GoodHeart | Agents of Transformation initiative spurring holistic change in Trench Town | News

Salome Campbell sang praises of the Agents for Transformation social initiative, which she credited for positively influencing her grade-nine son since he joined in August.

Campbell’s son is one of some 30 Charlie Smith High School students involved in the programme, which includes parents and teachers. It was launched by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Local Partner Development, and Sterling Asset Management Limited.

“I have had my son in the programme since August. He was really troubled with anger issues, and I have seen such a change in him. He loves the programme. At evening time, he stays back for classes. I really like the project, and I invited everybody, teachers, [other] parents and student, to come onboard and see what it is about,” Campbell shared.

Agents for Transformation was officially launched in Trench Town on December 2 and sees at-risk students being the primary recipients of after-school academic support, psychosocial counselling, conflict resolution, and life-skills training. The participating cohort was selected earlier in August, and student engagement began in October, with the programme set to conclude in March 2023. It also incorporates students’ parents in a holistic approach, as they will also benefit from parenting workshops to better assist their children and lessen domestic violence.

“Today is a special day at Charlie Smith High School as it marks the start of Agents of Transformation. The project will equip 30 third-form students with lifelong skills and tools to make healthy lifestyle choices, develop coping skills and improve relationships with their families and peers. There is also academic support in mathematics and English to help improve their [personal competency]. We hope that this project will help build a better community for the residents of Trench Town, and we are happy that so many of you are here with us,” said Michelle Valentine, assistant vice-president of marketing and communications at Sterling Asset Management, at a recent media launch.

Mark Golding, member of parliament, St Andrew Southern, embraced the collaborative Agents of Transformation initiative as a positive step for the youths of Trench Town, particularly as Charlie Smith High School serves as the only secondary-level institution for the wider community.

Golding was buoyed by the increased private-sector interest in Trench Town and lauded Sterling Asset Management for considering the many needs of disenfranchised youths. It was especially heartening for the opposition leader, who beamed over the untapped human potential of Trench Town’s residents.

“I want to thank Sterling and the USAID for funding the programme. Trench Town is a great community, but [one which has] more than its fair share of challenges as well. As we know, these are communities where over the years, we have suffered from social neglect. Crime and violence are often features of life, and out of that come all kinds of social problems that we associate with inner-city life in Jamaica,” he began.

“Sterling Asset Management, I love how you’ve come onboard with this project, which, as I understand it, is really a project to help some young people who need the inputs that would round them off in a positive direction and help them cope with life in a constructive way. Anger, frustration, disappointment – all these things are a part of life. It is important that we help those who would otherwise struggle with these things and give them the best possible chance to orient their lives in a positive direction,” added Golding.

Christopher Wright, the newly installed principal of Charlie Smith High School, is eager to see the project’s successful implementation as he holds lofty hopes for the soon-to-be-transformed participating cohort. “This programme, Agents for Transformation, is one that is important to the children we serve at Charlie Smith High [School]. It is through stakeholder partnership that, as educators, we will be able to close gaps created by COVID-19 and other deficiencies at home, school [or] wherever. We are really happy for this partnership where students can get a second chance,” he said of the behavioural modification programme.

Marian Ross-Ammar, vice-president of Trading and Investments at Sterling Asset Management Limited, applauded the 30 Charlie Smith students for being brave and taking their first transformative steps. Speaking directly to the participating cohort, Ross-Ammar acknowledged that change is often hard but fulfilling. “I think being a teenager is hard. We are inspired by your courage and willingness to listen to the advice you are being given. Your efforts in this programme, regardless of the outcome, will be one of the most empowering things you do with your life. To take responsibility and try to change your future, that’s a very scary thing, but it can be very fruitful,” she noted further.

Local Partner Development is a six-year activity implemented by FHI 360 and funded by USAID under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. Morana Smodlaka Kranjnovic, chief of party within the USAID Local Partner Development programme, informed that Agents for Transformation is being implemented by FHI 360, a non-profit human development organisation tasked with improving lives through integrated, locally driven solutions. According to Kranjnovic, the Local Partner Development programme has been working assiduously since 2017 to bring all sections of Jamaican society together to foster peace island-wide.