A First For Children First In Jamaica

Children First, a Christian Aid partner in Jamaica, has won a Michael Manley award for its outstanding work with children and young people.

Children First received the prize at the Michael Manley Foundation Awards for Community Self-Reliance in August 2010. This commendation recognises our partner’s exemplary work in a challenging area of Jamaica, where gun violence is rampant.

Christian Aid supports its work with youths and vulnerable children through the Male Awareness Now (MAN) project. The MAN project…Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world. 80% of victims are men between 18-35.

The MAN project was developed to help young men (aged 14-24), by offering them vocational skills, life skills training, male health forums, guidance, and community activities; and most importantly, an avenue away from drugs and guns. The project is based in the  heavily populated, yet severely under-developed urban area of Spanish Town – a region with lots of violent crime, poverty and hazardous child labour.

Travin Nichols story…After spending approximately two years in the MAN project, Travin is a changed young man. Once an angry teenager quick to use his fists, he now has concrete goals and a better relationship with his family. His introduction to the MAN project came from a Children First employee, who encouraged him to explore the training the programme offered.

‘Now I learn from the programme that if I ignore them, they leave me alone.’

Before he joined the MAN project, Travin had a strained relationship with his family and was turning to aggression as a problem-solver. In seventh grade, he experienced the usual spate of school yard tussles with other boys. However when one case became too much, and neither his teacher nor the principal could do anything to solve it, he took matters into his own hands.

‘Most times, I quarrel if people ah stress me out… In seven grade, I was rude, very rude.’

After his time in the project, Travin has learned how to communicate and that there are other ways to deal with stress and nagging little sisters. His goals and focus for his future have also changed. The programme has allowed Travin to recognise that his aggressive attitude toward classmates was unnecessary:

‘To me the programme is a very exciting… it allows the youths in the ghetto, in the areas that are violent, like in the gullies, to get a skill that is very useful…

‘I just use what they taught me, listen to what the teacher is saying, and don’t react to anybody, because none of them going to make you further your education, is what the teacher is teaching you.’