Football brings Unity to Violence-Torn Mountain View Community.
Mountain View in eastern Kingston is a community torn apart by violence. For years various sections of the community have been ravaged by political violence, gang violence and inter-personal violence. Residents living on adjoining roads are often unable to cross the “border lines” drawn by gunmen and gang members as they battle over turf.
For a group of young men in the community, however, football has provided some relief from the ongoing problems and has shown the wider community that despite the serious challenges facing them they can succeed.
The Burgher Football Club was founded by Xchanger Orlando Hamilton and received support from UNICEF under the Xchange programme. The club, which now has about 32 members, was originally based in the Burgher Community (25 Mountain View Avenue) but expanded to include youth from other eastern Kingston communities such as Rockfort.
“It is actually the violence in Rockfort, that affects practice and training there, that has caused some of the footballers to join our club,” Orlando explains.
The team placed third in the Jamaica Public Service Company Rockfort Football competition held in 2005. Attired in football boots, jerseys, shorts and other gear sponsored by UNICEF, they took home the top prize in the dress parade.
They also copped the “most disciplined team” prize, an achievement which they are very proud of and which they attribute to the guidance of their coach, Orlando.
“The coach talked to us and gave us a lot of teaching,” 16 year old Miguel McGregor says. “He kept on guiding us both at home and on the field. He told us things like to keep out of bad company, to try to keep to our books (study) and not to pick on anybody.”
As a part of the Xchange movement, the team has committed itself not only to football, but also to spreading the anti-violence message among its members and the wider community. Motivational talks, life skills building sessions and activities to build the self esteem of team members are a part of this project.
Orlando identified football as one tool which he felt could be used effectively to address violence in his community and approached UNICEF with the idea of working with the team after he returned from the Xchange Youth Leadership Training Workshop in Trinidad in March 2005.
The Xchange movement, which was launched in May 2005 in Jamaica, is a Caribbean movement to create safe and protective environments for children and young people in the region. During the Leadership Training Workshop young people from the Caribbean and Brazil had explored different ways of reducing violence and creating protective environments including the use of dance, music, sport and popular culture to tap into the positive energy of young people across the region.
This approach has worked for the members of the Burgher Football Club. They say the highpoints of their experience with the club are: “When we score a goal and when enjoy ourselves and everybody stays together as a team!”