Opposition complains about ‘army of street children’

Abused and abducted children have been shamefully neglected by the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) as it is yet to proclaim legislation created eight years ago to protect them, says Opposition Senator Dr Jennifer Jones-Kernahan.

The package of children’s legislation was originally laid by the Opposition United National Congress Alliance (UNC-A), when it was in office as the UNC, in 2000.   

"What we have in this country, Mr Vice President, is an administration that is guilty of the most unconscionable, cynical neglect, shameful neglect of the children of this country over the past seven years," Jones-Kernahan said.

She made the assertion during Tuesday’s sitting of the Senate as the Government sought the passage of a bill that is meant give The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction the force of law in Trinidad and Tobago.

Jones-Kernahan said the issue of international child abduction in itself should be dealt with in separate legislation but should comprise a package of bills to address serious issues regarding the welfare of children in Trinidad and Tobago.

Her fellow Opposition Senator, Mohammed Faisal Rahman, agreed, "We have a growing army of street children in this country," Rahman said.

In laying the bill, Attorney General Bridgid Annisette-George laid the case that specific legislation is needed to deal with cross-border child abductions, especially those carried out by parents in custody cases.

The bill seeks to establish a Central Authority to Child Abduction, the functions of which would be discharged by the Attorney General.

"Several thousand children are the victims of international parental child abduction each year. In fact, Mr Vice President, we in Trinidad and Tobago have not been spared such a development," Annisette-George said.

130,000 more people to benefit from PATH

130,000 more people to benefit from PATH
Children’s Advocate calls for welfare to extend to street children
INGRID BROWN, Observer senior reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GOVERNMENT’S recent budgetary allocation of $1 billion to the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) is expected to benefit an additional 130,000 persons this year, however, there is still no provision in place for children outside the formal school system such as those living on the streets to benefit.

This has prompted Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke to call for this welfare service to be extended to street children who are enrolled in programmes offered by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Clarke raised the issue at the launch of the Social Investment for Children Initiative’s (SICI) newest publication entitled A Review of Economic and Social Investments for Jamaican Children held at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston Monday.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who was addressing the gathering, said this allocation was made to the programme so as to increase the number of persons who would benefit from it.

However, Clarke requested to know just how those like street children would be incorporated so as to benefit.
Dr Pauline Knight, director of social policy planning and research at the Planning Institute Of Jamaica (PIOJ) and chair of SICI said it is quite a challenge to get non-formal students on the PATH programme, as most of the formal educational programmes they are enrolled in do not last beyond six months to a year.

"It is just too short a time for the application process for them to apply, be processed, accepted and get on the PATH programme before commencing their training," she said.
She said PATH cannot meet all the needs in the welfare system and cannot be expanded to one size fits all.

However, Clarke insists that there are programmes that extend for longer periods such as the Young Men’s Christian Association’s (YMCA) for the children they take off the streets.

In addition, she argued that there are other NGOs which are catering to the needs of children with disabilities in an attempt to fill the gap in services created by a governmental lack.

And Dr Knight, while agreeing that they need to give as much support as possible to these NGOs, said the ability to give more is the problem.

"It all comes back to the issue of expanding the resources made available for children, " she said.
Shaw also admitted that not enough was being invested on children, however, he said his government was hoping to change this in the future.

Meanwhile, Dr Knight said the increased allocation to the PATH programme is expected to yield higher benefits for upper secondary level students and for boys.

"We are targetting the benefits to see more improvements for boys to remain in school, so we will not only add to numbers but will improve how the programme works," she said. The additional 130,000 persons to be added to the programme will increase the total number of PATH beneficiaries to 360,000.

Help street children, says Fay-Ann

Help street children, says Fay-Ann

By RHONDOR DOWLAT Thursday, February 7 2008

It has been a bitter-sweet Carnival for Fay-Ann Lyons-Alvarez who won the 2008 Road March title but placed third in International Power Soca Monarch competition, which went to her husband Ian “Bunji Garlin” Alvarez.

