Minister of Youth and Culture, the Hon. Lisa Hanna has charged children in State care to rise above their current situations and be agents of change for a better Jamaica.
“You are men and women of tomorrow, and you have the opportunity now to make the change. Step up to the plate and make things happen, because we are here to help mould and support you. Start having some positive thinking, stay in school and make use of your life. Carry yourselves well, keep your heads high and excel in your academic endeavours,” she said.
She was giving the keynote address at the second staging of the Child Development Agency’s National Children’s Summit which was held at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Tuesday (August 25).
The event which was themed ‘Creating Opportunities to Develop Tomorrow’s Leaders Today’ provided a platform for some 700 delegates 12 to 17 years to interface with their leaders about matters of national interest. It was spearheaded by the Agency’s Children’s Advisory Panel (CAP).
Congratulating the Panel and the CDA for staging the Summit, Minister Hanna urged the delegates to make use of the opportunity being given to voice their opinion on the issues affecting them.
“You are here to have your voices heard, because we believe in child participation, and so we want to hear from you our future leaders. All of you sitting here in this room are leaders in your own right. From this Summit, we are looking for guidance from you, as to how to solve some of the problems that we are facing,” the Minister said.
Drawing reference to the work of a few nation-builders, such as Olympic World Champions, Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Frazer-Pryce; Minister of Education, Rev. Ronald Thwaites encouraged the delegates to channel their energies into meaningful activities, focus on their education and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty in Jamaica.
“I am imploring you to take education seriously, because it is the only legitimate way to upward mobility in life that will move you from where you are to where you want to be. Things might seem hard now, but keep pressing on, because it will get better, as long as you are disciplined, determined and are willing to grab hold of your dreams,” the Education Minister told the youngsters.
He also used the opportunity to urge parents, guardians and teachers to be role models for children in their care, by being more responsible in their actions, and also by catering to their holistic needs.
“Many of our children are coming to school looking very untidy and many times hungry, and as such they become very irritable. These are the things we need to change if we want better CSEC, CAPE and GSAT results,” the Education Minister said.
He also encouraged youth leaders to reach out and extend a hand to those in need, adding that, “Every child has the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, and the government of Jamaica is working to provide different avenues, so that all children are given educational privileges to be able to fit into the society when they become adults.
Chief Executive Officer for CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey said preparing our children to be nation-builders and world changers must begin with deliberate and strategic steps today, adding that child participation remains a focal point of the Agency’s mandate to empower the nation’s children and equip them to positively impact the society.
She added that the CDA continues to demonstrate its firm belief in the purest concept of child participation with the establishment of the Children’s Advisory Panel (CAP) and Children’s Councils in residential child care facilities, as well as the staging of the first CDA Child Management Day.
She congratulated the CAP for staging the event which provided a platform for a wide-cross section of children in Jamaica to engage their leaders about matters of national importance.
“I urge you children to use this summit as an opportunity to increase your knowledge, impact national policy direction, expand your horizons and plan for your future career goals,” Mrs. Gage-Grey said.
Congratulating the 2015 GSAT, CSEC and CAPE awardees, the Agency’s CEO said that she was extremely proud of the progress that the nation’s children were making, as they sought to hone their talents and prepare to take over the reins of national leadership.
Giving an overview of the Panel, Chairman of CAP, Meca-Gaye Francis said it was imperative that the nation engaged its youth, many of whom were vulnerable, marginalized or simply needed an opportunity to maximize their individual potential.
In keeping with the conference’s theme and objective, Miss Francis encouraged the delegates to be ambassadors for the thousands of children and young people in Jamaica, urging them to “make our voices heard and use this opportunity to create opportunities for ourselves, as we prepare today, to lead tomorrow.”
“We are passing the baton to you, so that you can be part of the movement of change, a process which requires collaboration and much effort if we are to bring about positive change in Jamaica. The adults and leaders of today alone cannot do it; it is up to us, agents of change, leaders of tomorrow, to change that with which we are dissatisfied with today,” Miss Francis said.
Master of Ceremonies, Mrs. Paula Anne Porter-Jones in her opening remarks, implored the children to let their voices be heard, adding: “Children are indeed the future, and we value your input, so get involved in the decision-making process, because you have a say,” Mrs. Porter Jones said.
Echoing the sentiments of the CAP Chairman, Panel Member, Cassia Lecky while giving the vote of thanks said that the Summit was a children’s affair which was providing an opportunity for openness about issues that children were facing with respect to child protection and other matters.
The opening ceremony also included the singing of the national anthem, a prayer by CAP member, Jada Brown; as well as performances from Tivoli Dance Troupe and singer Samaria Foster.
A number of panel discussions were held which were moderated by CAP members, other youth leaders and media personalities. These included Face-to-Face with your Leaders, which saw Minister Hanna; CDA’s CEO, Rosalee Gage Grey; Registrar at the Office of the Children’s Registry, Greig Smith, and Substance Abuse Officer from the National Council on Drug Abuse, Daniel Brown interfacing with children on different subject matters.
Other sessions held at the Summit were personal development and values; with rights comes responsibilities; transitioning out of care and what it means for you; special recognition programme for GSAT students; eliminating the incidence of violence against children and understanding the phenomena of bullying in Jamaica which also saw representatives from various organizations participating.
Event special features included a Play Therapy Harbour Lounge; HEART/NTA Spa Oasis; Technology and You; A Journey into the World of Robotics; and Exploring the Musical You.
The event was also capped off with performances from Ashe Performing Arts Group, Gospel Recording Artiste, Jermaine Edwards; Songbirds, Cherine Anderson and Jasmine Barnes; Dub Poet Entertainer, Randy McLaren, and Children’s First Inc.
Relating his experience, 14 years old Devante Douglas who attended the Summit said that he had a great time because he learnt a lot from most of the sessions in which he participated.
“I went to the robotics and music room, and I loved everything about the sessions. I loved the entertainment and got a lot of information from the various booths. For me I benefitted a lot,” the youngster said.
On the GSAT session, nine-year-old Daevia Edwards said that overall, she enjoyed the Summit and looked forward to next year’s staging.
“I attended the GSAT session because I wanted to hear the views of the leaders and children, even though I am not at that level. I learnt a lot, which will definitely help me to prepare for high school when I am ready,” she said.
A number of booth exhibitors were also present at the Summit; these include Child Development Agency; Office of the Children’s Registry; the National Council on Drug Abuse; Ministry of Education; Office of the Children’s Advocate; Children’s First Inc; HEART/NTA; Ministry of Labour and Social Security; National Youth Service; Unite for Change; Ministry of National Security; Dispute Resolution Foundation; Respect Jamaica; Rise Life Management; Junior Achievement Jamaica and others.
The sponsors of the event were the United Nation’s Children Fund (UNICEF); UWI Open Campus, Caribbean Child Development Centre; Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS); KFC; First Heritage Co-operative (FHC) Credit Union; National Housing Trust (NHT); Food for the Poor; and Crazy Jim Ice Cream; JN Foundation; Jamaica Biscuit Company; Burger King and Caribbean Broilers.
Contact: Jeneva Gordon