Project Star’s power of example
WE have no doubt that a year and a half into its planned five-year lifespan, Project Star, that visionary social intervention initiative by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), has already had its fair share of setbacks and disappointments.
That’s just life.
Yet, available evidence suggests that the project aimed at reducing crime and related ills through poverty reduction — using such avenues as skills training, employment access, people empowerment, et al — is already changing lives and helping to make Jamaica a better place.
We are enthused by the many personal testimonials from people in socio-economically vulnerable communities regarding the positive effect of Project Star.
We warm to the idea of having people help themselves as a central element. That’s clearly manifested in community leaders — from citizens’ associations, youth clubs and so forth — being asked to identify local problems and map out solutions.
Inevitably, that approach will encourage leadership training and practice at the community level, which we have consistently contended has to happen if there is to be sustainable social transformation.
Also, we believe asking locals to play a central role in resolving local difficulties reduces the risk of community projects being stifled by overbearing external bureaucracy, which has killed many a well-meaning initiative.
We are told that Project Star has a target of providing 6,500 jobs over time in vulnerable communities such as some in downtown Kingston; May Pen, Clarendon; and Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland.
And it also “engages residents in sports, provides families with support for children and others, facilitates social welfare services for senior citizens, and works with the police to ensure the safety and security of citizens”.
We note Project Star’s direct involvement in schools to assist learning, including breakfast programmes.
And, while vital documentation such as Taxpayer Registration Number, birth certificates, and food handler’s permits are taken for granted by many people, there are those in our poorest communities who have no idea how to even begin the process. Project Star is proving a valued enabler in that regard.
Project Star’s main initiator, former PSOJ President Mr Keith Duncan has repeatedly spoken of the value of “integrative planning” in order to build capacity and bring social and infrastructural improvements in communities.
Hence the relevance of strategic partnerships with a range of public sector agencies including Social Development Commission, the training entity HEART/NSTA Trust, Planning Institute of Jamaica, Jamaica Social Investment Fund, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
We are heartened by the support of the business community thus far — with the recent signing of a contract for the donation of US$250,000 ($38 million) being the latest evidence of such.
As we understand it, hundreds of millions of dollars, towards a target of $2 billion, have already been raised.
When all is said and done, a major achievement of Project Star will be its example of what’s possible.
We believe this PSOJ project which, as we understand it, was largely inspired by police-organised social intervention projects, is influencing an evolving approach by Government which recognises that hard policing by itself won’t sustainably reduce crime and violence.
We note the recent pledge by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that in 2024 his Government “will begin the build out of a comprehensive social services response to violence…”
That’s the way to go, we believe.