Community Prevention - Let's do it together!
10 April 2014
There was a new shopping area built to a small town. Until then, all shops in town closed at 6pm, but within this bigger shopping area shops were open later and the coffee shops even till 11pm. All of a sudden, teachers noticed that children between the ages of 12-16 seemed to be more tired at school than normally. At that moment, there were no special events in town that would have led young people to stay up very late – so, what was the cause of this sudden tiredness? It went on for a while and then the local shop keepers approached the school. They asked the headmaster to request the pupils not to crowd the foyer of the shopping centre on a daily basis. Shop keepers were concerned that, by ganging up together, youngsters might start stealing or showing other kinds of disruptive behaviour. They said that children would go there after school and some of them would stay until very late. They even talked about concerns around substance abuse.
Now, the headmaster knew why the pupils were so tired. They were hanging out at the shopping centre far too late at night. It was decided to organise a parents evening so they could discuss the issues amongst each other. During the meeting, parents said that, since the shopping centre was open, it had been impossible to get their children back home and in bed in time. They said that the peer pressure of being out there was so strong that it was difficult for parents to make restrictions. All parents shared their concerns around this issue that also included concerns around young people’s use of money, the kind of relationships they were in, the substances they used, and it was decided that action was needed. All parents decided to agree on a time after which children should not hang out in town without adults. The local police and youth leaders were included in these discussions and it was also decided that if any children would hang out after 8pm shopkeepers, youth leaders and police could send the child home. Intensive campaigns were launched – and it worked! Youth leaders also encouraged their peers to attend youth centres and engage in different hobbies so that hanging out would be less interesting.
First, the children were shocked because of these restrictions, but many found it a relief that the boundaries were finally set. Families returned to a good day rhythm and at school pupils had a fresh mind and much energy for their studies. You can easily imagine what kind of problems would have developed if no action was taken ...
This is an excellent example of community action at many levels. It is an example of true prevention when we care and ensure that safe boundaries are in place to protect vulnerable people. It is the role of all people to highlight difficulties and seek solutions together.
This Saturday, 12 April, we are holding an event where we share stories from Blue Cross work around the world, and where we will have some prominent guests from the sport and music scenes. Come and join us, it is very important that we prevent our youth from from falling into all kinds of addiction and abuse. We can work on this together!