Former juvenile offender wants to join the army
Former juvenile remandee Dale Dawkins’ ultimate dream is to join the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), which he believes is currently one of the few options in Jamaica for at-risk youths like himself to get out of poverty and make a positive impact on society.
“As far as how mi see it now, as a juvenile and as a youngster growing up, JDF is the easiest way out now,” said the 20-year-old Clarendon resident who recently applied to join the army and who is hoping to make the cut.
The JDF officially launched the Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC) in May 2017 following the amendment of the Defence Act of Jamaica. The aim is to train approximately 1,000 youths between the ages of 18 and 23 years, over a one-year period in military, vocational, and life skills.
Dawkins spent time at the Metcalfe Street Juvenile Remand Centre at 16 years old and is still in the process of getting his life back on track. Through the Organization of America States-sponsored programme, ‘A New Path’, he was able to receive psychosocial counselling and was given a grant to start a poultry business.
“It was rough being there because you don’t have your freedom. You are in a little room with maybe 10 of you at times, sometimes more or less. Sometimes you have to fight, like, every day because you are not going to let anybody lick you and you take their lick,” said Dawkins, who spent six weeks at Metcalfe Street, admitting that he was a delinquent child during school.
But he said that that life is behind him, and he is now focused on making his family proud. Now back home in Smithville, the young man is enjoying the support of the community for his chicken business. He currently supplies chicken to a wholesale and a school in his district, and he wants to go into pig farming eventually.
“At first, the market was kind of hard to find, so I had to push to find one, but it is going on all right,” Dawkins told The Sunday Gleaner.
With the guidance of his case manager, he went back to complete a course to become a certified document-imaging technician at the HEART Trust/NTA, and he is currently employed to the Rural Agricultural Development Authority under the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) Programme.
“It is fun. I go out in the field and I meet new people every day. Sometimes you learn a lot. You know, you don’t really study agriculture that in-depth, so more time when I go out in the field, they would show me one and two things,” he said.
Dawkins’ father is a farmer and his mother is a domestic helper.
“I mostly grew with my dad because my mother had to be out working,” he shared.
“Everybody happy for me to see where I am coming from to where I am now.”
Dawkins sees so many youths going down the road he had taken, and he is worried about their future even while trying to secure one for himself.
“When I really look into life, I don’t want anybody to go through what I go through because trust me, the situation is not easy. To know that your parents don’t really have it that much and you get yourself in some trouble where they are going to have to think about paying lawyer and the cost for visits. It cost a whole lot, so you have to think,” he said.