(GIS) – The juvenile rehabilitation and detention centre houses boys in conflict with the law as well as those in need of care and protection.
Over the last 60 years, the Boys Training Centre (BTC), has evolved in its service offerings to wards. The institution now provides therapy sessions, technical and vocational programs, agriculture and sporting avenues. Another source of pride is the musical band sponsored by the Amy Winehouse Foundation.
Wang Sonson, General Manager of the BTC, explained: “We have agriculture, auto mechanics, welding and woodwork. Two years ago we decided to try for the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ). This is something that had never been introduced to the Boys Training Centre. Prior to this, we had never had a ward enroll at the BTC and leave with a certificate. The first, was a ward who came to us for care and protection. He was assessed for level one welding. He passed and moved on to level two. This year we had two boys who are with us as juvenile offenders. They were assessed for certification in welding last month and I’m happy to say that they both passed. That was a major success for us.”
Mr. Sonson said the sports program has helped transform the wards, giving them a new approach to life. Currently a group of boys are making hits on the National Under 19 Rugby Team.
“Last year in 2019, we took a group of 19 boys to Grenada to participate in the Caribbean Children’s Charity Shields Soccer Tournament, and out of teams from across the region, we were the only juvenile detention center there. At the end of the tournament we earned the award for Most Disciplined Team. That was a big step in changing the stigma associated with the BTC.”
The BTC receives troubled boys that staff must mold into productive citizens. Critical to that process is continued intervention. The centre runs an aftercare program which involves job placement and housing. Massy Stores Saint Lucia, along with other private sector entities have been of tremendous assistance. The involvement of former wards also inspires the boys.
“We had a program recently called ‘Being the Change’ where we invited speakers and former wards of the centre to speak to the boys,” Mr. Sonson said. “One of those speakers was a police officer who was a former ward. He told the boys of a prison officer, a fireman, a customs officer and other former wards who are successful overseas. So there are success stories associated with wards when they leave the Boys Training Centre. We also find that the boys fare best when they have family support or when there is a support system around them.”
On July 23, the Boys Training Centre received $50,000 from the proceeds of the annual Prime Minister’s Independence Ball.