Guidance Needed For Long Look Youth

Javon Liburd, Staff Reporter | 3 Opinions
Published: May 17, 2017 7:10 am AST
Amidst the crime and other social issues that seem to be plaguing the community of Long Look, young residents are crying out for persons of the Territory to reach out and lend guidance to other residing youths, who have fallen short and are on the path of destruction, or are likely to be affected in some way.

BVI Platinum News spoke to several young persons of the Long Look community, who all acknowledged that the community is affected by social ills such as crime, unemployment and poverty.

The residents also expressed their distress to BVI Platinum News, noting that young persons of the community are in dire need of guidance, role models and greater opportunities.

Speaking with Burton Lettsome, popularly known as Dj Bertrum, he shared that the stigma on the community exists because not enough social, physical and mental investments were made into the young people of the community.

He stated that young persons are often neglected by persons within the community, as well as others who live on the outside.

“I don’t think the young people have proper mentors or role models, and they turn to look for that guidance on the streets and in their friends.”

He said, “I don’t think that enough is being done, but it’s something tough to tackle. I don’t think people genuinely care enough to open up about it. We all have a part to play; we need to start playing a bigger role than sitting down waiting. We are the people that live here.”

This view was also put forward by Stacy Mather, Executive Director of the Youth Empowerment Programme (YEP), and a resident of the community.

In a brief assessment, Mather noted that proper direction is lacking, adding that the downfall of the community is the blatant disregard and neglect of young people and their livelihood.

“They [young people of Long Look] need direction”, Mather said, adding, “For me, I would meet a child I don’t know and I would ask them how they’re doing and ensure everything is ok. I wish our community was more like that, where persons would reach out to young people to inquire why they are not working, or why are they doing this or that.”

Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
He said, “Long look has a history; they are very proud and strong people. Once you rally the people, they will come together and assist. There are enough persons who are willing to come together and address difficulties that we see, but it's direction, that’s what they need.”

There is an apprehension in the community in talking to a stranger, Mather also pointed out, adding that people think if they don’t know you, then it’s not their business.

“Some persons say gun violence, if it’s not in front their door, it’s none of their business. It might not be in front of you right now, but times goes by. That person you don’t help right now, might be the one knocking on your door.”

Local Guidance Counsellor and resident of the community, Jacob Edwards also contributed on the topic, stating that if the young persons were empowered, the current state of the Long Look community would’ve never been.

“Where I think we went wrong is that we didn’t take the time to empower our young people on how to earn a living. We are so accustomed of giving them short term opportunities, but that doesn’t encourage empowerment or development. The train will continue to be unsuccessful, more unemployment and more crime.”

Edwards said, “Times are different, because the lack of empowerment and teaching people how to work or think, and real opportunities on how they can make a living is missing. The thing that is going to help our young people and help crime to decrease is for us to empower them, and give them chances and opportunities to be involved in things in the Territory. Only then a change will come.”

Not As Bad As It Seems

Although criminal doings do occur in the Long Look area, residents have argued that it’s not an “out of control killing spree” as members of the wider community have allegedly reported.

They highlighted that it is evident that crime is being committed by young men of the community, but reiterated that this is as a result of the absence of proper guidance and empowerment.

“I wouldn’t say crime happens in Long Look the most. People will say that because lately, things have been happening, but I wouldn’t say the issue of crime is prevalent here,” said Edwards.

He noted that persons living within the community know the truth.

“People on the outside stigmatize us, but for us living here, we know the difference. Yes, things are happening here, but it’s happening around the Territory. Long Look is very safe.”

Burton also disagreed that his hometown is plagued with crime, as alleged by persons living in other communities around the Territory.

He highlighted that the likelihood of something happening in the area is much greater than elsewhere, as the Long Look/East End area is the biggest community in the BVI.

“I disagree that the area is plagued with crime and unemployment. There are times when things happen, but it happens across Tortola. It’s bad, but not as exaggerated as persons are making it look. To understand the area, you have to take into consideration the history of the community, the fact that it’s probably the biggest community in the BVI. The likelihood of something happening here is higher than elsewhere.”

He mentioned that there is also a greater influence from outside cultures.

“The other communities are not even close to how rich we are in culture; it’s a melting pot down here, but I don’t think it’s more dangerous. I feel safer in Long Look or East End than anywhere else in the BVI and the world.”

He said, “Coming from where we were, where it was a closely knitted community, to now where persons don’t know each other and don’t care to know. It’s a cultural change; the intermingling of culture and so many nationalities. It is beautiful, but the community is losing that moral fabric and this is contributing to the social ills. Some place along the line, we lost connection with each other in the community.”

Unemployment

Persons of the community also acknowledged that there are persons who are currently unemployed, but noted that it is a not a major issue in the community.

Mather noted that majority of the young people in the community are currently employed, while the others continue to seek employment.

“I disagree that persons aren’t looking for jobs. I’ve seen a lot of people who have sought employment over the last decade.”

Mather went on to mention that persons who are unemployed might be faced with an academic issue, which threatens their employability.

He further noted that young persons in the Long Look community and around the Territory are in dire need of training in various skills.

“Their academic history or skill-set will determine whether or not they fit the positions that they want. There is a need in the BVI for skills training for these young people. I can see that young people are trying. There are opportunities; some they chose not to do and some not aware of the opportunities at all.”

He went on to suggest that persons of the business community should band together to assist the youths of the area with training in various fields and sectors.

Edwards too disagreed with the notion, noting that persons of the community are aware of the importance and value of a job. For the few that are unemployed, he stated that this small bracket of persons may have direct connection with the crime that is happening in the area.

“Without a job persons are forced to do what they have to do to survive. Crime is very broad; there is never one thing that causes it, but unemployment can be a key factor. Things are getting harder.”

