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Operation Put Back seeks to put young black males in jobs

Operation Put Back is a grassroots community based programme designed to take young black males off the streets by placing them in productive jobs.

The joint employment initiative by Club 316, Anderson Water Services and charity Black Alliance is geared for young men who live in the back of town area.

The jobs include cleaning roofs and water tanks with six young men signed on to work since the beginning of June. Now they’re calling on potential employers who have odd jobs to offer to give them a call.

The programme is run by Bisengi Gatare, of Anderson Water Services, and Cleveland Simmons, of Club 316.

“While the jobs are not flowing at the pace we would like, it’s off to a good start,” said Mr Simmons.

“We’re providing them with training and lifeskill essentials to help them take on the responsibility of being a man. We’re giving them hands-on, on-the-job training to hold down a steady job.

“We’re instilling them with a good work ethic, how to be responsible and we talk to them about the importance of saving their money and how. A lot of these young men have no adult male figures in the home.

“We have a problem in our community and a lot of it stems from no male presence, leaving young men to find their own way on their own.”

He called for more men to “step up to the plate to meet the challenges by offering what they can to help with this programme”.

Without it Donal Johnson, 23, would have been unemployed this summer. The CedarBridge Academy graduate plans to take the culinary course at Bermuda College in September.

He has hopes of one day owning and operating his own restaurant. His love for cooking developed at a young age while preparing meals with his mother.

All that changed when his mother succumbed to breast cancer just over a year ago and his grandmother passed away just two weeks later.

“I got hooked on cooking mainly because of my mom, we used to cook together a lot and I just picked it up. I know she would be pleased that and I plan to finish the course and get qualified no matter what.

“Prior to this programme I wasn’t doing anything besides trying to find a job. I’ve been learning how to clean rooves properly and then I will be learning how to clean tanks.

“We’re looking for hands on experience and we’re looking for people to give us a chance, we need people to sponsor us by giving us work,” he added.

Mr Johnson now lives with his father and stepmother and has two god parents who are both pastors. “I’ve had a lot of positive influences in my life, but I need work to survive,” he said.

“I get irritated when I hear people generalising about young black males by putting us all in the same group. It makes it harder to get ahead, even getting a job is harder because of all the negative things people attach to young black men. Not all of us are bad.”

Aarondae Thomas, 17, was one of the first to sign up. As the oldest of three children in a single-parent home he said his main goal is to help his mother. He said he knows first hand what it’s like not to have a father in his life.

“My father is locked up in jail in the US for attempting to import drugs but before that I hardly ever saw him,” he said. “He hasn’t really been present in my life. But it’s been hard for my mom and that’s why I’m trying to help out so she doesn’t have to do it all by herself.

“I live on Fenton’s Drive just off Parson’s Road which has a reputation for being a pretty rough area but it’s not as bad as people think. I’ve been there for the about six years.

“It feels good to be working; it makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’ve had my first pay cheque, I gave half to my mother and kept half for myself; I even put some away in my savings account.

“Seeing the decisions my father has made in his life has made me even more determined not to go down that road. If I ever have a child of my own, I know I will be a father who will always be there and one who takes care of his child.”

He sat the GED exam in May and is currently waiting for his results and he plans to attend Bermuda College in September if all goes well.

“I plan to take up accounting, I’m really good with numbers and I think I want to become a qualified accountant,” he said.

“If there’s someone out there with work we’re hard working young black males who need to work to live,” he said.

“We need programmes like this to help us become independent young men; it’s important.”

For more information call 518-8061.

Giving back: Pictured are Operation Put Back participants Donal Johnson (left) and Aarondae Thomas, with one of the project's organisers, Cleveland Simmons (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 10, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 10, 2013 at 11:39 pm)

Operation Put Back seeks to put young black males in jobs

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