Working for UNICEF has helped give me insights into my other ‘job’ – being a mom to a son who competes at Boys and Girls Champs! David represents Wolmer’s High School for Boys in the 400-metres hurdles and high jump; and I am one of the parents who assist the team.
I look at the Wolmer’s track team with eyes that come from working at UNICEF, not specifically in regard to child rights, but I do try to remember that most of these ‘bodies’ we call athletes are children. And so, as parents and as those involved with the team we have a certain responsibility to ensure that they have the necessary support.
The public aren’t always conscious of the levels of physical and psychological stress the athletes undergo and the level of support required for children involved in Jamaican athletics. Preparing for Champs starts way back in September but at different times during the season children unfortunately get injured or have to be cut from the team so you always have to provide that counseling and motivation.
My work demands that I find a balance between measuring the programme’s performance and ensuring that we don’t lose sight of the human side. Similarly, it’s like measuring athletes because as you try new techniques and you assess whether it results in improved performance.
With our programmes we must monitor the success of what we do, but it’s also important to recognize the human element – that children are behind the numbers.
The best moments for me working at UNICEF happen out in the field when I meet the children we are helping. Once you have that face-to-face you get past the results on paper and you understand these children and their issues and you realize that this child is better off because of this, because of what we do.
With the track team, I am now able to call most of the young men by name. So when I sit in the stands at the National Stadium, I’m seeing the individual child and the struggles he’s had, to reach where he’s at. It means more than points and school to me because I get to know that individual child.
As the mother of an athlete there’s a certain amount of pride when my son is on the track, but I’m also scared stiff! This year my most satisfying point was him making the finals, because I know it’s a part of his dream and I was glad we were able to support him to get there!
Inter-Secondary Schools Boys and Girls Championships, to give ‘Champs’ its full name, is the most popular event in the Jamaican sporting calendar and where some of the world’s finest junior athletes compete. The event increasingly attracts members of the international athletics community eager to see the next Usain Bolt or Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, UNICEF Jamaica’s goodwill ambassador.