I want to make these boys and girls better than me

Becoming a guidance counsellor in a Kingston primary school was a real culture shock. Coming from St. Ann, I was not used to the trauma some of my students were experiencing on a regular basis.

When one of our Holy Family students, Angel, was murdered in 2017, that was the first in my tenure,  so I had nothing to compare it to. As a student, she was always the first to greet you in the morning with a smile and it affected me personally.

I found myself doing constant counselling, especially the morning after, because it rocked the students to the point where all of those in her grade were in trauma. Meanwhile, the community itself was also affected by the idea that one of their children could be killed like that.

Children’s faces cover up their challenges

There were many times where I had to take a minute for myself and take some deep breaths, because the children who attend Holy Family face a lot of adversities to share with you. 

The most common is not having a father, and all too often it’s not just the absence of a father, but it’s the absence of that father through violence. Children are impacted by violence from (before they come) out of the womb, but seeing children struggle with a loss like that, that can be the most difficult thing for them.

Photograph of Dillon Anikey, former guidance counsellor at Holy Family Primary School in downtown Kingston.
ContributedDillon Anikey, former guidance counsellor at Holy Family Primary School in downtown Kingston.

Like with a boy named Rhyim who lost his father. I could see the pain just emanating out of his face, but what I would try to do is connect with him and his love for sports. Honestly, I didn’t always feel like I was reaching him as I wanted to, but eventually something happened. Sometimes some of the smallest things can work to uplift a child.

If there is one thing I admire about the students it is their strength. But often I have to tell them that they don’t have to be strong right now and carry all of the weight by yourself. Because they have built a lot of barriers which make them appear hardened, but my job is to understand and help them with what is behind that.

Seeing children bounce back from adversity

Every day, I am taken aback by the things that these children have to face. Putting myself in their shoes, I think about how I would have tried to cope, and honestly I don’t think that I would have had the ability, even if I was a teenager, to maneuver some of those situations.

For some students, Fight for Peace coming in with their combination of sports and therapy has also been a major help, especially after what happened to Angel. The sports helped in the grieving process and we’ve seen some of the children develop socially, emotionally and even physically – some of those who used to get picked last in other sports are now taking part in islandwide competitions and excelling!

Helping boys and girls become great

For this next phase of my life my objective is to take the experience I gained in Kingston and double the impact in whatever field or institution I am a part of, and whatever good I did at Holy Family I want my successor to double that too. I just want to impact lives positively, which might mean either the number I help or the quality of life they gain through my guidance.

My ambition is not rooted in becoming a great man, but if I can impact a boy or girl to become a great man or woman then that will be a life well spent.

Fulfilling children’s rights is at the heart of what we do at UNICEF. This year, as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, we feature a special ‘30 under 30’ series, highlighting amazing Jamaican children and youth like Dillon who are using their skills and talents to help protect and realise the rights of other young citizens. The focus of the series is on efforts to protect children from violence.



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