Project for the Deaf Will Take Adventist Student to UN Youth Conferences

Jamaica’s Letesha Whyte has been actively working to support her community.

Jayda Lunan, North Caribbean University, Inter-American Division, and Adventist Review
Project for the Deaf Will Take Adventist Student to UN Youth Conferences
Letesha Whyte has been chosen to represent Jamaica at a United Nations youth conference in Istanbul, Turkey. She recently launched a project for the deaf community through police stations in her hometown. [Photo: Northern Caribbean University]

Letesha Whyte, a student at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) and president of the National Police Youth Club Council of Jamaica (NPYCCJ), was chosen to represent her country at two United Nations youth conferences. United Nations youth conferences assemble young leaders from around the world to discuss their opinions and solutions to global issues.

At 20 years old, Whyte is the first woman from her parish to be elected president of the NPYCCJ, Jamaica’s oldest and largest youth organization. The NPYCCJ comprises 154 active police youth clubs across the island and has more than 1,000 members.

“It’s a dream come true representing Jamaica,” Whyte said. “You can actually learn from other countries and see how best you can use their strategies in changing the negative situation in your country.”

Being selected under the category of “Security,” she wants to return from the conference with at least one crime mitigation strategy to propose to Jamaica’s Commissioner of Police and Prime Minister.

After conversations with experts from the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, the youth president realized that police stations were not equipped to handle the sensitive nature of the deaf community. She also found out that accurate, Caribbean-based information on the deaf is not readily available.

Whyte said she is committed to using her position to change lives. She was moved to help this vulnerable yet overlooked group, and the Police Youth Club was awarded a grant of US$10,000 to implement the “Safe and Sound JA” initiative.

“Safe and Sound JA aims at reducing the communication barriers between the Jamaica Constabulary Force [JCF] and the deaf community in making a police report,” Whyte explained.

The three-part micro-project started in July 2021 with a needs assessment to discover current statistics and issues affecting the deaf community in the country. The plan was launched for two police stations to receive tablets to access Zoom video-conferencing so that on-call interpreters can communicate live with a deaf person making a report, Whyte said. The system is needed, she added, “because a police report written on account of a deaf person being interpreted by their relative is not valid in court, due to potential inaccuracy.”

Part of the project will also see the Jamaica Association for the Deaf teach police officers the culture of the deaf and basic Jamaican Sign Language. The sensitization effort will extend to communities, she explained.

“We’re now organizing the workshop for the police officers and are putting in place the content and the interpreters who will facilitate the JCF members, so we’re on our way with the implementation,” Whyte added. Safe and Sound JA will end in September with the monitor and review phase.

Whyte wants the Safe and Sound JA project to expand to police stations across the island with the help of additional sponsors and stakeholders. The ultimate goal is that members of the deaf community will feel more comfortable visiting police stations, knowing that their reports will likely go to court and receive justice.

Although she is still a second-year communication studies major at NCU, Whyte is passionate about youth development and ultimately wants to fulfill that drive by becoming a teacher.

Whyte said she had strong influences early in life that prepared her to make large-scale contributions while growing up as an active member of the Mount Prospect Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntley, Manchester, Jamaica.

In her early teens, she spent Sundays with the small police youth club in her community. She enjoyed the debates, games, and sporting activities hosted by the executive body. These activities created a desire in her to be a part of the movement.

Whyte is planning to attend the World Youth Model United Nations in Istanbul, Turkey, in November. She will miss the Arab Youth International Model United Nations in Dubai next month because she was unable to secure funding. However, other persons from her institutions — NCU’s Patrina Stewart and NPYCCJ general secretary Sandra Whyte — were also accepted to speak for Jamaica and make the trip.

In the future, Letesha Whyte aspires to continue building on everything she is doing now. She believes that the work she does and the life she lives are not for her but are meant to inspire others.

“I want to become a full-time teacher. I want to be engaged in youth development. I want to have my own foundation giving back to the community, inclusive of the disability community,” Whyte shared. “I want to ensure that I am among the persons and institutions that contribute to vision 2030: ‘Making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families, and do business.’ ”

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.

Jayda Lunan, North Caribbean University, Inter-American Division, and Adventist Review