But Lyons-Alvarez is ready to put the season behind her and yesterday expressed greater concern about the growing number of street children, deplorable road conditions and the lack of airplay for fellow soca-artistes who, she said, “did their best just like myself and Bunji did.”

While celebrating the victory of her song “Get On” which DJs and music bands played 331 times on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Lyons-Alvarez took the opportunity to call on the Government to establish homes and not shelters for street children.

“This issue is closest to my heart. I wish that the Government use some of those dilapidated buildings throughout the country and restructures it to homes for homeless children,” she said at her Roystonia, Couva home. “We need so much for social workers to go to house to house and check out families and provide counselling where needed. We also need counselling in schools because the youths of today seriously need a sense of direction.”

Lyons-Alvarez said she had spoken to three female students of Debe Secondary School who had thought about dropping out.

“After that talk I learnt that they had changed their minds from dropping out of school and I want to applaud them for being positively focused.”

Lyons-Alvarez also expressed disappointment that the media, both electronic and print, failed to give fair press coverage to soca artistes and air play to their songs. “You can’t just accredit one person because he or she won a major title but all of us worked hard the same way and deserves fair play.”

The couple was watching television when the NCC announced the results of the Road March.

“I was sitting next to Bunji on the couch looking at the television and when the results were announced he and I began running in excitement around the centre table of the living room. Then one of my cousins called and I told her to come over. The rest of the day would be spent at Bunji’s mother’s place in Arima where we will have a big cook and lime,” said Lyons-Alvarez. This is her second Road March win, as she won the title in 2003 with “Display”.

In spite of this victory, Lyons-Alvarez insists she won’t return to the Soca Monarch competition next year. Although he won, Garlin had previously said he felt his wife had beaten him. “This year definitely was my last year in entering the Soca Monarch, so my focus is to continue progressing in music and otherwise. In two weeks time we tour to Guyana, from there, to Orlando, New York and in May, Germany. So Bunji and I have a lot in store for this year and well, we will see for next Carnival, this is something we cannot plan, it just falls into place.”

Dominican Tourism Police will ID vendors, rescues street children

Dominican Tourism Police will ID vendors, rescues street children

SANTO DOMINGO.- Tourism Police (Politur) director Manuel Rodriguez said on Wednesday street vendors in the Conde Peatonal, Columbus park and the Colonial Zone will be given ID cards, after they pass doping tests.

He said patrols in the Colonial Zone will be increased with Politur and municipal agents.

Rodriguez said the vendors would be given an ID card to prevent thugs from infiltrating the business to commit crimes and would benefit from the program because it would prevent addicts or those with criminal records from jeopardizing the activity.

He said those who result positive in the dope tests will not be given an ID, and instead be taken to a detox center, so they can again work as vendors. "This program we are going to develop will be with the utmost possible respect and using a personal doctor, orientation and psychologists so they understand the importance of living a completely wholesome life."

Rodriguez said the organizations of vendors, retailers and hoteliers support Politur’s program.

Street children

The official also said the program to rescue minors who roam the streets, beaches and avenues advances, and the children are taken to shelters operated by the Office of the First Lady and other government agencies. He said the program will also include Boca Chica, Juan Dolio and other places tourists frequent by the thousands.

He said the increase in day and night patrols in the Colonial Zoneand other areas would afford more protection for tourists and businesses. "For those efforts we have the support of the Tourism Ministry, the National Police and the mayor Roberto Salcedo and the retailers and hoteliers themselves."

Claudette Pious – She puts children first

 

Claudette Pious – She puts children first
published: Tuesday | September 11, 2007

Sajoune Rose, Gleaner Writer

 


Claudette Pious during the interview with The Gleaner in her office at Children’s First in Spanish Town, St. Catherine. – photos by Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer

The need to see youth improve their lives and become successful individuals is her main drive. She lives by the belief that everyone can succeed despite the obstacles that might come his or her way.

