Learning togetherYouth Developers Group president Monique Haynes (l), and members Tiffany Forde and Kelleshia Howell listening to Raheem Small. (Sharon Harding)
By NATASHA BECKLES | Sun, August 26, 2012 - 12:02 AM
Their names, ages and personalities are different but members of the St John-based Youth Developers Group all agree that the organization provides them with a productive way to spend their evenings.
The group of just over 20 young people between the ages of ten and 18 has been meeting at the Colleton Community Centre several evenings each week since September, 2011.
President Monique Haynes explained that Youth Developers grew out of an annual summer camp.
“I’ve run the summer camp every year for the last eight years.
“Last year the children wanted somewhere to hang out on evenings, to do craft and that kind of thing, so we decided to form the group,” she said, adding it was made up of the older campers.
Along with craft, the youths participate in a number of activities, including skills-training sessions, hiking and dancing. They also get help with their homework if they need it.
“Some parents don’t have the time to spend with the children on evenings or to take them out, so I would just gather all of them together and find transportation and take them out,” she reported.
“We have sessions in the evening where sometimes I get someone to come in and talk to them.
“Some evenings they would just come in and chill,” she said, describing the setting as a home away from home.
Seventeen-year-old Raheem Small said he liked the different activities the group participated in and appreciated the opportunity to express his ideas.
“It keeps me out of trouble, from being on the road all the time, and I get to hang out with my friends.
“I spend less time on the block,” he said, noting that he would recommend such a group to other young people.
Meanwhile, 14-year-old Tiffany Forde said she was happy she got to learn how to do new things while also going out and meeting people.
She also admitted that she enjoyed visiting shut-ins like those at the nearby New Dawn Nursing Home.
“It teaches you how to work with people because most of the time when Monique gives us an activity, she would put you to work with somebody she knows you don’t talk to,” she added.
In addition to the sleep-overs, fairs and movie nights, Daneisha Skeete-Antrobus appreciates that she can get help with her homework.
“I speak to people who I never used to speak to before,” she pointed out.
Monique noted that sometimes it was difficult to manage the differences in the children’s behaviours and personalities but she was committed to keeping them “off the streets” and out of trouble.
“Usually, these are children you would find on the road on evenings.
“The behaviour has really changed because . . . some evenings last year I had this challenge where when they left camp they would just be rowdy, but I think they are more respectful.
“Some are still abrupt but that is something we’re working on,” she said.
The youths recently held an extravaganza to raise funds to buy a stove since Monique wants to teach them basic cooking skills.
“I would love to take them overseas,” she added, noting that many of the children had never travelled.
The president said that even though people sometimes made negative comments about the group “they still hold their head up high and still come out to the [sessions]”.
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