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Barbadian ‘Xchangers’ help youths adopt positive lifestyles and resolve conflicts

© UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office/McClean-Trotman/2006
At the Grantley Adams Secondary School in Barbados, Barbadian ‘Xchanger’ D'Andra Howard conducts a group session on peaceful alternatives to conflict.

By  Lisa McClean-Trotman

BARBADOS, 24 March 2006 - Violence among school children is a growing concern in Barbados, and UNICEF is helping peer groups tackle the problem. The Barbadian ‘Xchangers’ is one such group, which holds workshops and special events encouraging children to resolve conflict peacefully.

D’Andra Howard, 22, is one of three members of the group who received leadership training from UNICEF. The course focused on the development of skills and techniques to reach young people and help them adopt a positive lifestyle.

“The workshop sessions helped me to learn more about the students and the causes of their violent and disruptive behaviors,” said Ms. Howard. “Poverty is high. There is the influence of drugs, the block culture and the minibus culture, and these are all negative. In addition, the home environment is sometimes not supportive, and in the students’ view some of the teachers seem not to be giving them the attention they need.

“It is not that they do not want to behave or be educated, it is because they are not getting attention or love from the other environments.”

Support from youth and NGOs

Most recently, Ms. Howard worked with Kathy-Ann Bellamy, the Assistant Guidance Counsellor of the Grantley Adams Secondary School in Barbados, to organize Peace Week.

Ms. Howard had witnessed violent incidents at the school while she was a student and urged the other students to help change its image. She also encouraged them not to give up and reminded them that change will not occur in a day but is a process that will take time.

© UNICEF Eastern Caribbean Office/McClean-Trotman/2006
Barbadian ‘Xchanger’ Kileha Butcher in a group session with students.

“Every day youth are being presented in the media on a negative note,” she said, “so why not look for influences that can help lead them in a positive lifestyle?”

With virtually no budget, Ms. Howard was able to mobilize support from not only the other Xchangers but also of some of the key non-governmental organizations in Barbados, including the National Council on Substance Abuse and the National Committee for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.

Positive peer pressure

“Very often young people have the answers, and other young people respond better to them than to adults when they are the ones telling them how to address issues,” said Senior Programme Officer Niloufar Pourzand of UNICEF’s Eastern Caribbean Office.

“It is this kind of positive peer pressure that we must encourage and support as we help young people to fulfill their right to participation on issues affecting them,” she added. “It is for this reason that we support the Xchangers and the Xchange movement that they are trying to develop.”

Some 57 students out of the 90 who participated at Grantley-Adams made the pledge before their classmates to become Xchangers and adopt a positive lifestyle. Twenty peer supporters at the school also recommitted themselves to the Xchangers’ pledge. At the end of the workshop, students received youth-friendly UNICEF materials on conflict resolution and anger management.



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