He stated that the stigma of the community may have also contributed to the number of persons who are unemployed.

“…A lot of people who want to earn a job and make a living; it’s hard out here for them. Out here is based on who you know.”

The District Representative and resident of the area, Deputy Premier Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering also chimed in on the matter, noting that neither crime nor employment is a major issue in the Long Look community.

He said, “I don’t think our area is unique or any different from the other in that respect.”

On unemployment, he stated that more and more persons of the community have found jobs.

“There are more people employed now than there ever were. You don’t see as many people sitting around idling as you’re used to.”

He further noted that despite the decrease in the number of persons unemployed in the area, youth unemployment continues to be a problem locally, regionally and internationally.

“We are going to continue to build the community in a lot of ways; still a lot of work to do on the physical infrastructure. You cannot divorce the physical structure from the social infrastructure, the way people see themselves and the opportunities to advance themselves.”

It Is Exactly As It Seems

A few persons in the Territory have differed in their views, with some of the opinion that Long Look is a violent place, where criminals run rampant and young people roam the streets without any interest of securing a prosperous future.

In dialogue with BVI Platinum News, these residents have suggested that the area may be the most violent place in the BVI, where young men and women refuse to work to make an honest living.

During the first five months of 2017, out of a total of 5 murders, the 3 occurred in the Long Look area or involved persons from the area.

Mather noted that the area is undeniably a hot spot for gun violence in the Territory.

“When it comes to crime, I think because this side of the island is so densely populated, you will see more crime. No one can argue that as of recently, when you look at the reports, when it comes to gun violence, this area seems to be a hot spot. That’s undeniable; I think there is something going on,” he noted.

Young mother, Naaje Jacobs, 20, of Long Look, shared similar sentiments, adding that she is scared for her life.

“A lot of crime in Long Look. More crime here than anywhere else.”

She said, “I’m scared for me and my son’s life. Something always happening in here; this neighbourhood is dangerous. It’s a lot of revenge here.”

On the matter of unemployment in the area, Jacobs, who recently found a job, said she too was unemployed, but looked for a job and got through.

“If I can do it, they can to,” she said, adding, “A lot of people are unemployed and they’re on the block doing nothing. They don’t want to look no work. When I was without a job, it was hard for me. I was all over looking for a job until I found one."

She said, “They’re not doing anything. Once you want a job you will get one. They don’t look, they don’t want to work; it’s ridiculous. If I can do it, they can too. I didn’t get my high school diploma,and I searched and searched until I found a job.

She believes that if more persons were working, the crime rate in the area will not be so alarming.

To this, Mather said, “I think there are some who choose not to work; maybe they have an easier way to make money or they don’t see their value to bring to the job market, but to say that is majority, I would disagree. Our young people, by any definition, whether we migrated to the BVI or not, are hardworking people and willing to work for what they need to get. Direction is what’s needed.”

Children Affected

Despite the extent of the issues affecting the Long Look community, it was generally agreed that the ills exist. In light of this, young persons of the community have also expressed their concern on the effect these issues would have on the much younger children of the Long Look area, and their upbringing.

Through his training, Edwards noted that the existence of these issues will indeed negatively impact the behaviour and overall thinking of resident children. “This is why empowerment is essential,” he stated.

“Young people feel they have no hope or nothing to live for, but they are the future. Are we preparing them in a way that they can deal with things accordingly, and make a better BVI, and become a better individual? That’s what we should ask ourselves.”

He noted that in efforts of deterring other youths from a life of crime and instilling in them the values of hard work, a proper communication channel must be in effect.

“I think it starts with giving these young people a voice, hearing what they have to say and their concerns. You have to understand to be understood. Once we understand their concerns and what they have to say, it’s a big start in shifting things in a way where things will be much better for them, the community and the country.”

Edwards said that persons in the community continue to fall astray and the crime rate continues to increase, because of lack of understanding.

“Enough is not being done by the community on a whole. I am not blaming the government for nothing; everybody has a part to play and we need to step up and do our share to ensure that our young people are being taught the true ways of life, where they can have many opportunities and to keep them in line, rather than them going astray.

Mather, who deals with children of the area on a regular basis, said although the issues would have an effect on the young persons of the community, “it comes down to what they value and what their parents taught them.”

He highlighted that YEP is heavily focused on creating hope and opportunities for young people of the Long Look/East End area, and others from other villages.

“When you believe in a young person, they will try to please you and do things to make you proud. I don’t have to know you to care about your circumstances.”

Hon. Pickering also agreed that the existing issues negatively affect the youngest persons of the community, noting that it affects entire community as well.

“What’s more difficult is for persons to understand the genesis of the crime, what’s driving it and I think that’s where a lot of our efforts should be, and get to the bottom of what is happening.”

He said, “This is where we will need assistance from the entire community. Crime is not just for the police, politicians or religious leaders; it is a problem for everyone and we have to come together as a community.”

Government Assistance

Hon. Pickering has noted that the government will continue their efforts to combat and address social ills in the Long Look community and around the Territory.

One of their efforts to assist the unemployed as well as a possible solution to crime, is the government's Youth Employment Services (YES).

The programme, which falls directly under the Ministry of Education, is geared towards preparing and finding work opportunities for persons between the ages of 15 – 29.

In 2015, the programme assisted a total of 70 persons in receiving jobs.

Earlier this year, the programme saw a total of 128 persons registering for assistance, including 3 differently-able persons. 54 of those persons, including 1 differently-able were employed thus far.

The programme also hosts a number of workshops and training, that cover resume building, written and oral communication, life skills and dressing for success, to assist young persons in maintaining a good impression in the working world. The programme is open to persons from every district.

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