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A second chance for disadvantaged teens at Dominica Social Centre

© UNICEF Dominica/Mcclean-Trotman
Remoff Casimir, 17, practices playing the steel pan – one of the skills he learned through a UNICEF-supported programme designed to help disadvantaged children acquire education and useful skills.

By Lisa McClean-Trotman

ROSEAU, Dominica, 21 July 2006 – From the age of five, Remoff Casimir was shuffled from house to house to live with different relatives as his parents moved to other islands to work.

In time, Remoff, now 17, began to smoke marijuana and hang out on the streets. “It’s not that I didn’t want to go to school,” he said. “It was just that I didn’t have a father or a mother around to tell me that I needed to go, that I needed to stay in school.”

But life took a new direction for Remoff after he saw some homeless people on the street. He realized suddenly that he could end up just like them if he kept using drugs and running with the wrong crowd.

‘I would be out on the street’

“I wanted something better for my life,” he said. “I went by one of my sisters to ask if she could help. I also went to the welfare office to see if they could help me with the $200 tuition to attend the Social Centre.”

© UNICEF Dominica/Mcclean-Trotman
UNICEF’s Representative in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Tom Olsen, speaks with Remoff about the Social Centre programme.

Both his sister and the Dominica Welfare Office gave Remoff the support he needed. He is now one of the 30 students at the UNICEF-supported Social Centre in Dominica, where young people receive education and livelihood training.

At the centre, Remoff and his friends can learn skills ranging from carpentry to cooking and playing the steel pan – his favourite activity. He is also taking high school courses, an opportunity that could help him get to college one day.

“If I wasn’t here I would be out on the street smoking,” he said.

Like hundreds of others who have passed through the centre, Remoff now looks ahead to a much brighter future and a more positive, productive life.

UNICEF provides support

Social Centre Director Norma Cyrille credited UNICEF with making this programme possible.

“With UNICEF’s financial support, we have been able to purchase materials for the students to help them study and learn vocational skills, as most of the children are from poor families across Dominica,” she said.

Ms. Cyrille added that UNICEF also helps to provide small stipends for tutors who work with the children at the centre.

As for Remoff, he is determined to stay focused and do the best he can. “If I do well, I will definitely like to go to college,” he said.




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