Jamaica Gleaner / The joy of triumphing through pain was palpable on the face of 10-year-old Salt Spring Primary student Gwameki Barnes as he collected his award for his winning entry in the Jamaica Red Cross Violence Prevention Essay Competition at the school recently.

The essay, which ran alongside a poster competition, was staged by the Red Cross’ Resilience in the Americas (RITA) Project. The project is part of efforts by the humanitarian organisation to provide students with an avenue to speak out against violence around them as well as teach them violence-prevention skills they can practise within their communities.

Writing on the topic, ‘How does violence affect me, my school, and my family?’ Gwameki related the murder of his stepfather in the community and the fear the flare-ups in violence had brought to his school.

“Violence affects my school a lot. When there is a shooting in the community, children become afraid. Some will cry, and teachers have to stop the teaching and comfort them. Occasionally, school has to be dismissed early, and sometimes the police come to the school and make us feel better.”

Salt Spring is bordered by Albion and several other communities in St James that have been rocked by violent crimes recently.

“I can tell how you feel when you experience a violent act; when you lose someone you love,” Gwameki wrote.

“I lost my stepfather. Although he was my stepfather, he took good care of me. I really love him, and I miss him a lot.”

The grade five student explained the effects that the violence has had on him.



“I am left in pain and sorrow, but I don’t feel like killing anyone. I just pray and believe in Jesus. I believe that God will change the hearts of those killers who have shattered my life,” he ended.

Gwameki’s entry got high marks, scoring 95 overall to win the competition. He walked away with a Learnit seven-inch tablet and the Red Cross trophy.

Second- and third-place winners Temani Lyons and Nathan Fraser won book certificates valued at $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.

Kayla Hyman, who topped the poster competition, won a Learnit Tablet. Her winning piece showed a community at war, with a message that simply read: “All Violence Must Stop”.

Second and third place went to fellow grade four students Jordan Box and Fredricka Finnikin, who also won book certificates.

All the finalists won Red Cross trophies and benefited from violence-prevention sessions conducted by the Jamaica Red Cross.


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