To the Editor:
I am a resident of Marion residing at Little Neck Village, but now away from home serving as a Response Volunteer in the US Peace Corps. I wish I had a copy of the Wanderer in my hands, but my hands are quite full here with these adorable “Mustard Seed Kids” from a school & orphanage in Kingston, Jamaica. It was my pleasure to spend time with them a few weeks after arrival in Kingston for my Peace Corps assignment. As described in AARP’s article, I am at work helping to develop a pilot anti-bullying program in conjunction with a Steering Committee made up of two UN agencies, UNICEF & UNESCO, the Peace Corps, the MICO Youth Development & Counseling Agency, as well as other organizations dedicated to children in Jamaica. My first task is to complete an extensive cross-cultural analysis of the bullying problem worldwide, identifying common cultural contributors to bullying escalation, compiling and summarizing news stories from around the globe about this epidemic, and describing the best strategies and bullying prevention programs available. A key component of my work on this ever-growing document is an analysis and discussion of the pervasive homophobia in Caribbean countries contributing to the most serious and violent bullying perpetrated against children perceived to be gay, whether or not they are. It has led to suicides and other tragedies.
We have affiliated with Bridgewater State University, who has generously shared their Bullying Prevention Program materials with us to adapt for the Jamaican culture. I am indebted to Dr. Dana Faria, President of Bridgewater State University, and a personal friend from my own earlier days as a student at Cape Cod Community College, where my son, Michael Bejtlich of Rochester, is now a tenured professor, for sharing the program with our Steering Committee. This excellent program was developed and is administered by Dr. Elizabeth Englander and her staff and graduate students in school districts across the state and elsewhere.
I also want to thank Deb Martin from the Margaret Grassi Insurance Agency and the Wareham Lion’s Club for their recent, generous gift of sports equipment and playground playthings donated to a small, underfunded school I visited on the north shore of Jamaica, where another Response Volunteer runs a Literacy Program. She needs small items to reward her children for their progress as well as the student mentors she trains to help the younger children; pencils are a treasured commodity! The children are the real treasured commodity and the future assets for their country.
We hope to make progress in the next year (my term is in the process of being extended), working with the Ministry of Education to ameliorate the bullying problem in Jamaica’s schools and communities.
AARP and the Peace Corps now share a website dedicated to recruiting seniors for this special Response Volunteer Program, encouraging them to share their knowledge and skills throughout the world. I can say without reservation that I will never forget this incredible experience and especially the people of Jamaica, who have taken me in and opened their hearts to me, as well as helped to keep me safe and healthy. Think about joining!
Organizations or private citizens willing to help with children’s programs in Jamaica can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and may make tax-free donations using a Peace Corps protocol.
Dorothy Burrill, Marion