More than 2,000 Seventh-day Adventist young people took to Jamaican streets last weekend to spruce up neighborhoods and encourage healthy lifestyles as part of a church initiative to keep youth away from crime.
Crime is a growing problem among young people in Jamaica, and local Adventist leaders are fighting back with Operation Save A Youth, or O-SAY, which mobilizes young people to volunteer and help others in their communities and inspire at-risk peers.
“We organize these projects in an effort to save our youth and inspire a sense of volunteerism in them,” said Greg Baldeo, youth director for the church in central Jamaica.
The Feb. 22 activities, the first major O-SAY initiative, involved 19 projects ranging from a health fair and repairs to potholes to construction and city beautification.
More than 30 units of blood were donated by young people at the Greenvale Community Center in the city of Manchester, which was the base for the projects. The center was also host to a medical team of doctors and nurses, who gave free checkups, pap smears, and vision tests to more than 130 people. The walls fencing in the center itself received a fresh coat of paint.
Young people also painted a local hospital and its bus stop; cleaned and painted a market; and painted a chapel and groomed the grounds of a cemetery.
Volunteer Ragel Barrett said he and other young people had a responsibility to help others.
“God has blessed us, and we need to bless others with the strength and energy that we have,” he said. “We need to do it when we are young and not wait until we are old.”
Baldeo, the youth director, said church leaders intended to continue working with young people, and not only Seventh-day Adventists, to address the country’s crime statistics.
“The hundreds of young people who are out today are on fire for God and they want to go out and help others,” he said on Feb. 22. “We have to keep that fire burning in them through the various projects we that have planned.”