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Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Dwight Sutherland.

Building Blocks Programme to be expanded

The Building Blocks Programme previously started by former Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment, Adrian Forde, to provide opportunities for guys on the block to become entrepreneurs, will be expanded.

The new Minister of Youth, Sports and Community Empowerment, Dwight Sutherland made the announcement, as he spoke during Parliamentary debate yesterday. Sutherland stressed the value of such a programme, noting that it could help keep youth on the right track and away from the country’s prison.

“I recently looked at some statistics that really puzzled me. There are some 862 young men in jail today and there are 650 of them under 35 years of age. Today, I am saying that years ago, if we had seen it fit to open our community centres or our Building Blocks Programme, that this number would be less. And as we seek to build out the 30 blocks or even more... the member says 30, but with a new minister comes a new mandate and while I will praise the member for Christ Church West Central, I want to let him know that I intend to broaden the base and increase the scale, because for me to really reduce this number of 862 young men in jail, for us to reduce the $29 million dollars spent on the prison, if we reduce this number, we can reduce the amount of money spent,” Minister Sutherland remarked.

Sutherland went on to state that the Youth Commissioners at present should be renamed Youth Development Officers and they should no longer go into communities with paper in hand, but the information gathered for the Building Blocks Programme should be digitised, so it can be pooled in one placed and analysed carefully by those at the Ministry of Youth.

He meanwhile noted that across Barbados, community centres should remain open, both day and night, to facilitate programmes and activities for youth, so that they can be empowered.

He declared, “We have over 100 community centres in this county. Mr. Speaker, I declare to this Lower Chamber and I declare to the public of Barbados, there should be no community centres kept closed in this country from today onward, without daily and nightly activity.”

“We have to engage our young people. We have to engage our senior citizens. If we are supposed to build out global citizens, if we are supposed to empower our people, just not the young people and we are doing it within communities, we have to ensure that we put the necessary infrastructure in place and I am on a mission to indeed review every single community centre, in terms of functionality and in terms of fitness for use, to ensure that we engage the minds of our young people and ensure that we engage the minds of those persons who have fallen through the cracks,” Sutherland asserted. (RSM)

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