14 July 2023

From joining U-Report in high school I've now become a project manager!

Hi, I'm Danielle Mullings, a passionate advocate for the role of technology in youth development. I wanted to share my journey about how I went full-circle from U-Report Youth Council member to Project Manager of our exciting new life skills project, FunDoo.  It started when UNICEF visited my high school, seeking student perspectives back in 2018…, Developing a new digital life coach with U-Report , Since graduating from the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona as class valedictorian , I have now embarked on a new chapter with UNICEF as the project manager for FunDoo, an innovative digital life skills coach more easily accessible through WhatsApp.   My twin background as a software engineering student and former guild president has helped…, Co-creating “FunDoo” with Jamaican youth , Over 500 U-Reporters responded to our poll, and in collaboration with Talk Up Yout, our series of focus groups have welcomed more than 200 youth coming from west, east and central Jamaica, including students from the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf.   We envision FunDoo to be a digital life coach available at your fingertips – that can…, WhatsApp-based ‘tasks’ teaching vital skills , For Jamaica, we’re dedicated to designing FunDoo to meet the unique needs of young people. FunDoo was originally launched in India, and now more than 700,000 youth worldwide are using it. As we roll out FunDoo in Jamaica, we have engaged Jamaican youth to select our offering of bite-size courses known as “tasks” – both developing new tasks and…, Accessible tech to bridge digital divide , As we prepare for FunDoo's launch, I'm filled with anticipation. This project has been an extraordinary journey, allowing me to contribute to empowering young minds worldwide. It has further fuelled my dream of one day serving as the United Nations Envoy on Technology, advocating for the integration of technology in sustainable solutions for…, What’s UNICEF doing? , Our 2021-22 Reimagine Education initiative consulted almost 600 high school students to gain their inputs for the national Education Transformation Commission. Among their recommendations were the need for more life skills and tech in the classroom. UNICEF Jamaica has also been supporting the Government to help more adolescents transition into…
05 May 2023

Dear adults, let's learn about mental health together

Something I have learned now that I am 14 years old, is that it is not only adults that can have problems or mental health issues. Yes, children can have mental health issues when it comes on to stress and school and so forth. There is one incident when I was at school. There was a girl in my class, and every day she would just come to school…, Incident left students distressed but was not discussed, They took her to the guidance counsellor and sat with her for a while and then called her parents. I don’t know what happened after. There was no discussion in class about it. I was just in shock about it.  The teachers could have at least talked about what happened as all the students were distressed about what happened. But they did not talk…, Increase awareness about mental health in schools, What I would really like to advocate for is people being able to understand what’s really going on. Lots of people don’t really understand that sometimes things can become overwhelming especially at school as well. I just want people to understand that school is not all simple as they think. It is a lot harder as well. I would like for there to be…, How I cope with challenges to my mental health, One thing that works very well for me is sitting down and listening to music that relaxes the mind. I mainly listen to music when I am upset, not when I am overwhelmed. When I am overwhelmed, I have people I can talk with like my Grandma. She tells me everything will be okay, and she just talks to the Lord, and He will sort things out. It is nice…, Postscript from Keino’s grandmother:, Keino’s grandmother Gloria Green Sharpe assists in the care of her five grandchildren, including 14-year-old Keino, whose father (her son) sadly died from COVID-19. She describes her grandchildren as “five brilliant and outstanding children”. She says, “It is rough, and it is not easy to go up the rough side of the mountain. I love them and I…, What’s UNICEF doing?, UNICEF Jamaica is working with young people to bring attention to the need for improved mental health support and care for children and adolescents. One of our critical initiatives is the U-Matter Chatline. It is provided free by UNICEF’s  U-Report  messaging service for youth, connecting users aged 16-24 years to chat anonymously and…
21 April 2023

Climate change is damaging my football dream

Jaeden is one of UNICEF Jamaica’s recently formed group of young Climate Action Advocates who are committed to protecting our planet. Let’s hear his story of how climate change has affected his dream. I am a future footballer living in Jamaica. Today, I would like to say that climate change is severely affecting my dream in football. I play…, Drought restrictions affecting my school, The government has put tighter water restrictions so we should save water for drinking or washing clothes. We don’t have enough water to water the fields. The field we used to play in was full of grass, and we had to cut it at least every month. But now, the field is just dry, dusty, and full of stones. This often makes us sick and sometimes we…, Reducing climate change impact at home, In our school, we have a water harvesting system. We set up a water tunnel, so when the rain falls, the water goes into the pipe stretching from the roof and is saved in the water tank. We can transfer the rain to the tank, preserve, and use it for irrigation in the school farm. I think we can apply this system to our households, as many people in…, Clean energy and reforestation, Also, install solar panels on the rooftops. Jamaica gets sunlight all year round. If we use solar panels, it will convert solar energy into electric energy for daily use. This will limit the use of burning fossil fuels, as it is one of the main factors causing climate change. Lastly, practice reforestation which is planting more trees. Trees are…, What’s UNICEF doing?, Our Climate action and resilience programme aims to address the environmental and socioeconomic drivers of vulnerability for children by strengthening the capacities of: Government and communities to support the development, financing, implementation and monitoring of child-sensitive, gender-responsive climate policies and programmes; and National…
24 March 2023

