Xchanger Orlando Hamilton- An "Agent for Change."
Orlando Hamilton is an Xchanger – one of eight Jamaican youth from communities severely affected by violence who attended the one week Xchange training workshop in Trinidad in March 2005. The Xchange movement which is being supported by UNICEF and which is the brain child of Trinidadian singer Machel Montano, brought together like-minded young people from across the Caribbean, eager to make a change in their community.
He was chosen to participate in this leadership training workshop based on recommendations from community organisations which he works with. Orlando has worked with Area Youth Foundation, an NGO which promotes peace and life skills building through the performing arts and with the Mountain View Community Development Council. He helped form the Future Generations Youth Club and is its present president, has established a homework centre and is building a basic school in his community.
“I personally became involved in community work because I want things to be different for the community and I have the feeling that I can be an agent for change. I am eager to resist all the stereotypes that have been given to us as inner-city people, to rise above all that has been said about us by others,” he explains.
While he has been a long-time community and youth worker, Orlando has been further galvanized by Xchange. Since his return home from Trinidad, he has been actively implementing activities under the Xchange programme not only for children and young people in his native community of Mountain View but also for persons in a number of other communities in eastern Kingston.
“What Xchange has done for us is to make the link to access resources to realise the dreams we have had for the youth in the community. We had plans and the ideas were always there but Xchange has created the opportunities for us to access the resources we needed to make these ideas come alive.”
Orlando has used Xchange to help his community establish a football club which recently placed third in a local competition and which also copped the top prizes for most disciplined team and best dressed team.
In summer 2005, with assistance from Xchange, he organised “Uniting Schools Against Violence”, a weekly entertainment session with dance, deejaying and music competitions for young people from rival schools in East Kingston. This activity was held over a six week period between June and August, and targeted young people who would otherwise have little to do during the school holiday break. The finals of the competition and a grand jam session were held on the last Saturday in August. Some well-known entertainers who had participated in the Jamaican launch of Xchange attended to show their support and performed for the crowd.
Through Xchange, Orlando has also been able to have a capoiera instructor visit the Eastern Peace Centre and give lessons to young boys from surrounding communities twice each week.
He notes that one of the strengths of the Xchange leadership training was the fact that participants were taken out of their usual environment and exposed to a number of successful violence prevention strategies and programmes from across the Caribbean and Brazil.
“I find that taking a person out of the environment helps you to see new things and will help the youth to see things in a different way. Because of this I have started taking youth from my community on field trips, just to see different parts of Kingston. It is a good experience for them and helps them feel good about themselves. The truth is that a lot of these youth are seeing the same thing every day – only the crime and the dons and the jungle justice so what I am trying to do is help them see other things so they can get a sense of hope.”