Friday, 10 February 2017

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Bob Marley Foundation empowering inner-city teens through annual One Love Youth Camp

ALL OF US: The motivational camp brought together at-risk teens and counsellors from inner-city communities.

One of the ways the Bob Marley Foundation is making a difference and contributing to a better Jamaica is through social activism and helping to groom the next generation of leaders and icons. That’s why, for the past three years, the foundation has been reaching out to at-risk youth, particularly those hailing from inner-city-based educational institutions, to take part in the One Love Youth Camp, in a bid to transform their lives.

From February 1-7, at the height of the annual festivities celebrating Marley’s legacy, some 50 kids and 30 facilitators took over the Tapioca Village retreat grounds (nestled on the St. Andrew/St. Mary border) for a week of rehabilitative and empowerment activities. In partnership with Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream and PYE Global - Partners for Youth Empowerment, the foundation hosted kids from such institutions as Denham Town High, Charlie Smith High, Haile Selassie High, Clan Carthy High and St. Andrew Technical, among others.

Activities ranged from group discussions, visual arts workshops and conflict resolution sessions to theatre arts, community building workshops and motivational talks. Among the facilitators and counselors was Aaron Nigel Smith, an educator and performing artist from Portland, Oregon, who believes well-run programmes such as the One Love Youth Camp deliver benefits that last a lifetime. 

“Creativity is important, empowering young people is important. That’s how we make the world a better place,” says Smith, who runs his own non-profit back in the States. “Not many people have access to this kind of outlet for personal development and creativity.”

 Seventeen-year-old twins Tia and Tika Campbell assure TALLAWAH that they made ample use of the camp’s offerings. “We learnt many different things, especially how people can work together to solve problems. The lessons were serious, but they made them fun,” share the Papine High graduates (currently enrolled at IUC), who were attending the camp for the second time.

Fourteen-year-old Ryece Wright also regaled us with tales of camp-life excitement and their learning experiences in the appealing all-natural setting. “We did some of the activities down by the riverside and that was fun. But what I enjoyed most was the group work,” shared the Holy Trinity High teen. 

Jacqueline Bryan, a trained social worker, says she has seen first-hand the remarkable impact the camp has had on the young people who’ve attended. “There is this one young man in particular who was so transformed by the experience that he participated again this year but as a mentor,” gushes Bryan, who teaches at Haile Selassie. “The camp rehabilitates them, makes them more focussed. And that’s our mission. It’s about the deliberate and intentional empowerment of our young people.” 

Looking ahead, sports teacher Shanavaan Clarke sees the camp widening the net. “I think this camp can only get better if we get youths from all over the island to participate, not just the inner-city youths,” Clarke points out. Smith agrees. “I think by continuing to make it a youth-based camp, empowering and training Jamaican youth,” he notes, “it will serve its purpose.”

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