Havagay Walters performs at the PACT/USAID closing ceremony of the Anti-trafficking in Persons III Project, which has empowered hundreds of vulnerable young Jamaicans and sensitized thousands more to the dangers of trafficking, at the Terra Nova AllSuite Hotel on Wednesday.
The awareness of human trafficking among Jamaicans is expected to increase significantly as People's Action for Community Transformation (PACT) has trained students as peer educators. The peer educators are expected to carry the anti-trafficking messages and warnings to their friends, families and community members. Human trafficking, which is referred to as modern day slavery, occurs when persons, especially women and children, are enticed into being taken or forcefully moved from one part of Jamaica to another, or from one country to another, where they are usually forced to work.
The 103 peer educators were chosen from a group of 427 vulnerable young persons who participated
in the Anti-trafficking in Persons III program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The project began last May and comes to an end this month. The students were provided with skills training, counselling and information on how to recognize and avoid the dangers of human trafficking. More than 70 of the 103 peer educators graduated during a ceremony held at Terra Nova AllSuite Hotel yesterday. The rest will be certified when their training is completed at the end of this month.
Others trained completes training of peer educators Students expected to boost awareness about human trafficking. Three nongovernmental organizations trained, counselled and coached the students. They were Children First, Western Society for Upliftment of Children in Montego Bay and Church Action Negril, through its Theodore Project.
Mario Abrahams, one of the peer educators, lauded the program, saying that he was well informed about trafficking and had been taking the message to his peers in his community. "Living in the inner city does not make you less of a person. I am seen as a role model to my friends," Abrahams told the gathering. He added: "In my community, I reason with young people on the corner." A student from Church Action Negril said the program had made him a better person. "I once was a bad boy. I once was in bad company but the Theodore Project has helped to build me to where I am today," he said.
In his remarks, Sean Osner, USAID's deputy director in the Office of Sustainable Development urged the Government to continue activities that raised awareness of the risks of human trafficking. Shelia Nicholson, project coordinator of PACT, said she was grateful that USAID had supported the program. "Without the assistance given to PACT, and the awareness that has been built up in our society, one 14 year-old Jamaican might have been sold into prostitution by so called male relatives. The would be traffickers are now incarcerated," said Nicholson.