Regional

‘Blacks’ to the rescue!

Salt Spring upholstery businessman moves to assist at-risk youth

BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 22, 2014    

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SALT SPRING, St James

AT 36, Oniel Campbell, popularly known as "Blacks," has seen the negative impact crime and violence have had on his tough Salt Spring community in St James.

Labelled as one of the 17 inner-city communities in the parish, the area in recent years has accounted for a significant number of the many murders committed in St James.

Although serious crimes, including murders and shootings are trending downwards in the area over the past year, Campbell, an upholstery businessman, who once operated a grocery shop on Salt Spring Road, has decided to play his part in the further reduction of crime and violence in the volatile community.

A high school dropout, 'Blacks' has recently converted his grocery shop into a training centre where at-risk youth in the community are now learning upholstering.

"It is a place where the youth dem can come and learn the skill. This will help them to keep out of trouble and to provide for themselves and their families," Campbell told the Jamaica Observer West.

"Most of the youth dem in a deh community lack a skill and what I am doing here will help them to advance and maybe get them some big jobs locally, or even overseas," he argued. "I really want to uplift them. This place is a ghetto and people are suffering. More suffering will result in more crime, so I am really trying to lessen the crime by making the people more educated so they can stop thinking about robbery and firing guns."

Eight persons are now under the tutorship of Campbell, learning to make a variety of items including jewellery boxes, picture frames, chairs, sofas and stools. They are also involved in effecting repairs to a number of items.

Many of the items produced at the small wooden shop where they operate are sold to a number of business places, said Campbell, pointing out that he has invested his "personal money" into the venture by acquiring a machine, raw materials and other equipment.

He said he plans to start the manufacturing of large furniture as soon as he is able to acquire other pieces of equipment.

"Right now I am putting the money we make to good use because in the near future we want to have about four machines, so more young men can come in and learn more things, even the ladies too, because they can do some sewing and even have a clothes line too," said a confident Campbell.

Meanwhile, several Salt Spring residents have lauded Campbell's efforts in assisting the youth in the community.

"What Blacks is doing is something important. It is something that can get the young men together as a family, so as a parent I love to see what they are doing because it is really easy for them to get involved in a lot of bad things," said 50- year-old Joan Lawrence, who have been living in Salt Spring for more than 16 years.

She noted that the young men, many of whom are school dropouts, are willing and eager to learn the trade.

Travis Malcolm, 20, who has been at the upholstery shop for the past few months, has also praised Campbell for coming to the assistance of the at-risk youth in the area.

"I like the programme that Blacks is dealing with in the community, because it is uplifting us and it keeps us out of trouble. It is really a good thing for us," he told the Jamaica Observer West.

Campbell's venture has also caught the attention of councillor for the area Suzette Brown, who has asked several businessmen to assist.

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