We are speaking of the indomitable Claudette Pious, a woman who has risen from very humble beginnings where she experienced sufferings of all sort to a point where she is now directing the lives of youths, who had previously felt hopeless.

Unlike many persons who believe that poverty is the cause for the misfortunes of persons, Ms. Pious says this is a far cry from reality. One’s success, she says, depends on how much you want to achieve. "People who say poverty is a deterrent and dem caan do well, I don’t believe it because you affi have that determination." She believes that there are no excuses for failure. However, she reasons that, "If you sit down at home waiting for the job to come to you, it won’t come."

From an early age growing up in Manchester and later in Kingston, she learnt the importance of certain values. A grandfather with a wooden leg taught her that manners would take her places.

"As a Kingston girl, I didn’t know how to tell howdy. I didn’t know that I should tell cow and everybody howdy, so the next day I tell all bush howdy," says Ms. Pious, as she recalls the "proper beating" she received from her grandfather for neglecting basic manners.

Manners open doors

From that time, she said, she learnt that manners open doors and provide opportunities.

Growing up with an aunt because her mother migrated to Canada "to seek greener pastures", Ms. Pious says she got a very good experience of what it felt like to grow up without one’s immediate family. "I understood that she was not my mother and I also understood that I was Dorcas, the maid, very early, so I had to do a lot of Cinderella things and despite having some bumpy tings happen to me in life, there was always a likkle old lady in the community who would hide and gi mi a likkle money fi go school."

This, she said, instilled in her the motivation to do well and prove to her aunt that she could become a success in life as she had written her off, saying that she would not become anybody. "I bet her saying that before you die, I’m going to be a somebody and I was determined at all cost to do well," she said.

Formerly a teacher at Kingston College (KC), it was there that she realised what her true purpose in life was. She said that the "disappearance" of her boys led her to go to the Hope River where she discovered where they were spending their days. She said that she spent a few days sitting in the riverbed with the boys to understandwhat was happening to them and later discovered, "I’m not really supposed to be a teacher, I must be the guidance counsellor," she said. After that, she realised that this was her calling and started "sticking close" to the guidance department at KC and later doing courses in social work.

Save the Children UK

Later, there was an opening at Save the Children U.K., an international children’s charity based in the United Kingdom, which fights for children’s rights, and aims to deliver lasting improvements to children’s lives worldwide, which was doing some work in Jamaica. Taking the proactive approach, Ms. Pious went out to find the street children with whom she would have worked if she got the job. She aced the interview and in 1997, when Save the Children U.K. was phasing out in Jamaica, Children’s First emerged out of this project.

However, Children’s First sought to bring a more developmental approach to the work that was being done by Save the Children U.K. "Much of what they were doing was very welfare, with them handing out shoes, food, and I realised that you can’t be handing out fi di rest a wi life," she said. "Children’s First moved from welfare to empowering people to make changes in their lives."

Ms. Pious epitomises the image of a "woman in charge". This woman while juggling her job as a consultant for Cultural Approach Intervention in eight of the island’s prisons with the Ministry of National Security, still serves as director of Children’s First and spends time caring for the children at the institution. She says they are very understanding and "know when there is no money to buy the tissue paper, etc.". She said that the children are very involved in the decision making at the institution where they sit on the boards and help with the evaluation of the staff.

For her, the greatest thing about her work with Children’s First is the sense of achievement she feels when she sees her students go through the programme and later become successful.

Children’s achievements


Claudette Pious (left) is seen here in conversation at Children’s First with the instructors who work at the institution.

Today, one of her boys is enrolled at York University doing a degree in social work and politics. Another of her girls, Karlene Ellis, won a track and field scholarship and is now about to complete her master’s degree.

Currently, 40 per cent of the staff at Children’s First are individuals who have gone through the programme and have returned to help persons like themselves.

