With gun violence among young people occupying national attention as the country’s murder tally climbs to 30, with half of 2019 still to go, Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde is insisting that his programmes targeting at-risk youth are bearing fruit.
Forde revealed that his Building Blocks initiative geared at block culture reform, has seen 158 young people receiving the training necessary to transition from gang membership to becoming entrepreneurs.
Forde said in an interview with Barbados TODAY: “We have finished the training aspect within four areas. We would have done training in life skills as well as a wide range of business courses.
“We would have done training in Brittons Hill, Silver Hill, Ivy and the Pine and we had 158 graduates.
“Fellows from the blocks came and got their certificates and showed that these young people are interested in change and that all they want is a helping hand.”
He also revealed that plans to convert the first three of 30 blocks into entrepreneurial centres have been submitted to Town and Country Development Planning Office for approval.
“The Prime Minister has put $1.5 million into the programme. So, all of these things will work collectively to ensure that all young people can live the Barbadian dream.
“Right now, we have three plans in at Town and Country Planning and once they are approved, the young people from those communities will literally go and build out those blocks.”
But the Minister for Youth warned that while Government was willing to ensure that at-risk young people are given every chance to better themselves, those who squander the opportunity will be made to feel the full brunt of the law.
Forde declared: “We are giving these young people a once in a lifetime opportunity to put down those weapons because every day we are hearing about young people being involved in nefarious acts that are unbecoming of Barbados.
“We are not going to sit down as a Government and put our hands in the air and do nothing.
“We as a Government are going to do everything in our power to give our young people this opportunity. Now if they don’t take the opportunities that we are giving to them and they decide to run afoul of the law, then we are going to do everything to protect society. Government has a duty to ensure that there is normalcy and that the Barbadian way of life is preserved.”
He noted that this was a mission that could not be undertaken by Government alone. He, therefore, urged those with skills to mentor the youth.
“We are asking all persons with expertise, to lend a hand on this project. We are talking about masons, carpenters, former teachers and all persons willing to share their skills with the youth, to come together to rescue this country.
“We are asking them to work with our young people, empathise with them and show them love. We are saying that every single person must have a mentorship mentality for the good of the country.”