Saturday 30 May, 2020

Child Resiliency Programme donates food, books to vulnerable families

Paul Messam (right), coordinator of the Child Resiliency Programme at the Young Men's Christian Association hands over a package to a parent in Kingston.

Paul Messam (right), coordinator of the Child Resiliency Programme at the Young Men's Christian Association hands over a package to a parent in Kingston.

Some 220 at risk or vulnerable families in 22 communities in St James, Kingston and Falmouth are benefitting from care packages consisting of basic food items, reading books and worksheets for children attached to the Child Resiliency Programme.

“Preliminary results of a parent phone survey of 220 parents showed that most of the parents of these children enrolled in the programme, have lost their jobs, particularly for the Falmouth and Montego Bay parents who were employed in the hospitality industry. For Kingston, most of them have also lost their income because of COVID-19,” informed Dr Kim Scott, director of the Child Resiliency Programme, an initiative of the Violence Prevention Alliance.

Scott said the survey was conducted to families attached to the programme for this academic year to find out their core needs, how they are coping with the issues surrounding COVID-19 , being laid off from work and their ability to access food. They also reported on their ability to access a smart phone with Wi-Fi connection to encourage learning for the children.

The Child Resiliency Programme targets at risk children who are referred to the programme by the guidance counsellors of their respective schools. The programme aims to build resiliency in  children by focusing on promoting physical, social, cognitive, vocational and moral competence.

She explained that prior to COVID-19, the children would normally receive a cooked meal during their after school session in the programme along with the literacy, sports and cultural activities designed to encourage prosocial behaviours.

“We have converted that now into delivery of care packages of basic food items, parent phone support and small group teaching for the children. We are delivering these care packages every three weeks to the families under our care,” she said.

The packages are distributed in collaboration with Jamaica Constabulary Force, Community and Safety Branch of the police, who have continued access to these communities along with the help of the programme coordinators and guidance counsellors of the feeder schools.

In addition to the care packages, Scott said some of the children of these families are engaged in Whatsapp video small group teaching sessions to assist with their reading and literacy.

“We have 40 facilitators on the ground and each facilitator has responsibility for six families/children and are working with them on an individual level offering twice weekly support activities with these children,” she disclosed.

She however informed that unfortunately only approximately 50 per cent of the families are currently benefiting from this approach because they do not have access to the internet or the ability to purchase data on their phones.

 “The other 50 per cent we are in the process of trying to forge partnerships with our local internet providers to assist with the provision of data service for these families because at this critical time, they have no other way to keep up with their learning,” she said.

In the interim, she said those without internet or data have been given worksheets with exercises to do and children’s books to keep up with their reading.

Following the confirmation of the coronavirus in Jamaica, the government in March ordered all schools closed until May 31 with institutions being encouraged to resume classes remotely.

“Our team has stepped up tremendously in terms of their level of professionalism and has demonstrated their ability to acclimatize to these new circumstances. They have demonstrated an incredible positive attitude, creativity and initiative and have let go of the confines of their job descriptions and simply risen to the challenge of making a difference,” she said.

The Child Resiliency Programme director informed that the parents have expressed their gratitude for the assistance being provided and that there was now a new level of intimacy and engagement being developed with the members of staff and the families referred. She said that assistance to families will continue until the end of June.

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