Gassett Myles, now 25 years old who was once a street kid, is now the barbering instructor at the institution. He praises Ms. Pious for the effort she is expending to change the lives of almost forgotten children like himself. "She come like a mother to me. She never show me a bad face and she always try fi encourage you. Mi respect her, man, and she has been so helpful to me, me nah let her down," he said as he rests his leg on his motorcycle under a tree outside in the yard of the institution. "The school do a lot for me, so me decide fi come back and share my knowledge," he said.

In the meanwhile, Stacy-Ann Lacey is now the administrative assistant at the institution. She received a scholarship and went to Jos´┐Ż Marti Technical High School. She says the institution has given her a lot and it is only right that she gives back. "It is m
y duty to give back and help other young people in terms of their progression," she said. On the day of the interview, Vandrea Thompson, another of the ‘past’ students, who has returned to serve the institution, was at the University of Technology registering to pursue a degree this upcoming school year.

To many Jamaicans, Ms. Pious is simply ‘Miss Likkle’ because she was a familiar face in many plays and commercials in electronic and print media. Her entrance into the theatre came after she placed third in the Tastee talent competition in 1979 and won a scholarship to the School of Drama. This experience she treasured.

"It was really, really important in terms of my development as it allowed me to do the things I really wanted to do. It also allowed me to carve my niche out there in that from early, I saw myself as a performer."

It’s been two years since she has performed in a play; however, the theatre experience, she said, has helped to create a bond between herself and the Jamaican people. "It allowed me to position myself in the heart of the Jamaican people which for me is important."

People recognise her

She said the fact that people see her today and feel the need to get close to her makes her feel good. "People see me and recognise me and want to touch me and hug me up and pickney waan rub me down and talk to me," she said. She said that this connection is very valuable to her.

Before this though, she thought of herself as a poet where she wrote poetry and used the writing as an escape from the hardships she was experiencing in her life. "When the bad tings happen to me, me did affi find a way so me usually write bout them." She even released a compilation titled, The Poetry of Claudette Richardson in 1979.

Today, she is an inspiration to many persons because of the role she has taken in trying to improve the lives of Jamaica’s children. She describes herself as "a visionary, a mother (mother in the widest sense of the word), and the young people see me as a motivator and say if you do it, it mean me can do it to, she said."

Before she became the woman she is today, she worked as a dry cleaner and, importantly, she pointed out that she used to clean a huge church in St. Andrew because she needed the money to carry out basic tasks. This kind of past, she said, developed in her "the importance of working with poor people and creating opportunities for them".

According to her, one of the greatest challenges she faces in her work is the lack of respect for the work that Children’s First is doing. She said that even though her institution movesapproximately 60 students to the formal school system each year and watches them until fifth or sixth form, it is not recognised as an educational institution.

Imparting valuable lessons

She said that in the face of all these adversities, the institution is blessed and she attempts to impart valuable lessons to the children. She says seeing what other people achieve is a big problem for her children and she tries to instil in them the importance of not looking at people and wanting what they want because they don’t know the route they went to get it.

She said that emulation of positive persons is critical. "We show them somebody from their community who came from similar experiences and are now doing well. It’s easier for them, so there is a lot of mirroring."

"To see a man who used to sell bag juice under the bus stop who is now a teacher or going to college propels them to do well," she said.

For her, two of the most important things we as a nation can do for our children is to protect them and provide opportunities for them to develop into worthwhile human beings.

In 2005, she received a Gleaner Honour Award not only for being an excellent performer during her days on stage, but also for he deeds. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D.

Children’s First received the Press Association of Jamaica Award for Excellent Contribution to Community Development and to Street Children in Particular on November 22, 1998. The project currently caters to the needs of children through the provision of education, training and life skills support mechanisms that are essential for the health and welfare of the nation’s youth.

 

‘Govt must care for street children’

Homeless and unsupervised children have been at the forefront of most criminal activities as a means of having their basic needs fulfilled, the Small Enterprising Business Association (SEBA) said in a statement yesterday.

It said the children were also being used by adults who exploit their homelessness and lack of supervision.

