Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Here, there and everywhere

In the last couple of weeks I have been lucky enough to have lots of reasons to escape my home office during the work day.  And no, it wasn't just to sit in air conditioned coffee shops, like I'm doing now. (37 degrees outside with the humidex - I know that Torontonians aren't feeling sorry for me, but it's been this temperature for a solid 2 months now.)

I have been attending all kinds of meetings: staff meetings, executive committee meetings, youth club meetings, orientation meetings, bi-monthly volunteer meetings.  I know almost all the words to the Jamaican national anthem, and fortunately, no one has asked me to lead the prayer yet. (Prayer and singing a hymn or two is a common way to start meetings here). I have listened quietly, asked some questions, and given presentations about Cuso International and the work that I am doing here. I have learned more about the work going on in communities, and the commitment of all kinds of people to make a difference.

Some stories of note:

I presented to 60 Jamaican high school and college students on the importance of volunteering.  Prior to my presentation, the emcees at the all-day workshop asked youth to speak up and tell the group about their skills.  Sure enough, as you might guess when there is a gaggle of teenagers around, one of the young men piped up on his special skill of "being with the ladies."  Everyone giggled, as was expected.

What I didn't expect, however, was that the male emcee then invited that gentleman up to the front and asked him to demonstrate his skill!  He had to convince a girl in the audience (his choice) to go out with him. Of course, the pretty girl in the back row was not happy about being put on the spot and wouldn't even come up to the front of the room.  The emcee then started to give him advice, "Just tell her she's beautiful and you want everyone to see her so she needs to come to the front of the room."  The boy mumbled something and she still didn't budge.  It was hysterical - the whole room was laughing.  I was so impressed with the male emcee's ability to acknowledge and redirect the situation with such great humour.

I met a woman with an anthropology degree who is now part of the administrative staff for an NGO that is teaching inner city youth to play classical music, building towards developing a national youth orchestra.  Musicians have come from as far away as Peru, England and Italy to work alongside Jamaican university music students to teach these kids how to play and even how to repair the instruments. When asked which instrument they want to play, many of the kids say "the keyboard", which is not referring to the piano keyboard, but to the computer keyboard, since DJs are often the most prominent musicians that these kids know.

I sat in on a meeting of community leaders that included representatives from the community centre, the health clinic, the smaller community down the road, the police, and a government social agency. They discussed activities in their community - there will be a dentist at the health centre providing services for a small donation in July; the community centre is holding a kids camp focusing on literacy; the social agency is working on a drainage system to prevent flooding of the roads during rainstorms; the police reported on a disturbance where the original instigator was actually from the south side of the island; a parenting workshop for fathers is being held in August; and a report was made that out of 15 youth who were expelled from the nearby high school and sent to the community centre some months ago, one is now enrolled in a government program and has demonstrated a willingness to change his way.

It certainly wasn't all positive news, but I was fascinated by the knowledge sharing of the activities going on, knowing that the people present would take that information back to their colleagues and clients, and by the time everyone took to discuss the whys and hows of issues facing their community.  They all had a stake in the outcome, and were actively participating in the discussions.

Things are happening here, and we are part of the solutions!

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On a lighter note, your mango name for the week is "sweetie come brush me". These are small sweet ones.  The term has sexual connotations in the Caribbean, so that should tell you something about how good these mangoes are...

The gorgeous view from Shalini's bedroom window in Kingston.  Thanks for being such a lovely host, Shalini!

A requisite sunset picture from on the water - you thought I was finished with tropical sunset pictures, didn't you...

Splott, a mutated jean, who is Diva's boat mascot, enjoying a G & T with a fancy lime garnish. He got his name from his birthplace in Wales.
Happy Independence Day and a belated Happy Canada Day!

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