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Tackling crime stigma through theatre

Tuesday, June 19, 2018
United States Embassy Public Affairs Officer Adam Jagelski, left, chats with Quays Foundation president Derron Sandy, centre, and Maloney Government Primary School teacher Najja Cooper, after the formal launch of the Little Fire A Project to Counter Violence and Extremism at the Maloney Public Library yesterday. PICTURE SHIRLEY BAHADUR

A Maloney man is moving to tackle the ongoing scourge of violence and extremism among the youths in his community by using theatre techniques to influence their behaviour and self-worth.

Derron Sandy, president of the Quays Foundation, was speaking yesterday at the official media launch of the Little Fire A Project to Counter Violence and Extremism at the Maloney Public Library in Maloney.

Sandy is hoping to inspire students at the Maloney Government Primary School.

Sandy, who was born and grew up in Maloney, is hoping to change the mindset of the youth through his programmes and change the stigma that has been attached to the community known as a criminal hotspot.

He said 35 students at the Maloney Government Primary School will benefit from the programme.

The programme, which costs approximately $120,000 and lasts six months, will cater to students 12 years and under. A total of 25 boys and eight girls were chosen to participate.

The participants will be facilitated by experienced theatre professionals, counsellors and motivational speakers. Other speakers will include soca artists and popular community leaders.

He said the students were chosen based on the recommendations of their teachers and the programmes will take part twice weekly after school.

“Little Fire as one of our theatre-based initiatives to directly seek intervention in the lives of about 30 high-needs children in the Maloney Government Primary School. I use the words high-needs instead of at-risk because as a poet I believe in the power of words. I believe that these children need a high level of creativity and ingenuity in order to begin to alleviate their impending risks,” he said.

Sandy said the programme will be replicated in other communities with Diego Martin possibly being the next region.

He said the students will have a Family Feud Event, that tests their knowledge on violence and extremism and a Wall Mural within the Maloney community.

“The Wall Mural, the message will define Little Fire as people doing their daily duties to contribute to a crime-free Maloney as a direct counter-narrative to extremism and a family storybook,” he said.

The programme will have four phases; Fire in the Heart, Fire in my House, Fire in my Community and Fire in my School.

Public Affairs Officer at the United States Embassy Adam Jagelski, who attended the event, said the embassy supported the initiative and urged members of the Maloney community to support the effort.

“The youths don’t have to grow up to be leaders. The youths are leaders now, we can give them opportunities and they will lead, we know this, we have seen this,” he said.

Jagelski said this was a good tool to give the youths an opportunity to deal with the trauma in their lives that life brings.

“I urge members of the community to jump in there and in partnership with the school and come together,” he said.

He said another reason was to give the youths the opportunity to see beyond and broaden their perspective.

Najja Copper, a teacher at the Maloney Government Primary for the past nine years, said the programme was a way for the students to express themselves and provide an outlet for them through theatre and arts.


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