage and treat with 80 unattached and highly at-risk youth between the ages of 14 to 29 from the communities of Salt Spring and Flanker, with the aim of reducing their risk levels and improving their employability,” Stephenson said.
This project was implemented in collaboration with several stakeholders, including the Social Development Commission, National Council on Drug Abuse, Victim Services Division, Peace Management Initiative Western, HEART/NSTA Trust and various private sector companies.
“Utilising an intensive case management approach, the interventions aimed to reduce at-risk behaviours that generated a greater propensity for youth within these communities to commit violent acts and/or a crime,” Stephenson said.
A total of 181 potential clients were screened from both communities. Of that number, 100 screened were from Salt Spring and 66 from Flanker. Some 111 applicants were found to be medium to high risk, from which 80 were selected for the development of case plans and treatment.
“The selected clients underwent an orientation process which included a two-day initial life skills training. Following orientation, clients were exposed to ongoing life skills training, group and individual counselling, as well as more focused motivational mentorship from their assigned case managers,” Stephenson said.
The project was concluded in December 2021, and the results were astounding, with 90 per cent of the beneficiaries remaining in the project at closing, 75 per cent reflecting significantly reduced risk factors; 17 youth securing permanent employment and 19 youth successfully completing business development training and starting their own businesses.
“The programme really impacted the lives of these young people. We became their family, and we will continue to provide additional support where needed,” Stephenson said.