MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Custos of Manchester Garfield Green wants caregivers as well as community leaders, including educators, school administrators and justices of the peace, to do more to protect and assist children.
"… It is not just about education, but we should use the opportunity to get to know the children, understand the situation that they are going through. We should be able to read their behaviour and body language and if they go missing, go out [and search] for them. Reach out and find out what is happening," Green told the Jamaica Observer by telephone on Monday.
"We should do more than what we are expected initially to do, because children, or people on a whole, speak to us in different ways [behaviourally]. We as leaders should take on the responsibility to reach out to the children and find out if we can get them to speak and let us know what is happening to them…," Green said.
"In some schools you may hear of guidance counsellors or maybe a teacher who notices a bruise on a child's body and they investigate and find out that the child was being abused," he added.
Green's comments on Monday followed last Thursday's Mandeville Hotel breakfast celebration of his year-old social intervention initiative which focuses on beliefs, values and attitudes (BVA).
At that function, he told his audience of political, business, civic and community leaders about efforts by his office to reach out to vulnerable youth as well as adults.
The custos highlighted the case of a teenager who had stopped attending school and may well have been lost but for the intervention of his office.
"He was 15 at the time. His father said he was expelled from school. I went to the school he was attending, I spoke with the principal and the guidance counsellor and he was not expelled. He stopped going to school, because he was bullied. At second form he couldn't read and write. For two years he was out of school, he started wearing locks and he was on drugs," Green explained.
"We were able to get him into another school. We are not going to give up on him," he added.
Green said the beliefs values and attitudes initiative, is important to bring about change especially where society failed children.
"I mentioned him [the school dropout] because society failed him. [Neither] the principal nor the guidance counsellor knew where he was. No one went in search of him, they just said he stopped coming to school and for two years he was out there and he got involved with gangs," said Green.
The custos said he remains focused on spearheading the BVA programme in an effort to inspire people to bring about positive change in society.
"We want to engage value and inspire our people. When I became custos the Governor General (Sir Patrick Allen) said to me, 'You own the parish.' He went on to say that the decision is mine as to how we want people to see the parish," Green told his audience.
Green launched the BVA programme in 2021 aiming to facilitate attitudinal change and social revitalisation.
"Prior to becoming custos I was very concerned about some of our societal problems including lack of respect for self and others, high incidents of crime, high level of indiscipline in the society… and I thought something needed to be done," he said.
Green said families have benefited from the BVA and the outreach of the Office of the Custos.
"We brought hope to them… I got a letter from a young man asking for help. We went in search of him and found where he lives. His situation was grave. He said he wanted to become a doctor. We were able to give him a laptop and clothes and we then reached out to the entire family and helped them," said Green.
He highlighted the plight of three Manchester families during his presentation.
He added that family disputes were cauterised from becoming deadly and counselling provided for people who were suicidal.
"We were able to save a father, his sons and their dwellings, because of counsellors who got involved. We were able to prevent the worst things from happening," he said.
The BVA initiative was inspired by the results gained from the outreach of Green's office since mid-2019 when he was installed as custos.
He said political, civic and business leaders have endorsed the initiative.
"It was endorsed by Sir Patrick Allen, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Minister Audley Shaw, Member of Parliament for Manchester North Western Mikael Phillips, and businessman Wayne Chen," said Green.
"We accomplished a lot during the first year... It is all about bringing hope to our people. Feeling out what is happening out there. There are people out there who need love and encouragement for them to go an extra mile to achieve their goal," he said.
The custos in recognising four business leaders who devoted their time and resources to the BVA said the initiative will continue to partner with vital leaders.
"Through collaboration with key stakeholders the BVA will influence the values and attitudes of individuals, encourage individuals to embrace and be guided by high standards and help to create a sense of self-assurance and patriotism," he said.
He said the BVA programme has been involved in schools including the early childhood level to instill discipline in children.
"We started at the Porus Infant School… We have to start with our children. At the end of it we were able to launch a uniform group in that school," he said in pushing for uniformed groups in schools to be enhanced under the BVA programme.
"We are going to partner with our schools. There are schools who are struggling with uniformed groups. We want to go in and help them," said Green.