We all know that young people are hooked on technology. And young Jamaicans are no exception. I fully understand this – I am fascinated by it myself, and as a much older person, I dabble in it quite a bit. As my friends know, I love the complexities (and the simplicity) of social media and of course, this blog is a part of it. But there is one device that is particularly dear to the hearts of Jamaican middle-class youth (and in fact any young person who can afford it) and that is the BlackBerry. Now, I had one until I retired, purely as a business tool. Since then, I have moved on to my beloved android phone, which can do everything (except make me a nice cafe latte). But there is also BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) which is enormously popular in Jamaica.
What do BlackBerries have to do with child abuse, you may ask? Well, the youth-led children’s rights advocacy group, Help JA Children, recently launched a ground-breaking BB application that is cleverly designed to allow the user to report incidents of possible child abuse on the spot, if and when they occur. The app is free, and it is called the Child Abuse Reporting System (CARS). At 11:16 a.m. Jamaican time on July 25, 2012, with one click of the mouse, CARS was launched and uploaded to the BlackBerry App World. Apps for iPhones and androids will be available soon.
Now, I like to think of Help JA Children and similar groups as an example of what I learned recently is called the “clan culture.” This culture is one of adaptability, creativity, experimentation, risk-taking, autonomy, responsiveness. Now, mix that with a dash of competitiveness, a yearning for perfection, diligence and personal initiative – and you have the perfect combination to really make things happen. And one thing is for sure, Help JA Children has no intention of becoming a “talk shop” or an arm of the public relations machine. It is seeking practical solutions, and the recently-formed group (I mean, very recently) has come up with something that is youth-oriented, simple, effective.
There are various ways of reporting child abuse to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) in Jamaica – by fax, email or mail; via a confidential toll-free number (1-800-PROTECT); or now, through CARS. The CARS app can be downloaded from the OCR website too – the link is below and it is excellent and informative. We should also seek to encourage children to report abuse themselves.
Here is the Help JA Children press release:
Newly-formed advocacy group Help JA Children recently launched a free smartphone application to facilitate the reporting of child abuse to the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR). This application, named the Child Abuse Reporting System (CARS), aims to increase the number of reports into the OCR and brings to eight the number of different ways to report abuse to the OCR.
CARS was developed by Aranis Technologies. Currently, CARS is only available for BlackBerry smartphones, with versions for iOS and android-based devices to be completed soon. CARS can be downloaded from the BlackBerry App World and from the OCR website and is free.
Speaking at the launch, Help JA Children’s chief advocate Brandon Allwood said that according to the group’s own research CARS is the second application of its kind in the world; the first in the Caribbean region; and the first in the world to be approved by Research In Motion for listing in its BlackBerry App World.
Aranis Technologies CEO Samuel Folkes has committed to providing maintenance for the application for life.
”We saw where this was not just something worthy of participating in, but something that we felt was a good way to contribute to the nation,” Folkes said.
Casetta Green, senior registration officer at the OCR, thanked Help JA Children for having the application developed and increasing the ways in which people can fulfill their mandatory duty to report child abuse. The other methods of filing reports are via phone, email, face-to-face interview, filling out a form, snail mail and fax.
Green was alluding to Section 5 of the Child Care & Protection Act (2004) which states that it is the citizen’s responsibility to report cases of suspected and actual abuse to the OCR. If persons fail to report abuse, they may be fined up to $500,000 and face up to 6 months in prison.
CARS allows users to submit report anonymously, and the information entered is not cached or stored anywhere on the phone.
”The information goes directly to the Registry, where they and they alone will be able to see the information you have entered,” said Allwood.
For his part, Allwood also encouraged Jamaicans to download the application and be prepared to report abuse as well as opt to leave their information so they can follow up with the OCR about the report they made.
”People who leave their information, and be reminded that this is completely optional, will be assigned a case number by the OCR and with that number they can call the OCR and get updates as to where the office is in the investigation of that report,” he said.
Green also reminded the public that the information sent to the OCR is kept extremely confidential.
”There are charges that can be levied against the Registry for breaching confidentiality of information submitted to us, so we are particularly careful to keep all information confidential,” she said.
Important note: Founder/leader of Help JA Children, 22-year-old Brandon Allwood (yes, he’s only 22!) commented at the launch of CARS recently that the organization’s work is not going to be a “one-off partying session,” as detractors have suggested. Some older Jamaicans appear to believe that this is all that young Jamaicans do. Any excuse for fun and partying. They don’t have the brainpower or determination to deal with serious, weighty matters like us, say the older generation – unless, of course, they are academic “nerds,” or political clones created in the image of their predecessors. There is a lack of confidence in our youth, which I find very disconcerting. Older Jamaicans often do not look at Jamaican youth as inclusive, diverse, co-operative, innovative – harnessing technology for a serious purpose like this, for example, not just using it for chat. Partnering with others to grow stronger – who is better at social networking? Well, as I have said in previous blog posts – give the young people credit! Support them when they do something new and different! Stop talking and take action! Listen and consider their ideas!
As Mr. Allwood said: Collaboration is so important. We can “build a bigger pyramid, rather than lots of small pyramids.” No more silos!
Can anyone tell me, by the way, what has happened to plans to introduce a Sexual Offenders Registry? Perhaps it’s one of those “controversial” issues that the powers-that-be would rather avoid making a decision on? It is the next step we need to take.
(Jamaican child abuse reporting app being featured by BlackBerry)
(Office of the Children’s Registry website)
(Listen to the Youth! petchary.wordpress.com)
(Multi-faceted Brandon Allwood: November 2010 article)
(African Postman: Youth, Technology and Literacy – petchary.wordpress.com)
(I know you may be skeptical but just listen – reblogged from mooretalkja.com)
…and you can find Help JA Children on Facebook and on Twitter @HelpJAChildren.