Phoenix assists youth to rise again

With the problem of escalating crime levels in mind lately, local firm Phoenix Construction has chosen to become part of the solution by putting its weight behind Eagle House Youth Rehabilitation Centre’s Pre Release Programme.

A joint venture between Eagle House and the Department of Employment Relations, the programme schools young detainees in work and life ethics with the goal of integrating them back into society through meaningful employment, explains a release from Government Information Services.

Calling the programme a win-win venture, Phoenix President Steve Hawley said that not only does it address troubled youth’s lack of direction and the need for positive role models, it also gives local businesses the chance to access the young Caymanian labour pool.

‘What is more, businesses can try out their new recruits at reduced wages and this is a huge incentive to join the programme,’ he said. The programme allows employers to pay participants lower than market price pay, but all wages earned are kept in a trust fund for the worker, which he or she can access on release.

Mr. Hawley emphasized that recruits are thoroughly screened, prepared and groomed for the working world, and that participating businesses receive extensive support from Employment Relations and Eagle House staff.

‘I understand businesses’ reluctance to take part in a programme involving rehabilitated detainees, but we must at least give it try – if not, our societal problems will keep on getting bigger,’ he said.

Chance at future

By offering work to young Caymanians on early release, Phoenix Construction gives them a chance of a future as productive members of society, reducing the likelihood of returning to lives of crime, explained the department’s Employment Programme Development Coordinator, Jean Solomon.

And a chance is all most of the young people at Eagle House need, Eagle House Teacher/Programme Manager Marvin Simpson said. ‘Society must be willing to accept and integrate these young people. We need to offer them a future – with promise. The main problem they face is not a lack of willingness to be better, but a lack of opportunities. If they find themselves out on the streets with no jobs and no prospects, it doesn’t matter how much time we spent in rehabilitation, chances are that the cycle of crime will never stop for them.’

Leo Bush is the first Eagle House resident chosen for the project. He has been working at Phoenix for the last couple of months. His progress at work earned him a full-time position at the construction company following his recent release.

‘Working has made me feel like a better man and has turned my life around. I will keep on doing the best I can,’ he said. Vowing not to fail, he added that he wants to be a role model for those still living in Eagle House.

Businesses interested in participating in Eagle House’s Pre Release Programme or those who would like more information on the programme should call Jean Solomon at 926-9306.