Menace, nuisance, and little criminals are some of the harsh terms that have been used by many motorists to describe the youths who wipe windscreens at the various traffic lights in the city.
These children, despite their circumstances, if given love, guidance, and training can start the process of turning their lives around. This is the belief of Chairman of the Board of the Possibility Programme, Sarah Newland Martin.
"Our plan is to try and have if at all possible 100 per cent of these youngsters off the streets and to help them to understand that they are precious youngsters and that they have the ability, all they have to do is apply themselves," she states in an interview with JIS News.
The Possibility Programme, which gives many of these youngsters a second chance, is a multifaceted project comprising the Care Centre, the Skills Training and Employment Centre, Annual Re-socialization Camps, and a Youth Hostel.
Its administration is carried out by an independent board and a number of partner agencies including the St. Andrew Parish Church, the HEART Trust/NTA, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), the National Council on Drug Abuse, St. Patrick's Foundation, the Kingston Restoration Company, the LEAP Centre, and the Rotary Club of St. Andrew.
The programme aims to: develop a coordinated approach to the social problems of street children, remove children and youth who wipe windscreens at intersections and have them enrolled in a project of skills training, academic learning, apprenticeship and job placement, as well as stem the flow of children on the streets.
According to Mrs. Martin the programme has seen a number of success stories as the boys embrace the second chance that they have been given to fulfill their promise.
"We have seen some good things coming out of this programme. We have seen lives transformed from hardened destructive youngsters, who really were not focused but given a chance have developed skills that they never even knew they had...we have seen changed behavior," she affirms.
"It takes a lot of work though," she acknowledges while explaining that "it is not an easy job to work with youngsters who have never been in a structured setting and who you have to be keeping in a room from 9:00 until 2:00 or 3:00. It's not easy because this wayward life of theirs on the street is what they are accustomed to".
Continuing, she admits that while it takes an inordinate amount of patience and dedication to run such a programme the transformation that the children undergo makes it worthwhile.
To date, the programme has taken in some 500 boys and has helped to reconnect a number of them to the traditional educational system, while the large majority have been assisted in learning skills and being certified through the HEART Trust/NTA.
Mrs. Martin says that whenever she looks at these boys who once lacked focus, now applying themselves and making use of the opportunities presented to them, it brings tears to her eyes.
"If you were at the Christmas Dinner and Graduation in December (2008) you would have probably ended up very emotional as I did when I sat there and heard, one of the youngsters (a graduate) who coined a song to speak about what the programme did for him. It brought tears to all of us eyes, we were all moved by it", she reminisces.
The youngster to which Mrs. Martin refers is now gainfully employed and through his song, thanked the Possibility Programme for the opportunity he received. He also had words of encouragement for the boys now enrolled in the programme.
"The Possibility Programme has been a great programme for me and others out there who uplift other youths to make them know that nothing is impossible to do," he told the gathering before performing his song.
"Life is so possible, true, true, true possible, don't think impossible, live your life with credibility. Possibility has made my life so possible, give me the tool, give me the skill it make me knowledgeable. It change my life, it give me hope ... Remember life is full of opportunity so education is the key for you and me," the lyrics read.
Listening attentively to these words was *David Williams a current student in the programme who has aspirations to be an auto-mechanic. He tells JIS News that he needs to improve his literacy skills and as such is committed to "working very hard on it".
Prior to joining the programme, David was wiping windscreens at a number of traffic lights in the Kingston Metropolitan Area and also washing cars for a living.
"I used to go to an All-Age School, but I follow bad company and get kicked out of the school," he reveals adding that this caused him to go to the streets to make a living.
"It was really tough because I only have a mother. I have a father but him don't responsible for me. So I have to earn a living for myself," he explains.
However after continuous encouragement from Leroy Campbell, Manager at the Skills Training and Employment Centre, who would pass him on the streets daily, David finally took the decision to join the programme.
"Mr. Campbell pass me every day and said young man come to the programme, I see that you have good potential in you and he encouraged me until ...here I am in the programme, doing well," he says with a smile, adding that this second chance has helped him to catch up on the time that he had lost.
"I am happy to be in the programme, the reason why is that I had lost out a whole heap and when I came into the programme I picked up a lot that I had dropped off. I'm learning to read better [and things that other people would take for granted] such as how to enter a place, how to talk to someone," he states.
David is one of the leading students in the leather craft programme and he boasts "I know a lot about the leather craft and I can do it very well".
In terms of advice for other youths, some of them his friends, David is encouraging them to come into the programme.
"Most of my friends tell me that me pass the age and me out school long time and so I can't mention school to them, but I am encouraging them that no care how old you are you still learn, learning never stops," he emphasizes.
The Possibility Programme was implemented in 2001 by the Office of the Prime Minister, through the Programme Coordinating and Monitoring Unit (PUMU). Commencing April 2008 the implementation of the programme was transferred to the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports.
* Name changed to protect the student's identity.
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