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In countless communities across Jamaican, violence has made children victims; scared and scarred survivors; witnesses and even perpetrators of unspeakable acts. In two of these communities, children and their families had a significant respite in 2016, when the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and partners contributed to what was once thought to be impossible: zero murders for the entire year.
In both communities – August Town and Mountain View – this changed in early 2017, when each recorded one murder – signifying the scale of the 2016 achievement and the long challenge ahead. In spite of the setback, community members remain positively focused on working together to keep the crime down and building a brighter future for children.
The PMI has intervened in these communities for more than a decade – working to interrupt violence and build peace, by bringing together a coalition of youths, residents, NGOs, government, police, schools, churches and even gangs.
Youth role models
T3M, a recording studio, is just one of several organisations collaborating with the PMI in Mountain View. It is operated by youths who see their music as both a career and a vehicle for change within the community.
“The PMI, they are behind our movement because they already see… that we are on something to get the community and the youths together – it’s elevating the community and not just the whole community but (by) decreasing violence,” says Donai Singleton of T3M. “Music, for us, gets us out of violence because it is a different way for us to express our emotion.”
“We’re basically role models for the younger ones you know; even in our young age we’re already role models, because they see us doing something positive and they want to do the same thing as us.”
Building a culture of peace
While some T3M members acknowledge past gang involvement, that’s something they want to leave behind – not unlike PMI Violence Interrupter Milton Tomlinson. Tomlinson overcame youth involvement in gun crime before becoming a PMI volunteer and eventually a full-time employee of the organisation. He says that ‘zero murders’ is good, but it takes long-term effort to build and sustain the peace.
“2014, 1 murder; 2015, 1; and now in 2016, none; but it only shows that we need to do more work and come up with interventions to keep the youth busy and keep building a culture of peace,” says Tomlinson. “It used to be over 50 murders per year and people got displaced, had to run away, children could not come to school and coming from the airport you could not drive down Mountain View, which is really the gateway to Kingston!”
“We don’t jump into a community to say we want to achieve zero murders. We jump into a community to show the youths a different way. It is our goal but you can’t start there because it is a process and you have to stick to it and work; and get the support you need.”
UNICEF Jamaica supports the Violence Interruption Programme implemented by the PMI, in partnership with the Ministry of National Security. Want to volunteer for the PMI to help interrupt violence across Jamaica? Contact Damian Hutchinson, Director, PMI, +1-876-754-5622/754-5808/929-0671.