(GIS) — The Champions for Change initiative was born out of a need to build social resilience throughout the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The project seeks to help reduce overall crime and violence at the school level so that these incidences are curbed before students reach adulthood.
It has been implemented before at the secondary school level, but in 2019 sought to engage primary school students.
Saint Lucia was chosen as one of five member countries within CARICOM where Champions of Change Clubs will be established.
Louis Dodson, project manager with the Crime and Violence Prevention section at the CARICOM Secretariat, said studies revealed that even primary school students have been exposed to gang activity.
“The lessons learnt came from what we did at the secondary school level where similar studies were conducted. We thought that if crime is to be prevented, perhaps we need to see what is happening at the primary school level. When we tested for certain variables at the secondary school level it was present there including high levels of bullying, gang violence, and anti-social behavior. When we did the same assessment at primary schools we found that there is evidence of primary school students being exposed to gang activity.”
The Champions for Change Clubs will be established at the Ciceron Primary, Soufriere Primary and Canon Laurie Anglican Primary Schools. The project manager noted that the schools were selected after having met certain criteria including the size of the school, the need for the intervention and the possibility of partnering with similar interventions by other players.
“The initiative stemmed from a rapid assessment of risk factors that we did in March 2019,” Mr. Dodson said. “This is where we sought to find out what was happening in primary schools. That assessment was informed by a similar study that was done at secondary schools. The findings of that assessment were shared at a national consultation with Saint Lucian counterparts. Their recommendations informed some of the interventions we are now conducting including the Champions for Change Clubs.”
The clubs will be headed by higher-level primary school students who will contribute to the development of their peers. The clubs will be organized around areas including sports and agriculture with the primary objective of promoting social development of other primary school students.
Apart from Saint Lucia, the project is being implemented in Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Jamaica, and Suriname.