April 14, 2008
A newly formed group “Nevis Pearls,” which was formed in January 2008 by the Department of Social Services in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) extended free counseling services to girls who demonstrated at risk behaviours.
To signal the end of a first 12 weeks session, the Department held its closing ceremony on April 11, 2008, at the Oualie conference Room, in recognition of the participation of 20 girls selected by School Counselors from the two public Secondary Schools.
Minister of Social Transformation in the NIA Hon. Hensley Daniel, in his keynote address said the 12 weeks programme strategy was an early intervention in the lives of the girls before they fell through society’s cracks.
He also said the programme represented a paradigm shift away from blaming, to a more proactive one, which guided the girls towards more positive pursuits.
“I have looked at some of the topics covered during the 12 weeks sessions and I say to you that you must not be worried with who you are now. We live in a society that would remind you of who you were but you only have to respond with whom you are now and as you go forward, you must dwell on who you are presently,” he said.
Mr. Daniel encouraged the girls to maintain close ties with each other in order to help raise their goals and aspirations. He underscored the vast differences between growing up in Nevis several years ago compared to the present and made reference to an informal intervention table that operated in the community, which addressed the challenges of young people. He however said the 12 weeks intervention would make a difference for girls who were aided by facilitators that were trained counselors.
“I think we have to value intervention because there are several young people globally, who were not as fortunate. The counselors prepared you to fight life’s challenges. You would hear negative things repeated ever day and I want you as Nevis Pearls to prove your doubters wrong,” he said
The Social Transformation Minister explained that the ceremony was held at a time when the month of April was observed as Youth Month, when young people were celebrated for their achievements and their talents. He assured the girls they were no exception.
Other Social Services officials who witnessed the ceremony were Permanent Secretary in the Department of Social Services Mr. Alstead Pemberton, Deputy Director and Youth Services Coordinator in the Youth Affairs Division Ms. Claudia Walwyn, and Counselors Ms.Evete Browne, Counselor and Ms. Jevon Dyer.
The Department’s Head Ms. Maynard said the girl’s voices were heard at a forum they felt comfortable with to discuss their problems and build friendships. She admonished the girls to conduct themselves with self worth at all times and acknowledged them for having stayed involved with the programme.
“We know you would not always hear these encouraging words at school or your home and social environment. We hope in this group, the Facilitators were able to help you build a more positive image. I thank all of you who agreed to participate with the group. Kristina reported that the attendance was good and how well you have listened,” she said.
She thanked the Guidance Counselors Association who collaborated with the Department of Social Services and commended the Youth Division who implemented the programme. She gave glowing remarks of Ms. Kristina Stoney who pursued the programme and made it a reality.
President of the Guidance Counselors Association Mrs. Alison Hill spoke of the endless possibilities and potential the programme had. The girls valued the programme as a comfort zone when they felt validated and spoke freely on topics, which they felt were important to them.
“At times we found it necessary to adjust the agenda. The girls had come a long way in terms of friendship, compassion, awareness, openness, acceptance and understanding of oneself
“We had 10 girls from Gingerland Secondary School and 10 girls from Charlestown Secondary School. They began as brown and blue uniforms, who no longer notice the colour of their uniforms but recognise the importance of supporting one another,” she said.
Ms. Hill further added that 12 weeks were not enough time to bring about the changes facilitators projected but were however contented that they had planted the seed, which they anticipated seeing 20 beautiful flowers blossom a new chapter in their lives that would enfold daily.
She inspired the Nevis Pearls not to give up among all the adversities and challenges. She said distractions would imminently challenge their character and to make them stronger above all.
The girls received their certificates at the end of the ceremony and were treated with a pizza party at Oualie Beach, among the company of family, friends and the programme facilitators.
Ms. Stoney moderated the ceremony. She was acknowledged for being able to convince school counselors of the programme’s potential and for the compilation of the Facilitators Manual and the group’s workbook.
The group was brought directly from school to a secured environment outside of the school premises. It was noted that the girls requested further intervention after the session ended. The Department’s response was to have the girls involved in the summer job placement programme and continue to give them guidance and training for the duration of their High School years.
Nevis Pearl is a strength-based, skill-building group that provides opportunity for girls to address at risk behaviours and to improve their relationships. The overall purpose of the group is to promote resiliency and self-esteem in adolescent girls who were not presently involved in any supportive programmes.
The focus is on girls who are marginalised and have no safe space to ask questions or no place outside their family to which they can find belonging. The Social Services Department believed an increase positive attention to the girls and a created favorable environment would effect positive changes in their lives.
The Department’s aim was to encourage the development of the girls strength, courage, confidence and communication skills to enhance their understanding of their capabilities, which would enable them to take advantage of their talents, academic interests, career pursuits and potential for healthy relationships.
The second in the series of workshops is slated to begin in September 2008.