Jamaican children need education that fuels their dreams

Ree-Anna Robinson, 20, has been working with UNICEF Jamaica to provide a youth perspective on education and mental health advocacy for students in Jamaica. Ree-Anna has helped to lead the “Reimagine Education” initiative, addressing the Transforming Education Summit in New York City on behalf of Jamaican students and with U-Report, guided the…, We need to break barriers to education, Our socio-economic barriers to education really stifle our dreams, especially at the tertiary level, where under 30 per cent of the young people in Jamaica actually make it through to university, with a prominent issue being funding of tuition. Further adding to this issue,there are those who are enrolled but may not be able to study what they…, Mental health issues need to be addressed, In Jamaica, we have been good at highlighting basic needs which schools must provide such as food security through feeding programmes. It is easier for us to identify these but we do not pay enough attention to the mental health of students and how to adequately identify and support them until it is much too late. My mental health advocacy was…, What policy makers can do, In addressing structural issues in the education system, I want a safer school environment. I want increased access to mental health services, resources, normalising conversations through holistic sensitisation of all stakeholders who interact with young people. It can’t be left to teachers or guidance counsellors alone, especially when (on…, What’s UNICEF doing?, UNICEF Jamaica is working with young people to bring attention to the need for improved mental health support and care for children and adolescents. One of our critical initiatives is the U-Matter Chatline. It is provided free by UNICEF’s  U-Report  messaging service for youth, connecting users aged 16-24 years to chat anonymously and…
24 February 2023

Giving a voice to Jamaican children damaged for life by violence

Myesha Broadie, a reporter and presenter from Irie FM won the UNICEF Award for Excellence in Reporting on Children’s Rights at the 2022 Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) National Journalism Awards for her documentary “Children’s Cry” which highlights the effects of crime on the nation’s children. Myesha reflects upon her experience – learning…, Giving voice to the children , In 2021, I visited the community of Chapleton in Clarendon, where four children and their mother were brutally killed and seeing the pain first-hand made me realise that Jamaica has a terrible crime and violence problem and not even babies are safe. I knew I had to do something about this, even if it was just to raise awareness.   I had been…, Learning how crime is affecting our children , Crime steals the dreams of our children. Even those who survived are suffering from physical injuries or psychological traumas, living in fear for the rest of their lives.   Crime and violence affect how children learn. In the case of Nesean, he had to be out of school due to his injuries, while Giana could not concentrate at school because she…, What's UNICEF doing? , UNICEF partners with the Press Association of Jamaica to present the annual  ‘Award for Excellence in Reporting on Children’s Rights'  to journalists whose work highlights issues affecting children. This is a part of UNICEF’s wider work to strengthen reporting on children’s issues. UNICEF is also engaging journalists in discussions around the…
20 January 2023

Shelly-Ann to young moms: “I am strong because of my child.”

[Scroll down to watch video] When I got pregnant, a lot of people thought that my career had ended. I remember when I got home, I was nervous and scared because I thought that this pregnancy was going to stop everything. But I also remember after a week, I told myself, “I am going to do this. I am going to be so much better, not only for myself,…, Running my fastest times after giving birth, Even though I had a career at the time, and still had things I wanted to accomplish, I decided that I am now going to have a good pregnancy and get ready to be a good mom. This was not the end; I am going to come back. Make sure you give yourself the opportunity that when you have a child, or when you see your child, to tell yourself: “I am strong…, Make time for self-care, Also, remember that you can’t show up for your child unless you show up for yourself. That’s very important. You have to stand up in front of the mirror and ensure that you are showing up as your authentic self: "This is why I am showing up. I am showing up as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. Why? Because Zyon Pryce needs me. But I need me first.” People…, What’s UNICEF doing?, The Empowered Futures Parenting Programme is designed to help adolescent mothers feel more empowered and confident about themselves and the care, protection and support they give to their children. The programme – which is the first of its kind in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean region – is delivered by trained guidance counsellors employed by the…
16 December 2022

