Today I had a very busy day. I spent the morning at FAU, and conducted a FaceTime interview with an ex-gang member who I had managed to access through the social worker who works with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office. It was very interesting to hear all about his life story, what got him into the gangs and what led him back out of the lifestyle. I also worked on various other things and then left the office just after 12 to drive to West Palm Beach.
This afternoon I visited the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Beach County to see the work they are doing with children and young people. I arrived there just after 1pm and did not leave until 8.15pm this evening! The whole afternoon and evening was hectic with so many kids around doing different things (around 300 kids are enrolled in the club) – there was so much to see and hear about. I observed some of the work going on with juniors (aged 9-12) and it was great fun being in among these kids – they asked me loads of questions about who I was and why I was there and where I was from. It took me back to my days in the classroom. I then observed some of the wider work going on with older kids, which included a large scale basketball game today, kids out trimming trees in the gardens, kids working on their homework and of other playing computer games etc. The club is basically an after-school club but some of the kids – after having had a full day at school be inning at 8am – are bussed to the club at 2pm and do not get picked up by their parents until 8pm, every day. Lots of them are disadvantaged and the really important work going on there is the relationship-building and counselling work by the young team of staff. The staff were absolutely fabulous and gave me lots of insights into the challenges the young people face and the work they do to try and support them. Basically the club acts as a prevention initiative – preventing some of these young people from going down the pathways into crime. I conducted interviews with the head of the club, Shamus Gordon (who was born in London and lived in Jamaica for many years before coming to Florida), and four of the staff. I have also arranged to come back and conduct some focus groups with young people once I have parental consent (most of them here are under 18).
I drove back down the i-95 at 8.30 and finally managed to get something to eat at 9pm. It was a really busy day but a very interesting one where I got lots of insights.