Sat | Oct 20, 2018

Guardsman Group seeks to rescue the youth

Published:Friday | October 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dr Christopher Tufton (left), minister of health, accepts a gift from Vinay Walia, group managing director, Guardsman Group. Looking on are Sheila Benjamin McNeill, managing director, Guardsman Group Foundation, and Kwame Hall, director of operations, Future Energy, at a presentation ceremony held on Tuesday at Guardsman Group’s, St Andrew headquarters.

The Guardsman Group of Companies has reaffirmed its commitment to the empowerment of Jamaica's youth by providing support and opportunities through proceeds from the Guardsman Games, held at the Hope Zoo, St Andrew, in July.

The Jamaica Defence Force (JDF)/Boys of Hope programme, the Kind Hearts Basic School Initiative, and the Bustamante Hospital for Children are the recent beneficiaries. According to Vinay Walia, group managing director, the selection of the three entities was a reflection of the organisation's thrust to invest in the lives of the youth in order to secure Jamaica's future.

However, the Jamaica Defence Force/Boys of Hope programme, a partnership for at-risk youth involving the Guardsman Group, Hope Zoo, the JDF and the private sector under the auspices of the Guardsman Foundation, is of paramount importance for the organisation.

"We cannot do too much to rescue the young boys of Jamaica, who have so many challenges, many of whom are growing up in dire circumstances," Walia said.

"This is the second year of our Boys of Hope initiative. This year, partners will work in three tranches with boys in the juvenile justice system for periods of three weeks per cohort. They will engage with one group of 17 to 25 boys during the Christmas and Easter vacations, and with three groups during the longer summer vacation," he said.

"The boys are ages 10 to 16 years. We believe this is a particularly vulnerable age, when they are easily swayed by negative influences," explained Lt Commander Overton, group director of the Guardsman Group.

"They are assigned to zookeepers. This not only teaches them environmental awareness, they also realise that the animals are dependent on them and that they must take the responsibility to care for them," he added.

He noted that some of the youngsters in last year's programme have stayed on and taken up employment at Hope Zoo.

The Kind Hearts Basic School initiative will continue its focus on building schools in rural areas, while the Bustamante Hospital for Children will receive a further installation of solar panels with the proceeds from this year's games.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com