Like children everywhere, young people in Denham Town, Kingston need spaces to play and have fun. That need is even greater in a community declared a Zone of Special Operations (ZOSO) – a joint initiative between the police and the military in Jamaica aimed at reducing violence in communities where rates are high.

In Jamaica, Fight for Peace coordinates the UP Unity & Peace programme, which uses a collective impact approach and brings together 40 organisations to deliver programmes and support to young people across six communities in Kingston.

Last week, the young people of one of these communities – Denham Town, got four new safe spaces in the form of P.E.A.C.E gardens. These were created by community members and security forces, supported by the local Fight for Peace team in partnership with RISE Life Management as part of the wider Link UP project, funded by the European Union. P.E.A.C.E focuses on Public, Education, Awareness, Culture, and Environment by creating open spaces, aimed at young people finding a sense of peace within nature.

The objective in building these spaces is to create a long-term positive impact, working with security forces to improve and strengthen relationships between them, and young people.

Conceptualized by Detective Inspector Pilmar Powell of the Joint Military Operations, the gardens are intended to create safe spaces to encourage a sense of love, unity, and assurance to the community. 

“In 2018…I would sit and speak with [young people], and soon realised that there were several gaps in their socialisation,” Powell explained. 

“…I noticed that there was no symbolic gesture within the ZOSO space. So, I reached out to Fight for Peace and RISE, and suggested…creating some P.E.A.C.E gardens within several spaces in Denham Town.” 

“I envision that when people look at these gardens, they may find reassurance and peace of mind,” Powell added.

Residents have expressed that the P.E.A.C.E gardens have been a long-awaited safe space due to the many challenges that young people in Denham Town face, as a result of high levels of violence in the area. 

Previously, children had nowhere to play due to the lack of safety, and it is believed that these gardens will provide that space. As well as creating a safe environment, the gardens will also have community notice boards where information and opportunities will be circulated for visitors. 

The construction of the P.E.A.C.E gardens is part of the wider Link UP project, funded by the European Union (EU) and coordinated by Fight for Peace in partnership with RISE Life Management and the Peace Management Initiative. Link UP aims to raise awareness of human rights and to strengthen the relationship between the community and the security forces. The project includes joint activities between the community and the security forces; training for community-based organisations (CBOs) and security forces; as well as response services for young people and their families.

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