“I felt so welcome in this beautiful country, but the level of violence children are exposed to here is shocking.”
Gemma Chan made a recent visit to Jamaica with Unicef to make an appeal film for Soccer Aid for Unicef.
“I learned that almost 80% of children witness or experience violence in their homes or communities and many are traumatised as a result,” says Gemma.
Among the children Gemma met on her visit was Sabrina, age 13.
Sabrina learnt Taekwondo at a Unicef-funded after-school club in Jamaica run by Fight For Peace. She described her experience growing up to Gemma — how she had “ heard gun shots all my life” and how Fight for Peace was a refuge for her.
“I’ve been coming here for three years now. I like the skill and technique I have learnt. I feel like I have more strength and more knowledge, and more fitness. I’d like to be a Taekwondo teacher, like my master,” says Sabrina.
In some of Jamaica’s inner city communities, children are exposed to alarming levels of violence on the streets, and some are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gemma sees how Unicef is keeping Sabrina safe
Unicef is proud to support these essential after-school clubs, which provide a lifeline for children whose lives are being torn apart by gun violence. They keep kids – like Sabrina – safe and away from gangs, provide a safe space to play, learn sports and talk about their experiences with counsellors who can help them heal.
Gemma also met up with members of Violence Interrupters, a group of trained and trusted community residents who identify early warning signs and intervene before violence occurs or escalates. The violence interruption programme targets at-risk youth, directing them away from gangs and providing counselling, career and life-skills training and employment opportunities.
During Gemma’s visit in Jamaica, her eyes were opened to the reality of children’s lives, especially their exposure to violence, and the crucial steps Unicef is taking to protect every child.