On My Mind: Better mental health for every child in 2023

Every year on 20 November, World Children’s Day is observed. It’s an official day for children and youth to raise their voices on issues that matter to their generation and call for adults to create a better future. Here in Jamaica, we’ve been prompted by young people themselves against the background of the COVID-19 pandemic, to do more to…, Mental health is for everyone – Keino King, aged 13 , "At any age you can know about mental health. It’s a very big thing and everyone should take it seriously. Most people think that it’s not something that you should really care about but it’s very necessary to care about it because you might think it’s not necessary and you just leave it alone but then a couple of years later, it comes back and it…, Families can do more – Ngozi Wright, 10 and Kyle Nunes, 21, Ngozi: “I want parents to listen to their children. You are hearing my voice, but you are not listening to what I am actually saying. So what I want is, anybody like guardians, parents, listen to the children.” Kyle: “We need support from our family. Sometimes when we talk to our parents, their response is not favourable, like ‘Yeah, really and…, What can parents do? – Ree-Anna Robinson, 20, Ree-Anna: I would suggest “gentle parenting”. Gentle parenting is about being gentle as a parent. It comes with the understanding that a child is going to be a child and helping them to manoeuvre through life in that way. So it’s not about not allowing them to make mistakes and about them being perfect as a child, but it’s about helping them to…, What can schools do? – Nathan Davis, 17, “The educational institutions should provide a space where we want to be in that space. This is not just about books, pens, papers, and examinations.  This is about giving us the resources as individuals to go off into society to make things for ourselves, to contribute towards our country and towards our nation in ways that we can be impactful…, Advice to our peers – Chadae King, 21 and Raynard "Benji" O'Connor, 18, Chadae: “It’s important to understand it’s okay not to be okay. And don’t stop. Just keep going. Once you can see your foot, just take the next step. “Each person battles depression differently but we have coping mechanisms…For me, my coping mechanism was doing something to get my mind off it. It was…journaling, writing, and then now it’s personal…
15 September 2022

I’m so proud of Mandeville Regional Hospital becoming Baby-Friendly!

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is an international accreditation certifying hospitals with the necessary practices and standards to support breastfeeding mothers. Breastfeeding gives babies the best, healthiest possible start in life and is recommended exclusively for the first six months of life. Unfortunately, in Jamaica, the…, Teamwork made the dream work, First, cooperation is key. Without unity of purpose, it is impossible to achieve and maintain BFHI certification. Keeping us all together and on task was our remarkable BFHI coordinator. We had unwavering support from our Regional Health Authority (SRHA), the hospital administration and the hospital board. Next, we had the department of nursing,…, Shared mission to protect the health of baby and mom, As a team, we believe that breastfeeding advocacy is perhaps the single intervention with the greatest potential to improve the health of our nation. Breastfeeding positively impacts the health of four generations. It impacts the newborn at the time of birth by reducing gastrointestinal illness, cot death, childhood obesity and the benefits that…, How we trained 800 staff members, Even though the team was focused and united, we still had some technical issues. We struggled to train our massive workforce. With 800 employees including doctors, nurses, paramedics, auxiliary and administration, and a rapid turnover of staff members, getting across the finishing line of having trained 80 per cent of our staff seemed impossible.…, More than just a certificate, Finally, hospitals must remember that BFHI is more than a certificate. It is a commitment to excellent patient care. In 2018, we opened an infant nutrition and education room which we call ‘Breastfeeding Training Room’. It’s a beautiful space with a tranquil atmosphere. Here we teach mothers some rudiments of breastfeeding and how to safely…, What’s UNICEF doing?, The UNICEF-World Health Organisation Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative prepares health systems and mobilises healthcare workers to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in accordance with evidence-based standards.   Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life has been identified as the foundation for achieving optimal health and…
08 August 2022

Creating mental health support for today’s youth because growing up I had none

Trigger warning : this blog post touches upon issues including gun violence and suicidal ideation. If you need support at any stage, please scroll to the bottom to find out how you can chat with a U-Matter counsellor. While reading It’s Not Ok To Feel Blue And Other Lies , a collection of mental health stories curated by British mental health…, Teenage trauma shaped my mental health, While I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly superstitious person, I do take note of patterns and it was interesting to me that this specific number kept recurring because it was at age when I experienced one of my life’s most traumatic events – something that I suppressed well into my young adulthood. Heading home from school one day, the bus…, Lack of support worsened the impact, The silence around the event led me to believe that this was not a big deal and since no lives were lost, this was simply punishment for being disobedient. I carried that teaching around with me for a long time, harming not just myself, but also people I would have interacted with in life. Victim blaming like this remains an all-too-common…, Your mental health matters! U-Matter!, Since that day, several life changing things have happened to me but like many other people in this world (women and girls especially), I often suppressed the big feelings that they brought up because I was never really taught how to process my emotions when something bad happened. Instead, we are conditioned to accept that it is simply the way of…, Trying to support the next generation, I was incredibly frustrated with myself. In my mind this was not the way my story was supposed to go. The more I tried to fight what was going on in my head, the worse I felt, and quite frankly, it was the first time in my entire life that I realised just how tired I was. I had been so fixated on the next thing, achieving the next goal or pleasing…, What’s UNICEF doing?, The U-Matter mental health chatline is provided free by UNICEF’s U-Report messaging service for youth, connecting users aged mainly 16-24 to chat anonymously and confidentially with trained counsellors. To access, message the word SUPPORT to 876-838-4897 on WhatsApp or SMS (free for Flow users); or @ureportjamaica on Instagram or Facebook…