Every Saturday morning, approximately 30 children from Parade Gardens and surrounding inner-city communities across Kingston can be spotted on the roadside doing art classes in locations including Fletchers Land, Franklin Town, Rae Town, Olympic Gardens, and Gold Street in a programme known as Art on the Street.
A similar Art as Therapy programme is conducted frequently for persons with mental and physical disabilities at the Bellevue Hospital and the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities.
These programmes fall under the auspices of The MultiCare Youth Foundation (MYF), a private charitable organisation operating in east, west, and central Kingston and Greater Portmore. The foundation was established in 1993 by the ICD Group, the Caribbean Cement Company and Cable and Wireless Ltd (now Flow) with a mandate to provide youth and community development, particularly among students and young people from inner-city areas of Kingston.
Through structured activities in sports and the visual and performing arts, the MYF focuses on the building of character and the promotion of tolerance and good interpersonal relationships among children from diverse backgrounds and often-contentious communities. The programmes are designed to inculcate discipline and responsibility promote good physical, emotional, and mental-health development, while providing the youngsters with opportunities to shine and achieve, building confidence and self-esteem.
The MYF aims to have these children and young people adopt a softer and gentler approach to living compared to what many of them are regularly exposed to, and also promotes positive lifestyle choices, leading to the development of well-rounded and productive adults.
Research shows that using sports and visual and performing arts gives youth, especially those who are marginalised, a renewed sense of hope and energy.
While MultiCare has five groups of beneficiaries, including young adults with disabilities, the organisation’s core activities focus on primary and high school children ages six-18, across 32 schools in Kingston, St Andrew, and St Catherine.
The sports programme provides coaching clinics for students in seven sports and also provides equipment support for physical education teachers and coaches in the beneficiary schools. Another important element of the programme is the annual residential environmental and sports camp, which accommodates 240 students.
THE VALUE OF ART
The performing-arts programme provides professional training in dance, speech, and drama for students on a scheduled basis during the school term. Students are also exposed to the technical aspects of theatre arts, and their achievements are showcased in an annual year-end concert, hosted at the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts at the University of the West Indies, Mona.
In addition to the Art on the Street and Art as Therapy programmes, the visual arts programme provides training workshops and guided practice for teachers and students in a variety of art forms, with emphasis on the value of art for creative expression and as a career option.
Arts-based programmes such as those offered by MultiCare provide a unique way of helping youth in times of transition and development. The demand for programmes like these is demonstrated in the fact that over the years, the foundation has impact on the lives of approximately 6,000 children annually and over 150,000 children and young persons since the programme’s inception. This impact is far-reaching, with many past participants crediting the work of the foundation for their ability to be successful.
With research proving that among children and teenagers from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, those with significant levels of arts engagement tend to show more positive outcomes on indicators such as school grades, test scores, and high-school graduation rates, compared with youth with low levels of arts engagement, there is no doubt that the MYF will continue to be relevant among its target group.
– New Employment Opportunities for Youth in Jamaica is part of the regional programme, New Employment Opportunities for Youth (NEO), which seeks to improve human capital and the employability of one million vulnerable youth across Latin America and the Caribbean by 2022. NEO is being executed in Jamaica by Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org