"We wish to suggest that in Government’s plan to establish a Children’s Authority, part of the mandate of this new body should be to eradicate the problem of street children and unsupervised children who have so become either through death or separation from parents, perhaps by crime or imprisonment," SEBA said in its call for a special protection programme.

"These children, who become young people, do so without any sense of purpose or value to their own lives or the lives of others, thus making this growing population of street children and incubator for the development and nurturing of criminal activity."

SEBA said everything must be done to generate a sense of pride and self-esteem in these young individuals.

"They may not reach out to us so we must reach out to them, redirecting their youthful energies into positive activities, thus allowing all sectors of the population, with specific reference to the small business sector, to enjoy a crime-free country and to be able to ply their trade in comfort with the only threat to the success of their business being the effects of the competitive environment in which they operate."

Strengthen social services in Budget

Strengthen social services in Budget

By RHONDOR DOWLAT Monday, August 20 2007

DWARIKA BOODOOSINGH, Chair-man of Operation Rescue Street Children, made an urgent plea to Prime Minister Patrick Manning to remember street children in his Budget presentation 2007/2008 in Parliament today at 1.30 pm.

Boodoosingh claimed that presently, there are 18 children living on the streets of Port-of-Spain, many of whom have been abused both sexually and physically by adults.

“There is a significant number of children living on the streets and it seems nobody cares about them,” Boodoosingh said.

“We need to have a permanent place to put these children so they can be fed, counselled and nurtured. Most homes take them in but send them back out on the streets at the age of 16. We don’t need those kind of homes because they are not helping the situation,” he added.

Street children who range from the age of three to seventeen spend their days begging. At nights, they go to any of the parks in and around the city, including Victoria Square and other open spaces, where they huddle together for warmth as well as protection from sex predators.

This country signed the World Declaration for the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in 1990.

Boodoosingh challenged Manning to make provisions for the street children and homeless in the Budget especially since one of the areas expected to receive significant funding in the Budget, is social services.

Pacifica photographer inspires Haitian street kids

Candid snapshots

By Sasha Vasilyuk

(Jennifer Cheek Pantaleon)

(Jennifer Cheek Pantaleon)

For the past 10 years, Sharp Park-based photographer Jennifer Cheek Pantaleon has been paying regular visits to Haiti. Her goal was neither to capture the chanting mobs and the burning tires nor to tan on the palm-lined beaches. Instead, Pantaleon went to Haiti to teach the multitude of children who inhabit its streets to take another look at their world — through the lens of a camera.

In this small nation ravaged by poverty and political turmoil, children and teens make up 45 percent of the total population and are often the first ones to suffer. Thousands of orphans and children from poor families are driven to the streets to sleep, beg for food, and find petty jobs to survive. Some of them find temporary refuge in group homes, where foreign volunteers like Pantaleon can meet them and try to help.

Pantaleon came to the island in January 1997 to take pictures of daily life, but ended up visiting a well-known group home, "LaFanmi Selavi," set up in Port-au-Prince in 1986 by Haiti’s former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide when he was a priest. There, she gave impromptu photography lessons to a group of children who didn’t know anything about the art form.

"It’s amazing what kind of creativity comes out of kids if they have the resources they never would have had," she says.

Pantaleon enjoyed the experience so much that she knew she had to come back. In the summer, she returned to the home and showed the kids a slide-show of photographs she has taken during her previous trip. She set up a projector in the playground and paid for the generator out of her own pocket.

"The kids went absolutely nuts – they’ve never seen their photos before," remembers Pantaleon. "They became much more interested in photography. The interest was sparked and it just continued."

Since then, she has been coming back to Haiti once or twice a year to lead photography workshops. At the beginning, when there weren’t enough cameras for everyone, Pantaleon made cardboard cutouts to teach her students "to respect the art of photography." She also taught them the history of the art form, the basics of composition as well as how to hold the camera, look at light, and approach people on the street. She also showed examples of photographs in Haitian tourism brochures and newspapers and invited successful local photographers to lead the kids by example.

