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Wednesday, October 5, 2022


Every time I hear that an Economic Recovery Plan, a Land Use Plan, etc. is essential to the well-being and future of our community, I cringe. While I do not negate the need for these plans, I wonder why there is no Childrens' Plan or Quality of Life Plan being given equal importance.
If we do not give equal significance to our children's future, no amount of economic vitality or good use of our resources will be important. In fact, many of those plans will just result in increased revenues to support the many social programs or jails needed to address those who are not part of the rather small, and rapidly diminishing, groups of people who are in the "haves."
The "have nots" require the greatest share of our tax dollars, but the need for plans that are inclusively addressing their issues and them are sadly lacking.
There is good news on this front however, but we must not forget that there are no current government and economic leaders evidencing commitment to the need for a Children's Plan or Quality of Life Plan that I am aware of (commitment, I might insert, to developing programs does not replace the need for a plan that determines which programs are actually needed). Let me proceed with the good news.
There are at least four significant activities occurring that lead me to believe that we are starting to get serious about the lives of our children.
First, we have Beacon schools that provide after-school and community-based parental activities/instruction. They have just received a JUMP grant from the federal government, a highly competitive grant, I might add, to expand to two other schools. We need to find ways to have Beacons at every school. Our children and their families need these safe havens.
Second, the U.S. Attorney's Office is spearheading a large community effort to develop a planned approach to addressing youth violence. U.S. Attorney James Hurd has said he is doing this because he is tired of seeing so many of our young being murdered or victims of violence. We hope that eventually this group will move to concrete action to make a difference. The U.S. attorney and his staff for years have spearheaded Weed and Seed efforts in high crime neighborhoods and seem to have a commitment to better our islands.
Third, the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands has continued its planning effort to provide technical assistance and leadership in the Our Children Now, If Not Now When? initiative. This initiative has as its goal spearheading a planned approach to placing our children first using a collaborative method.
Fourth, attorney Tom Bolt is serving as the motivator and organizer of our St. Thomas community to establish our first YMCA. YMCA has made a commitment to establish their multi-faceted approach to addressing youth issues. All it will take is raising the seed money.
Funding is a barrier to overcome for all of these well-intentioned efforts to succeed. True, if the Virgin Islands has a successful economic recovery, it can eventually generate enough revenues to make many or all of these efforts solvent. Can this occur in our present social climate?
We need to look at whether economic recovery can be possible without first ensuring that our quality of life is one that is attractive to potential investors. After all, many of these investors will have to ether live here or have some of their top managers move here to establish their companies.
If you agree with this idea, you will also need to agree that social planning is needed either first or as a significant part of any viable economic recovery plan. That is, of course, if we want our economic recovery plan to be a successful one.
We need to ask ourselves concerning the many good youth-centered initiatives that are currently either occurring or being planned: are there enough concerned residents to support these efforts? Are there enough people out there willing to contribute their expertise, free time, money, contacts with foundations, etc. to really make a difference in the lives of our children and their families? (I also wish to make it known that I am a board member or committee member of all of the efforts that I have mentioned except the YMCA initiative.)
I believe there are. I believe that many people want to invest in our youth, but many just don't know how or where to place their dollars to make a really good impact. Well, as far as I am concerned, I have just given you at least four efforts that need you and/or your money. Call them before it is too late. Offer yourselves and make our future secure.
Editor's note: Catherine L. Mills of St. Thomas, a former Human Services commissioner, holds a master's degree in social work. You can send comments to her on the articles she writes or topics you would like to see addressed at source@viaccess.net.

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