Hear The Children’s Cry: A Response To The Heartbreaking Complex Of Crises Affecting Jamaican Children
Hear The Children’s Cry is Jamaica’s most vocal child advocacy and support group. A charitable organization, we were launched in 2002, in direct response to a heartbreaking and alarming complex of crises which face our nation’s children every day.
Thousands of youngsters continue to be the victims of violent crimes, and to be traumatized by witnessing murder and other violent acts in their homes and communities. Children are abused in many homes, and suffer from neglect, abandonment, homelessness and exploitation by criminals. Many are abused by uncaring and/or uninformed care givers, and from injustices resulting from inadequate and often inept essential national services – and weak and unenforced legislation.
The particular atrocity which precipitated the establishment of Hear The Children’s Cry by Founder, child advocate Betty Ann Blaine and her associates, was the shooting up of a children’s birthday party in the violence prone community of Kingston’s Greenwich Town. The innocent victims of hostilities between rival gangs, the young children were sprayed with bullets at what should have been a joyful occasion. One child was killed and a number were wounded, one very seriously.
WHAT WE DO
We provide urgently needed services for children and young people who face daunting odds and severe social and economic challenges. We combine vigorous, high profile advocacy with practical programmes for children, families and youth. These include safety education in schools, parenting education, public education, counselling, community and family social outreaches, and projects to prevent both high school dropouts and runaways.
We established our multi-faceted Missing Children’s Support Programme in April 2009, with continuing support from Jamaica Yellow Pages, now Yellow Media Group.
OUR FOUNDING LEADERSHIP TEAM: The six professionals who came together to serve as early board members of Hear The Children’s Cry. They are, from left: Celta Kirkland, Mike Watson, Alice Watson, Founder Betty Ann Blaine, Acting Executive Director Maxine Taylor Cooper and Nigel Cooper.
Though our advocacy serves all Jamaican children, our programmes target specifically the large majority who face severe economic hardships and live in marginalized communities plagued by horrendous levels of crime and violence. Their families are largely fragmented, often lacking in positive parenting skills, and in many cases unaware of the basic rights of children and of both established and new legislation for their protection.
Our team members boast an average of three decades working in critical programmes for children and young people. Their areas of expertise and experience include social work, advocacy, youth mentoring, education, remedial education, innovative outreach projects for unattached youth, communications and programme design and administration.
Hear The Children’s Cry is recognized as the leading Jamaican organization speaking on behalf of Jamaican children. We are widely respected for raising public awareness and national concern about child safety and atrocities suffered by children and young people, in a society increasingly de-sensitized by unprecedented levels of crime and violence
Our organization has gained national and international recognition and respect for our innovative approach to forging solutions to seemingly daunting challenges. Team members who worked on a groundbreaking project for engaging young men from inner city communities (2006-2007) received a prestigious World Bank/Commonwealth Secretariat Award in a 2009 Caribbean Contest “Keeping Boys Out of Risk”.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ‘lock down’ of schools and communities islandwide, Hear The Children’s Cry published monthly ‘COVID-19 Bulletins’ focusing on the state of the country’s children as reflected by the statistics on missing children. We also posted tips for parents and children regarding extra safety precautions during the challenging circumstances.
Although some of our normal family support programmes were curtailed during the lock downs, we were able to increase our telephone counselling and media outreaches. The latter focused on the fact that parents found it difficult or impossible to get to police stations to report missing children. Also, that many families were unable to afford devices and data for their children to access on line lessons, and that many remote or underserved communities did not even have adequate internet services.
As a gesture of appreciation for Yello Media Group’s continued support for our Missing Children’s Support Programme, Hear The Children’s Cry in May 2020 mounted a special Parenting Webinar for Yello staffers around the Caribbean. It was entitled Planting Roots and Spreading Wings – The Power of Positive Parenting.
School Safety and Parenting Education
- We promote critical safety tips for children and families
- Working on our own and partnering with other social welfare organizations, we take these workshops to schools, churches and community organizations across Jamaica.
- Parent Teacher Associations and Guidance Counselors offer invaluable assistance in scheduling the workshops .
Runaway Prevention Programme
- In a situation where most missing children in Jamaica are runaways, Hear The Children’s Cry launched the Runaway Prevention Programme in May 2018, using the theme, “Let’s Talk: Don’t Walk”.
- Our life-saving advice for parents and children promotes better communication, enhanced parent-child relations, and practical advice during times of crises. In addition to child safety, creating happier homes is an important objective.
Missing Children’s Support Programme
- We provide counselling for families of missing children and for returned children, vigorous advocacy and public awareness outreaches on the current status of this, one of Jamaica’s most serious child and youth related challenges.
Missing Children’s Family & Community Social Work Programme
Introduced in 2018, this Programme is designed to alleviate the problem of runaways and missing and exploited children, including addressing the vast investigational gap that exists regarding missing children in Jamaica, and strengthening the areas of child protection and prevention.
- Home and school visits are undertaken; critical support services are provided for parents.
- Necessary action is taken for the rehabilitation and re-assimilation of formerly missing children into the educational and social fabric of the society.
- Initial priority focus was placed on families with habitual runaways, whose safety and interrupted education is of particular concern.
- The Programme was launched in four of Jamaica’s 14 parishes – Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine and St. Thomas.
National Youth Help Recycling Project (2010 – 2011)
- Employment creation, educational and personal development for 15 unattached young males from inner-city communities.
- Piloted a promising paper recycling operation which can be replicated nationally and regionally. Potential for income generation.
- Protecting the environment by preventing potentially harmful materials to enter landfills.
- An associated component facilitated an environmental education project, also focusing on environmental awareness and recycling, and a related competition among high schools.
Prevent A Dropout Pilot Programme – 2006 – 2007
- An innovative programme successfully designed and piloted by Hear The Children’s Cry and endorsed by the Ministry of Education.
- Implemented at Swallowfield Primary and Junior High School, it targeted 60 grade 8 and 9 students deemed highly likely to drop out of school, given their home life and school performance.
- Students were given remedial education, career guidance, life-skills training, individual mentoring, and with their families, parenting and family life education. Some required counseling, some could not read. Students were also given help with bus fares and food.
- The results were considered a phenomenal success by the school, Against all odds, 29 of the first year’s group of 30, and. all 30 of the second year’s group graduated.