SOME 80 children from rival communities in the Mountain View area are being exposed to a summer camp intended to help spread peace and promote development.
On Emancipation Day, a visit by Career & Education to a bullet-riddled building with a makeshift no roof of brightly coloured cloth revealed a community dedicated to transforming their image.
The building, an old unfinished house, which is said to have for years been a bullet-trading post for rival gangs was rebranded 'Kolor Mansion', repainted and decorated by community youth for the camp.
Inside the building, children between the ages of eight and 14, who are from areas such as Jacques Road, Goodridge Lane, Back Bush, Vegas, and Vineyard Town, are engrossed in an array of fun learning activities.
The camp — an initiative of members of the community, in particular civil engineer Duran Wright, who has partnered with CEO of Halls of Learning Marvin Hall — is in its fourth year.
This year, however, they are offering two camps rather than one, as was the case in previous years. They also increased the number of students in the programme from 16 to 40 in the first week and 40 more children for a second week.
"All of this is in the name of spreading peace and looking out for the generations to come. So being from the older generation, we [decided to] get the children involved and show them different outlets and different ventures that they could get into and what better place to start than within the community," Wright said.
He added that he believes that the way to curb violence in the area is through community development and entrepreneurial programmes that will promote unity and peace.
At the same time, Wright said he has noticed that children who have taken part in the programme over the years performed well on their Grade Six Achievement Test.
The camp exposes children to an introductory robotics course, a robotics course, a young investors course, and a course called puzzle-your-brain, where children play games that develop reasoning skills.
The courses are a part of a Leggo-U-Mind programme offered by Halls of Learning — a company that provides hands-on learning experiences to children, giving them the chance to playfully explore concepts in science, technology, mathematics, and art.
The courses are valued at between $8,000 and $13,000 per child. However, Hall has offered the courses as a scholarship to the children who are participants in the camp.
"We are in a building that was riddled with bullets and now we have children sitting and having a learning experience that is changing their options. That will, at the end of the day, let them see something else inside their community," he said.
Lunch is provided for the children through the collective effort of community members.
Kolor Mansion is also used to do outreach activities for the children, such as back-to-school and Christmas treats. It will also be used as a homework centre in evenings.
"At night, we are also trying to reach out to an older crowd to promote community integration. At the end of the day, that is what we stand for," said Wright.
"We are doing this here in Goodridge Lane, but we are reaching out to communities that are divided due to different elements. Here is a common ground where everybody could come and put their differences aside. If we could do it here, Back Bush could get that going, Saunders Lane could get that going, everybody could get that moving and then all the stories of Mountain View could change to positive ones," he added.