NORWOOD, St James — Like other youngsters living in an inner-city community riddled with crime and fraught with other dangers, a 20-year-old female of Norwood in St James knows all too well the negative impact this can have.

Her response to her environment was anger. She had difficulty controlling her temper and the smallest things would set her off. She was like a ticking time bomb.

“Growing up in the community and seeing a lot of things… you are not taught how to deal with certain situations so you turn to anger. Sometimes… the anger gets the best of us,” stated the woman whose identity we will not reveal.

Now the owner of a business, she still remembers the rage she felt after the murder of one of her loyal customers who had taken the initiative to market her business after the service she provided left him impressed. She unwisely lashed out, expressing anger inside her place of business, her behaviour threatening her source of income.

She has had a problem controlling her rage since primary school and therapy provided no relief.

She finally got help through the USAID Transforming Our Perspective (TOP) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Programme.

“This one really helped me to get over some things — control my anger, to know how to deal with persons, understand people of different backgrounds and so forth,” she stated.

She is one of Norwood’s 86 at-risk youngsters between the ages of 17 and 29 who participated in TOP CBT. The initiative, which started in April and will come to an end next year, is one of many being implemented across the country under the wider US$16-million Local Partner Development project which started in February 2017 and will come to an end next year. It has been a game-changer for the young woman.

“You also have something that they call the RAIN (Recognition, Acceptance, Investigation, and Non-Identification) technique and so forth that we received in the CBT sessions where you just learn how to control yourself and calm down… so that there is no bad outcome,” she explained.

In addition to personal development, the USAID initiative provides training and grants to participants who have an interest in entrepreneurship.

“This programme reached out to me to assist me with all of those needs. I got a business grant for my business and I did business training. The training that I got I implemented into my business and I am seeing tremendous results. The programme has assisted me in becoming a better person,” she stated.

A second participant has also seen his life improve after enrolling. He sells sky juice on the streets for a living and is currently doing a certified course in food and beverage through the USAID programme.

He had it tough growing up, he said, with his mother struggling financially and his father eking out a living by being a hustler. He has had to fight to sell his sky juice on the streets.

“Other higglers don’t like to see when you are trying. It is like they don’t want to see you accomplish in life. That is the fight that I’m getting, but otherwise I stay to myself. I don’t really keep friends. I grew up in the garrison but I stay to myself. I don’t follow company,” the young man stated.

He has been traumatised by the death of friends who, he said, were innocents slain by gunmen.

“It makes me feel a way, like paranoid at times. Mi cyaan sleep most a di times because you don’t know when someone is going to take my life as well,” he said.

He is working hard so that he can leave Norwood and help his family.

One area in which his hard work with the USAID programme has already paid off is his success in quitting smoking.

“I used to smoke but I go to drugs counselling because of the FHI360 (Family Health International 360/USAID) initiative,” stated the young man.

A third participant, who said he did not have many issues growing up in the community, said the programme has also had a huge impact on him as he finally has a birth certificate and State-issued identification.

“It has helped me a lot. It has helped me with paper problems because I never had them. Mi go ah school without dem,” stated the 17-year-old.

In the past he did masonry work alongside his grandfather. Now he is being trained to become a banquet server.

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