Denham Town youth gets therapy after losing father in Tivoli incursion

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 05, 2019

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He was only six years old at the time, but Dimitri Brown says he remembers going to the empty house where his father lived in Tivoli Gardens.

“When mi go down deh with my mother, all me see is him picture them. That's all mi remember from him,” the youth said.

Brown's father was one of those killed in the 2010 Tivoli Garden incursion, while he, his mother and two other siblings covered for safety at their home in the neighbouring and equally volatile Denham Town.

Almost 10 years later, the community is undergoing major social transformation, much through the intervention effort of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, in conjunction with the zone of special operation now in its building phase of operation (ZOSO).

Still affected by sporadic violence, the community also saw the recently concluded state of emergency (SoE) that was declared in west Kingston, and in which Brown was one of numerous young men detained and held at the Metcalfe Street Juvenile Remand Centre.

After being slapped with three undisclosed charges, the 16-year-old spent two months and three weeks at the facility, where he said he endured ill-treatment that was brought to public scrutiny by Public Defender, Arlene Harrison Henry during the SOE operation.

“The warder them beat wi, all when some a di youth them give trouble and nobody nuh want talk, them just beat everybody. Them use them hand and them foot kick and box wi,” Brown told the Jamaica Observer during a visit to the Denham Town Community Centre on Monday.

The former Denham Town High School student is among 120 youth who are participating in the National Youth Employment Programme by the HEART Trust National Training Agency.

Project coordinator for the Denham Town community development committee (CDC), Dellon Gayle, explained that programme targets youth like Brown who are most vulnerable to becoming victims or perpetrators of crime.

“We have a total of 120 trainees, both males and females, but the aim is to get 300 youth from across the constituency into the programme. In partnership with JSIF and ZOSO, youth who were detained during the SOE were directed into the training programme,” said Gayle

After failing to matriculate high school, Brown is accessing much needed training

“I am doing a course in data operation. One evening Dillon come to me and three other youth and say him have a HEART programme and he wants us to come and be a part of it and stop waste time. I wasn't going to school at the time, I was just at home not doing anything at the time, so mi decide fi join,” said the teenager.

Through their involvement, Brown and his peers are also accessing therapy sessions that are geared toward addressing the trauma left behind from their exposure to violence.

The same was true for 25-year-old Lemarno Kemp who was not among those detained, but who saw the mangled faces of not so familiar but possibly childhood friends who died during the incursion. He, too, is now a participant in the training programme.

Kemp told the Sunday Observer that the images were being circulated on WhatsApp following the horrific event.

“A lot of pictures were going around of youth weh dead and you see weh gunshot do them face, most a them face mash out, most a them did have half a face and them ting deh. Mi feel bad fi know say a lot of the people who dead a innocent people. We as the people who live in the community know that is mostly innocent people dead during the incursion,” said the former Holy Trinity High School student.

He recounted that his friends greeted him with equal relief and disbelief that he was still alive.

The incursion never really put a dent on me but when mi go back a school after the incursion, most a mi friend them a say 'mi swear thing say yuh dead'.”

Also a budding entrepreneur, Kemp said he chose HEART's baking course to expand on his cooking skills with the hope of finding a job in the food industry.

“Mi used to sell clothes downtown with my mother in a store, so me is a businessman. But from the war with Tivoli, mi couldn't come in any time because from it touch evening, man likely fi kill you. So that's why mi stop and deh home not doing anything. But mi glad fi be a part of this programme because mi can cook and I wanted to get some more skill in another area of food preparation. Mi a try mi best fi get a certificate. That's why mi a do this because mi want get a job.”

Brown, on the other hand, is still working through the trauma of losing his father. He admitted hesitantly that the pain of losing his father still lingers. “Mi feel bad because from mi a six mi father dead and mi never have him around to get a father's love,” said Brown.

Gayle explained further that, “Demitri is on probation because of the whole father not being in the home. It triggered that sense of wanting attention from a male figure in his life. So right now he is in the programme, and he is also doing an after-school programme in the evening where you have a therapist come in and give them a one-on-one session and a psychosocial team from Fight For Peace to walk them through the healing process. And even his mother have said she is starting to see the change in him, and she has attested to the fact that the intervention working.”

Fight For Peace is a non-profit organisation based in Brazil, that uses martial arts as a means of helping youth who have been exposed to violence.

“They use the mixed martial arts and boxing as a force to channel that energy into these type of sports. Dimitri is also a part of the boxing programme. When they came in they realised that a lot of the youth were still facing trauma from the incursion, plus the constant gang warfare, so they hired a psycho-social team to give that support,” Gayle said.

The former high school Under 14 football player said he just hopes to make the most of the training.

“Mi just want something good out a life”, he said simply.

Meanwhile, the youngster enjoys the novelty of boxing as a form of therapy.


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