"We do what we can, so that the kids get an opportunity to learn something they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to learn," explains Pantaleon.

One of her favorite students was the 9-year-old Papouche. "He would get mad at me because with street kids, people go once, make promises and then never come back, so kids don’t get attached," she says. "But I kept coming back and eventually Papouche and I became friends."

By then, Pantaleon already had experience working with at-risk children. In the late 1980s, after working as a photojournalist, she began taking pictures for children’s advocacy agencies in the Tenderloin district in San Francisco, which eventually turned into a documentary project and an exhibit. Later on, she also taught photography to homeless teenagers living on San Francisco’s streets.

Yet what she encountered in Haiti was beyond her expectations and often beyond her control. After several years of teaching, Pantaleon grew attached to a group of kids at "LaFanmi Selavi" only to learn that the home was closing.

"We were hoping to build a darkroom there, but the home closed in 2000 and 500 kids were back on the street," she said.

For Pantaleon, that meant that she no longer had a home base from which to teach her core group of photography students. After the closing, she lost track of many of them – when Papouche hit the streets, she didn’t see him for another three years. Then, at a chance meeting in the city, she ran into him again as he was carrying heavy jugs of water, trying to make a living.

Pantaleon knew that besides the useful lessons of photography that kept the kids occupied and gave them a potentially useful skill set, they also needed financial support. But as a volunteer, Pantaleon could only do so much – she spent a lot of her own money on the workshops and brought care bags with vitamin C candy, combs, and shampoo that her friends donated.

"We were going broke and decided we need to start a non-profit because the need was getting greater and we couldn’t not help," she says.

She and her Haitian husband Guy named the non-profit "Zanmi Lakay," which means friend’s home in Haitian Creole.

"Zanmi Lakay sounded like a safe place, a place you could be with your friends – I like the idea of that," explains Pantaleon. "There are so many things that can happen to you there. But they know they can be safe with us."

Pantaleon continued her photography workshops – sometimes at other group homes and sometimes right on the street. Tall and blond, she stood out on the Haitian streets and many locals knew her as "Jen the photographer."

Back in the Bay Area, she organized donation drives at schools and held sales of art made by Haitian street kids. Through the years, she also kept up with many of her original students – although some kids have since died or disappeared.

Papouche is now 19. Pantaleon says that he is generous and kind, a little shy, and a really good photographer. Recently, he was put up in a rental room to be a good influence on his roommate, a drug addict. In September, Papouche is supposed to go back to school. Although Haitians often go to school until their early 20s, most street children older than 16 are kicked out of group homes to make room for younger charges. During that critical age, they receive almost no support. As a result, many of them have children, starting the cycle all over again.

Before her next trip back to Haiti, Pantaleon is trying to help Papouche and 11 others pay for rent and stay in school. The total sum for 12 of them amounts to $3,000.

"We want to set them up right, so they wouldn’t have to worry about anything and just study," explains Pantaleon. "We’re trying to keep momentum up so they wouldn’t fall back into street life again."

Back in 1997, Pantaleon wasn’t expecting her trip to turn into a mission. Many things have happened since then and she has documented her experience in a multitude of shots that are on her website.

"You don’t see many positive pictures of Haiti – my thing was to show positive pictures an
d reflect their lives, tell their stories," says Pantaleon. "That’s not how people live everyday – it’s not all violence and burned tires. It’s their life."

To contribute to Zanmi Lakay, go to www.zanmilakay.org or contact Jennifer Pantaleon at 359-6225 or zanmilakay@aol.com

Action needed on street children – Boys being used as criminal pawns

Action needed on street children – Boys being used as criminal pawns
published: Sunday | July 29, 2007

Fabian Ledgister, Freelance Writer

"Street boys will become street men, who become street monsters! I predicted it a long time ago; it’s inevitable when given the level of exposure they get," says Claudette Pious, veteran comedienne and head of the youth organisation, Children First.

