JENSEN LA VENDE
ONE week after Sports Minister Shamfa Cudjoe criticised the closing of the Persto Praesto Youth Camp, the camp was re-opened and three programmes were re-introduced to better aid 26 registered boys.
Cudjoe is also helping a 19-year-old at the camp by providing a transition home for him after graduation.
On Friday, Cudjoe said 24 of the 26 who were told not to return to the Freeport camp after the Easter vacation, resumed classes last Monday. After her intervention the management was ordered to re-open the camp and all issues that contributed to its closure had to be rectified. Persto Praesto is a live-in camp targeting youths who are taught life skills, remedial subjects and a trade over a two-year period. Each student is given an $800 monthly stipend. The camp also housed teens from Chatham Youth Camp which is being refurbished. The camp operates during the normal school year with the students going home every second and last weekend of the month and during the three yearly vacations.
They were not allowed to return to the camp after Easter as the walk-in chiller and freezer were in need of repair. The Ministry of Health ordered that repairs be done following a visit on March 25. The camp was given 21 days to do so, as well as other maintenance for the camp to be registered, otherwise it would not have been permitted under the Public Health Ordinance to handle food. Another problem management faced was a lack of extra-curricular activities for the students.
The refrigeration problem has since been rectified and Cudjoe said football, the arts and agriculture training have been added to the curriculum. Agriculture, she said, was once a major part of the programme but was stopped some years ago after the director retired and there was no replacement. Staff continued to be paid but without the director, no training was done.
Cudjoe also addressed the case of Jeewan Sajuwan, 19, who was living at the camp while other students were at home. Sajuwan’s case needed special intervention as he lived at a children’s home but due to uncontrollable behaviour could not return to the home. Sajuwan lived at the children’s home from age four when he and an older sister were removed from their family by the State.
Officials said they did all they could to assist Sajuwan, who moved out of the home and into the residence of one of the caretakers on the same compound. He was then placed at Persto Praesto as officials said they could not “put him out on the streets”.
Cudjoe told Sunday Newsday she has secured a transition house for Sajuwan to stay in after he graduates from Persto Praesto later this year, or early next year, once he completed the curriculum.
The transition house, which also doubles as a safe house for abused teens, will facilitate Sajuwan learning money management, interview skills training, re-integration with families and communities as well as life skills.
Sajuwan, despite mental challenges, loves to draw and hopes to be a welder at Atlantic LNG, a contractor and a cricketer. He is a self taught pace bowler and said he enjoys his time at Persto Praesto as it one of the few places in his life that he ever felt genuine love. Sajuwan told Sunday Newsday all he wanted after graduation was a place to call home.