Youth Peace Facilitator Carrington Bishop - Bringing Peace to August Town.
August Town is one of the communities in the Kingston Metropolitan Area which is severely affected by violence. Not even children and young people are spared the effects of the gang warfare and gun violence which plague the small community.
Violence disrupts young people’s education, restricts their ability to move freely about their communities and traumatises them as they are often victims of, or witnesses to, violent activities.
This was one reason for the recruitment of more than 100 young people from a number of urban communities (such as August Town) affected by violence, to participate in a two week training programme in mediation organized by the National Youth Service and the Dispute Resolution Foundation, and funded by UNICEF’s Adolescent Development and Participation programme in 2005.
Carrington Bishop, a 17 year old resident of August Town was one of those recruited by the Community Violence Prevention, Education and Mediation Programme which targets vulnerable adolescents in Kingston, St. Catherine and St. James. Carrington, who is in his first year of A’Level (pre-university) studies, became involved in the project through the August Town Youth Crime Watch. He admits that he was a bit taken aback when he first entered the programme.
“From the first briefing it seemed to many of us that we had been sent to a boot camp because we were greeted by soldiers and we wondered what type of camp this would be! But it turned out quite differently. They were very friendly and the training was very good,” he says.
The programme provided mediation training for young people who were drawn from communities which suffer from problems associated with high rates of crime and violence. They not only received training but were certified as mediators and as Youth Peace Facilitators at the end of training.
After training, organizations in the target communities which could utilize the services of these young people were invited to accept them so that they could use their newly acquired skills in their communities. They are paid a small stipend from UNICEF funding. Carrington was placed in the August Town Primary School.
“I attend devotions and meet with the teachers and go to classes. I set a schedule where I have some time each day per week for each class. Sometimes when a teacher is absent from school I sit with the class and help them with their other work for the entire day.”
He says work in the school has been an eye-opener for him as he has been using his mediation and conflict resolution skills frequently even with very young children.
“I have learnt to respect teachers a lot more because these kids are very hard to deal with….This is real life and the conflicts here are not like a workshop, they are ‘unrehearsed.’ Certain students are very difficult to talk to and there are fights which are the toughest conflicts and are very frequent. I think most of this is due to poor upbringing. The children are not trained properly. They just react to certain things and they cannot communicate effectively. They just strike out. The parents need to do more.”
Carrington has been assigned to the school for three months and says the experience has been invaluable. He has been using his skills not only at the school, but also at home, with friends and in the community. He feels that the fact that the programme uses young people from the target communities makes it very effective.
“It is great that we have organizations training young people like ourselves to become mediators. If they took someone from outside to do this they would not get the same response. People come to me and talk to me because they know me, I am from here and they trust me.”