Wed | Jul 8, 2020

A New Jamaica of Peace: Changing lives, one child at a time

Published:Saturday | April 4, 2020 | 12:00 AMDanae Hyman/Gleaner Writer
Clarion Phillpotts (right) and Torita Smith Wilks, the grandmother for one of the students that Phillpotts teaches, lauded the work that Phillpotts has been doing to help her granddaughter.
Clarion Phillpott and students from the A New Jamaica of Peace after-school programme following a session in Arnette Gardens.
Clarion Phillpotts, co-founder and managing director of A New Jamaica of Peace Foundation.
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Committed to making a difference in the inner-city community of Arnett Gardens, Clarion Phillpotts, co-founder and managing director of A New Jamaica of Peace Foundation, aims to inject positive changes in the community, starting with the children.

Phillpotts and her daughter have been working in Arnett Gardens since 2015, teaching primary schoolchildren outside of their regular school hours in a bid to cultivate their natural gifts and talents, hoping to ultimately create more peace within the community.

“Right now, we have, for example, a military post at the entrance of the community, which they put there last year because of the ongoing violence. So that’s what we’re trying to [change]. We’re working mainly with children at the primary level because we have to be able to encourage our children from an early age to make positive life choices. It’s very important that our children know that they have a purpose,” Phillpotts shared with GoodHeart.

The foundation offers an after-school programme in the community, up to three times per week, where children get assistance with reading, learning music, and foreign languages and are given computer lessons.

According to Phillpotts, cultivating these talents will lead to them becoming better citizens, which, in turn, will make them better and more prone to making positive life choices.

“I realise that when they get into the high-school system, a lot of them drop out of the system and they become a part of the unattached youths. Let’s not wait on that. Let’s try to teach them something from a primary level because they want to learn and are excited about learning at this stage. When they get a little older and they get into high school and they have to think about helping mummy to feed the younger ones, it’s kinda hard to get them excited about coming to music classes,” she stated.

ALLOWING CHILDREN TO BE CHILDREN

Although not a teacher by profession, Phillpotts said she chose to give back to Arnett Gardens in this fashion because she grew up in the community. By visiting, she realised that most of the opportunities she received as a youngster were not being afforded to this generation.

“What I notice, the children aren’t playing as much as they used to play. The children aren’t allowed to be children as much, so I said let’s do some fun days for them,” Phillpotts said.

She has since taken them on different excursions to cultural sites and swimming pools to help them get a chance to feel like children despite their environment. The volunteer said she, however, had to cancel one fun day because the day before, there was a shooting in the community which resulted in the killing of five men.

According to her, working with the children after these traumatic events she realised that they are greatly affected and sad. It is why she tries her best to find activities to allow them to have fun even while learning.

IMPROVING ACADEMICALLY

Torita Smith Wilks, the grandmother of one of the students that Phillpotts teaches, lauded the work that she has been doing to help her granddaughter. She said that since her granddaughter started attending her after-school classes, she had greatly improved academically and could now readily answer most questions she would stutter on before.

As a result of the positive feedback that she said she has been receiving, Phillpotts is looking to expand her service to other communities. She said that after speaking with other community workers, she realises that other inner-city communities in surrounding areas do not even have a music class, something she believes is one of the most integral elements in cultivating the talents within communities.

To donate or learn more about A New Jamaica of Peace Foundation, visit @ANewJamaica on Facebook or call (876) 592-3538. Have a good story you’d like to share? Email us at goodheart@gleanerjm.com.

danae.hyman@gleanerjm.com