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Future for at-risk youth

Patron Senator Dr.Francis Chandler opens a new resource centre at the Government Industrial School. With her is UK Soroptimist Patricia Black.

A special facility for at-risk young people in Barbados will soon become a reality.

Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Attorney-General, Lucene Wharton-Isaacs, made the disclosure this morning, while officially opening a resource centre at the Government Industrial School for girls at Barrows in St. Lucy.

Wharton-Isaacs said the project, which was being initiated by the Soroptimist of Jamestown, would be a residential facility designed to cater to the special needs of at-risk youths.

“We look forward to the realisation of this project,” added the permanent secretary. “We know there have been a few challenges along the way, but we continue to give you our support and we will continue our intervention with the Ministry of Housing and Lands, so that we can come to a conclusion shortly, with respect to the provision of a suitable area of land for you to turn this plan into a success.”

Wharton-Isaacs commended the Soroptimist International of Barbados for creating the new resource centre, which she noted, was a welcomed addition to what the Government was already providing.

The centre, which would continually be stocked by other organisations, offered books on subjects ranging from Caribbean fiction, to romance, text books, poetry, self improvement and religion. It also provides computers for the wards.

Principal of the school, Erwin Leacock, told the gathering, which included senior representatives of Soroptimist International and of Great Britain, that the administration placed emphasis on building on the strengths of the residents, rather than trying to find fault. Leacock revealed that a “good number” of girls had completed CXC examinations and gone on to the Barbados Community College and the University of the West Indies.

He explained, too, why few “outsiders” were allowed onto the compound.

“At the industrial school, we are very, very careful who we allow to interact with our residents. If you notice, I used the word residents, because we view this as a home. This is their home. One of the themes that we have followed diligently is to appreciate that we admit girls into our custody, but we discharge women. It is our responsibility to ensure that, just like a parent, we socialise them, we mentor them, we educate them to be successful and independent women,” the principal declared.

Leacock noted that this was something the GIS religiously and relentlessly repeated to the girls, that they must be independent women.

“It is not a matter of depending on a man, or anybody else for their livelihood, they must be independent,” added the administrator.

He praised the Soroptimist Club for being part of the family of the school by being involved in the lives of the residents as mentors over an extended period.

“We insist that persons who want to interact with us, it is not a matter of a week of activities or a month of activities, and you just disappear. We insist that if you are coming, you come for the long term,” the GIS head insisted.

Leacock told those attending the ceremony, that the school had embraced a more therapeutic philosophy of restorative justice, where dealing with conflict was based on those principles.

He said the resource centre was welcomed, since it was based on educating the young women.

“A lot of people may be unaware that the education here is not token. We have a full slate of CXC subjects and the certification, although we don’t advertise it, we have a number of young ladies who have gotten their full education here and have immediately gone on to Community College and university. But all this is done deliberately under the radar, because we have to respect the dignity of them as persons,” stated Leacock.

This morning’s ceremony, which coincided with the 50th anniversary celebrations of Soroptimists International, was also attended by President of the Soroptimist International of Barbados, Sisporansa Stanford, President of the Federation of Soroptimist of Great Britain and Scotland, Patricia Black, and Chairman of the Government Industrial School, Father Clement Paul. (EJ)

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