BABONNEAU, St Lucia -- The Babonneau community in St Lucia was recently engaged by representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat to determine the best way to approach the issue of youth on youth violence in their school and community. The discussions with the community took place during national consultations currently underway in that country under the CARICOM – Spain reducing youth on youth violence in CARCIOM member states pilot project.
Representatives from the ministries of education, human resource development and labour, social transformation, local government and community empowerment and youth development and sports, as well as students, teachers and guidance counsellors attended the opening ceremony for the consultations, which was hosted at the Babonneau Community Centre on Thursday.
Programme manager for sustainable development at the CARIOM Secretariat, Beverly Reynolds, who brought remarks at the opening stressed the importance of training in entrepreneurship for at risk youth as one of the strategies to increase youth employability and employment in St Lucia.
She said significant focus would be placed on enhancing the skills of youth in Babonneau to capitalize on the St Lucian entrepreneurial spirit. She also opined that it was important to keep the youngsters occupied and reinforce character building through clubs and other programmes among the youth to help reduce youth on youth crime in St Lucia.
Honourary Consul from Spain to St Lucia Richard Peterkin, in his remarks, mentioned the fact that throughout the last ten years Spain has funded programmes in the areas of education, health, institutional strengthening, gender and support for regional integration through the CARICOM Secretariat and through individual programmes carried out in CARICOM countries including St Lucia.
Peterkin also said that the government of Spain was interested in conducting further discussions with the government of St Lucia to further enhance bilateral partnerships.
Speaking specifically to the CARICOM-Spain project, the Spanish representative stressed the need to provide positive role models to show the young people that there are paths to success that do not involve crime and violence.
He also expressed hope that there would be feedback coming out of the consultations and subsequent implementation that would provide an indication of whether or not the programme was working and recommendations for improvements along the way.
Minister of education, human resource development and labour, Dr Robert Lewis, said he was very pleased with the timeliness of the initiative. He expressed thanks to the CARICOM Secretariat and the government of Spain for their involvement. He said the nature of the project was very appropriate since it targeted both the school and the communities served by the school.
The minister also emphasized the fact that most young persons in St Lucia were good law abiding citizens who would ensure the development and progress of that country. He encouraged the youngsters who were present to become “catalysts for change” within their schools and communities.
“You are an ambassador for young people in St Lucia” he told them.
In his remarks, deputy permanent secretary in the ministry of social transformation, local government and community empowerment, Augustus Cadette, focused on the importance of social cohesion and stability within the society. He noted that these conditions did not just appear by magic but had to be nurtured through socialization and quality governance and the rule of law.
He pointed out that no human being was born bad; however, society and other factors played an important role in their transformation from being an innocent child to becoming violent. He said governance at all levels including individual, community and households should be looked at in addressing the issues.
Special reference was also made to initiatives that were already in place to address violence within communities. Among the projects mentioned were an after school enrichment innovation which provided psycho-social support to at risk youth, the BELL Fund Entrepreneurial Project and the promotion of volunteerism and civic governance.
The pilot project is being conducted in five CARICOM member states including Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago. National consultations have so far been held in Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and St Kitts and Nevis. The CARICOM team is scheduled to conclude the consultations in Trinidad and Tobago on 9-10 June 2014.