Speaking against the background of recent criminal activities where police have identified street children as the perpetrators of major crimes, Pious cites the cause as lack of attention being given these youths.

"There have been too many meetings and talk of what needs to be done, and little or no action. Lawd! Mi a talk bout it fi 10 years now! But a only when yuh hear the street boy bruk in a house and shoot an uptown lady that dem get attention," says the frustrated long-time advocate of street children, in reference to an incident in which police say they removed the leader of an organised armed gang of street boys called the ‘In The Streets’ gang’.

According to the police, the young gang members, whose street turf is in the vicinity of the St. Andrew Parish Church, in Half-Way Tree, use windshield wiping – at the stop lights where Maxfield Avenue intersects with Hagley Park Road – as a cover-up for criminal activities.

The alleged street-boy gang was observed recently engaging in deplorable actions such as spraying one motorist with a water bottle, hitting another motor vehicle, and cursing many others who would not give them money. At one point, a few boys converged on the church’s parking lot, where one ofthem showed the others a cellular phone, assumed to be stolen, and then handed it to an older youth in the group.

Officer in charge of crime at the Half-Way Tree Police Station, Detective Sergeant Radcliffe Levy, says: "It’s a big business being conducted by this gang, where they loot cameras, cellphones, and other items, and sell them at cheap prices to others that sell them again."

Police say street kids are now including car theft in their criminal activities, after police identified two youths in a recent car robbery to be street boys from the In The Streets gang’s vicinity.

Reports are that about 3:45 a.m. on July 3, a green Toyota Kluger SUV, which was reported stolen from the Mayfair Vista area in Kingston 19, was spotted along Ambrook Lane, which runs directly behind the St. Andrew Parish Church’s cemetery. Two boys, who were recognised by the police to be members of the In the Streets gang, were spotted jumping out of the vehicle with what appeared to be gunshot wounds.

"The area is tense from a recent killing, so we believe that the boys were met with gunfire when they entered the community with the strange vehicle," an officer at the Half-Way Tree Police Station surmised. The police took them both to the Kingston Public Hospital, where they were treated and arrested for larceny of motor vehicle.

Convener of Hear The Children’s Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine, says that she recognises the behaviour of street children as bordering on delinquency, and has experienced their lawlessness first hand.

Verbal abuse

"I’ve been a victim of verbal abuse, I’ve been a victim of my car being damaged by some of these boys. There are organisations such as Children First, operated by Claudette Pious, the YMCA, and the Possibility programme, which the St. Andrew Care Centre operates, but much more needs to be done," says Blaine.

Pious says Children First has augmented its initiatives with the street children to include locating and eliminating the push factors that introduce them to street life. "What we do is look for the push factors – where they are coming from, who they live with. We institute both preventative and rehabilitative methods in a holistic way, and we are seeing success," she says.

Rehabilitation

"Rehabilitation is equipping these kids with a career skill such as barbering, photography and cosmetology, so instead of becoming monsters, they have the self-reliance and confidence to uplift themselves. In our preventative measures, we go into the homes and communities where these streets kids are coming from and try to empower the parents of kids with skills so they don’t push their children to street hustling," Pious added.

The Half-Way Tree police say they will also be taking proactive measures to stem the trend of street boys being used as criminal pawns, by levying criminal charges on the parents.

Detective Levy says: "These boys are buying bullets with your loose change and are recruiting more and more young persons without sources of income, so we are now going after the parents of these juveniles, levying charges of child neglect wherever applicable, and the child will be taken off the streets so as not to be used as criminals."

But top cop for the St. Andrew South division, Superintendent Derrick ‘Cowboy’ Knight, says that he will be trying what he describes as a passive and possibly more effective approach to combat the issue of street boys entering crime.

"About six years ago, SSP (Senior Superintendent) Powell, then head of the Newport West Police Station, teamed up with a teacher to create an education and feeding programme that saw success. I am now in dialogue with that said teacher to reinstitute this initiative, as well as NGOs, PMI and the wharf to get this under way," he says.