Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Nestor Mendez, has hailed implementation of the organisation’s ‘A New Path’ project in Jamaica, noting that it is positively changing the lives of the beneficiaries and guiding them along a path of economic independence.
He was speaking during a site visit to the all-female South Camp Correctional Facility in Kingston on Monday (March 5) to get a first-hand view of the impact of the initiative in the reintegration of youth offenders in society.
“I have had an opportunity to see many projects implemented by the OAS across the Americas, many projects having to do with youth, many projects having to do with vulnerable populations, and I have to tell you that I am very impressed and I have been very moved. I want to congratulate the staff, but most of all, the young people who are participating in these programmes,” he said.
Dr. Mendez noted that the project “is an absolutely invaluable investment in the youth (as it) provides the space for them to shine and grow (and) is an important juncture on the path to preventing violence and crime and to have safer and thriving communities”.
He urged the beneficiaries to use the programme to help turn their lives around. “New Path is exactly what the name signifies; it’s a new opportunity,” he noted.
He pledged that “we will continue to accompany you on this journey, and we will continue assisting you when you are released and exposed to other opportunities, such as vocational training, entrepreneurship and job offers”.
Dr. Mendez also commended the staff for their work in helping to transform the juvenile correctional system.
“We have submitted a new reintegration curriculum to the juvenile facilities, and I kindly ask your support to implement it. We will continue offering training of trainers so you can deliver the activities of the curriculum without the assistance of an external agency,” he said.
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator the Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr, who was also on the tour, thanked the OAS and its partners in the implementation of ‘A New Path’, noting that the initiative is changing lives.
“I’m so proud of these girls… when I listen to these girls; what you are hearing is the potential of our nation, the potential of the Caribbean, the potential of all the (Americas). If we are able to replicate what we are trying to do here outside of these walls, I have no doubt that we can really solve many of the challenges we face and that we can, in a successful way, have sustainable reductions in crime and violence and increased production,” he contended.
During the visit, the girls at the South Camp Correctional Facility performed a musical recital and gave a yoga demonstration.
‘A New Path’ targets young people drawn from juvenile remand centres, State care facilities and the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP).
It aims to provide hope to marginalised young people who have come into conflict with the law, by equipping them with the requisite skills for reintegration in the society.
The programme offers and facilitates weekly counselling, educational and vocational training, conflict-resolution programmes as well as opportunities for apprenticeship and internship.
It includes a music programme in collaboration with the National Youth Orchestra, and a sports aspect facilitated by the Youth for Development Network.
The initiative is being implemented by the Department of Public Security of the OAS, in collaboration with the Trust for the Americas and with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Dr. Mendez’s tour formed part of activities in Jamaica to mark the 70th anniversary of the OAS
By: Chris Patterson