I recently attended the Bikes Up Guns Down event at Southampton Rangers. It was organised by a community group that is committed to create safe and fun spaces for the youth in the area. As a father, I especially loved seeing the number of men in attendance with their children. The event was well received and brought so many people together.
I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if events like these happened more frequently across the island without organisers having to always fund them via their personal purse strings.
I know many of the organisers hold them without hesitation because of the value and unity they bring into their community. But many of these people are struggling to keep their heads above water like a number of Bermudians.
As a country, we are fighting the skyrocketing cost of living; many residents are working two and three jobs just to survive on a basic level. How often can they fund these positive activities? This is one of the things our tax dollars should be going towards. The cycle of gang violence will not be broken overnight and will require years of concentrated effort across the island for us to see a change. These community events target our real issue—showing the youth positive alternatives from young, instead of trying to divert them after they’ve been exposed to anti-social behaviours.
Many voices have weighed in on the topic of gun violence, but has much changed? The subject deserves national attention because it affects all of us. Bermuda is in dire need of an action plan for tackling the ongoing violence in our community. This should be a national priority.
The PLP Government made an election platform pledge in 2017: “Through collaboration, develop a National Crime Prevention Plan specifically focused on prevention, rehabilitation, and reintegration. It will forge key partnerships with stakeholders to identify policies and programmes to reduce crime and ensure that the public is safe on land and in our territorial waters.”
I call on the Government to fulfill this pledge.
The Government is utilising its measures, the police are doing the best they can and a number of concerned Bermudians are employing grassroot measures.
In order to break systemic cycle of violence, these efforts must be united and coordinated. The burden to fix this social problem does not fall on Government alone, but the leadership to bring all these moving pieces together does.
Despite what the Government is doing, the time has come to change tactics and expand its efforts. There are grassroots activists and organisations taking it upon themselves to combat gang violence within their communities, fighting in the trenches in their individual silos to try and save our young people. These people have already built-up trust with our young Bermudians. Let’s find a way to allow them to build on their efforts without causing them financial strain.
The PLP has recently celebrated its financial prudence; I call upon them to put our money where their mouth is. Peel away some funds from the National Security, and Youth/Sport ministries and allocate it to these community groups/organisations.
I am certain there is a feasible way to allocate funds. It can be strictly budgeted, and every little bit helps as members of the community have been used to working with less.
The short-term plan should be to have one community event bi-weekly or monthly per parish to bring our island together.
The long-term plan considering the Government’s current fiscal situation, should be to establish or revitalise community centres which have been closed or establishing new ones in strategic areas across the island.
Give the community organisers some support, a base to work from, which in turn will allow them to work with Government, not around it. Provide a centre point for Bermudians to provide their support and skills to impact our young people in their area which will expand grassroot efforts.
Create a joint committee or board of community center leaders to work collaboratively with each other and Government.
We have become an island full of overworked people who go from work to home. Exhausted parents have fostered a “not my child, not my responsibility” outlook because they are barely sustaining their own households with the cost of living in Bermuda.
The subsidised community events can become the tie that brings us back together with no cost to the parents. Getting our children to interact outside of their school or peer group, through collaboration with other community groups, and provide cross parish anti-crime activities.
Children who grow up interacting with children across the island at a young age, with multiple mentors investing in their lives, have a much better chance of choosing a more positive path for themselves. Especially with an outlet, that they may not get at home, for no charge to them.
It will also have a plausible chance of helping them see more value in each other’s lives, which hopefully makes it less likely they will take a life. It takes a village, and we need to rebuild that village. Bringing down the cost of living will also help tremendously but that is a whole other story.
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