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Gov't support lacking

Director Alfred “La Mumba” Batson.

by Davidson Bowen

While the many promises from Government seem to have been buried with former Prime Minister David Thompson, the Barbados Youth Action Programme has been embraced by other Caribbean administrations.

The programme was warmly embraced recently by the governments of St. Lucia and St. Kitts and is getting in gear for Trinidad.

“What can I say? Barbados is a unique place, because you know there is no crime here, we are not like Jamaica. Well that is what we would like to promote and sweep reality under the carpet. If we are to fight crime seriously Government needs to get in step with what is going on.

“What we have is an unorthodox approach more geared at preventing crime. We don’t believe that crime must be committed for intervention to be given priority. Our focus is preventing crime, not trying to fix a problem, but to nip certain issues so they do not become problems,” said Alfred “La Mumba” Batson, director of the programme.

He explained that often it was not sufficient to just deal with the end result, which was the problem, but that it was necessary to go to the roots.

“This approach causes us to interact with families, communities and sometimes a person’s total environment, everything that would influence and impact on them,” he said.

Batson added that the BYAP’s work had been making an impact and might soon be funded by the United States government.

“I really don’t want to say too much now but you would appreciate that the US would not be putting money at this time behind anything that was not worthwhile. Shortly after we got the programme going the US Embassy contacted up and more or less endorsed what we were doing and through USAID we received some funding for the work we were doing,” Batson added.

He stressed that the then Prime Minister David Thompson also met with him and saw the benefits of the programme.

“He put me on to MP Hamilton Lashley so I could learn the ropes because I was recently deported. The US Embassy came through with funding for office equipment and the Prime Minister even located some office space along Harbour Road; but as his condition worsened the promises faded. He died, and those doors were closed in our face,” he lamented.

Stating however that he was not daunted by the ups and downs, Batson said he saw the programme becoming more organised and affecting change not only in Barbados but across the region.

“You would appreciate that the lack of money limits us, but when young people stop you on the streets and tell you that you visited their school and recall something you said; or the bus driver stops and tell you that you are doing some good work, or mothers or grandmothers thank you for changing the paths of their children and grandchildren, that is worth more than money.

“The thing is, I expect and I don’t mind the criticism. Nothing in life comes easy, especially when it is foreign. Actually I expect the criticism; I don’t have a problem with people saying ‘They are deportees!’, after all we are deportees. That’s a fact. But the same US that deported us have seen some merit in the programme and is willing to assist us in making a difference and that speaks for itself,” he said.

He also pointed out that before the trip to Trinidad, a delegation from that nation would be visiting Barbados.

“Trinidad has a similar programme; actually they have a 15-year jump on us and their government fully supports their programme,” Batson said.

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