The input of mentors involved in the Promoting Agency Trust and Hope (PATH) among incarcerated youth in Barbados Project at the Government Industrial School (GIS) cannot be overstated.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Information and Public Affairs, Anthony Wiltshire, made this point as he addressed a recognition and awards ceremony at the GIS’ Boys’ Unit at Dodds, St. Philip, last Wednesday.
“The PATH project brings to the fore the fact that children who would have been sent to the GIS under outdated legislation are isolated from their families, schools, and neighbourhoods.
“By re-engaging the local community, in part through the mentoring programme, the initiative offers young offenders support, attention and positive community engagement,” he said, noting that the PATH mentors served as guides and friends to the residents of the GIS.
But, Mr. Wiltshire cautioned that having a mentor was not enough. He told the residents that their mentors required them to play their part through their dedication, hard work and perseverance.
“The circumstances that landed you at the GIS may not have been the best, but I want you to make the best of the opportunities it affords you. Even though others may cast judgements on you, or worse yet, have written you off, always remember that the story of your life is yet to be complete,” he stressed.
He urged the residents to take time to acknowledge those in their corner, while Government continued to work hard through policy and legislation to ensure they had what was needed to give them a “fighting chance”.
Mr. Wiltshire explained that Government was in the process of developing a range of legislation that would encapsulate a number of issues relating to the safety and protection of children.
He added that Barbados was a signatory and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and must therefore seek to implement provisions outlined, whether in the area of child justice, child welfare, education or medical care.
During the ceremony, residents and mentors were recognised and awarded for the strides they made under the project.
The PATH project is a youth coaching initiative developed by researchers at the University of Oxford, the Institute of Gender and Development of the University of the West Indies and Tulane University, in cooperation with the GIS.
It is designed to empower vulnerable or disadvantaged young people, enabling them to make positive life choices that will maximise their potential. The first of its kind in Barbados, the project is funded by Templeton World Charities Foundation.