August 23, 2021 | Mandeville, Manchester, Jamaica | Jayda Lunan / NCU and IAD News Staff
Letesha Whyte, a student of Northern Caribbean University (NCU) and president of the National Police Youth Club Movement (NPYCM) in Jamaica, was chosen to represent her country at two United Nations Youth conferences. UN youth conferences assemble young leaders from around the world to discuss their opinions and solutions to global issues.
At 20 years old, Whyte is the first female from her parish to be elected president of the NPYCM, Jamaica’s oldest and largest youth organization. The NPYCM is made up of 154 active police youth clubs across the island and has over 1,000 members.
“It’s a dream come true representing Jamaica,” said Whyte. “You can actually learn from other countries and see how best you can use their strategies in changing the negative situation in your country.”Being selected under the category of “Security,” she wants to return from the conference with at least one crime mitigation strategy to propose to Jamaica’s Commissioner of Police and Prime Minister.
After conversations with experts from the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, the youth president realized that police stations were not equipped to handle the sensitive nature of the deaf community. She also found out that accurate, Caribbean-based information on the deaf is not readily available.
Whyte is committed to using her position to change lives. She was moved to help this vulnerable yet overlooked group, and the Police Youth Club was awarded a grant of $10,000 USD to execute the “Safe and Sound JA” initiative.
“Safe and Sound JA aims at reducing the communication barriers between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the deaf community in making a police report,” explained Whyte.
The three-part, micro-project started in July with a needs assessment to discover current statistics and issues affecting the deaf community in the country. The plan was launched for two police stations to receive tablets to access Zoom, so that on-call interpreters can communicate live with a deaf person making a report, said White. The system is needed, she said, “because a police report written on the account of a deaf person being interpreted by their relative is not valid in court, due to potential inaccuracy.”
Part of the project will also see the Jamaica Association for Deaf teach police officers the culture of the deaf and basic Jamaican Sign Language. The sensitization effort will extend to communities, she explained.
“We’re now organizing the workshop for the police officers, and are putting in place the content and the interpreters who will facilitate the JCF members, so we’re on our way with the implementation,” added Whyte. Safe and Sound JA will end in September with the monitor and review phase.
Whyte wants the Safe and Sound JA project to expand to police stations across the island, with the help of additional sponsors and stakeholders. The ultimate goal is that members of the deaf community will feel more comfortable visiting police stations, knowing that their reports will likely go to court and receive justice.
Although she is still a second-year communication studies major at NCU, she is passionate about youth development and ultimately wants to fulfill that drive by becoming a teacher.
Whyte had strong influences early in life that prepared her to make large-scale contributions while growing up as an active member of the Mount Prospect Seventh-day Adventist Church in Huntley, Manchester, Jamaica.
In her early teens, she spent Sundays with the small police youth club in her community. She enjoyed the debates, games and sporting activities hosted by the executive body. These activities created a desire in her to be a part of the movement.
Whyte is planning to attend the World Youth Model United Nations in Istanbul, Turkey, in November. She will miss the Arab Youth International Model United Nations in Dubai next month because she was unable to secure funding. However, other persons from her institutions – NCU’s Patrina Stewart and NPYCM General Secretary Sandra Whyte – were also accepted to speak for Jamaica at the event and will make the trip.
In the future, Whyte aspires to continue building on everything she is doing now. She believes that the work she does, and the life she lives, is not really for her, but is meant to inspire others.
“I want to become a full-time teacher… I want to be engaged in youth development. I want to actually have my own foundation giving back to the community, inclusive of the disability community,” Whyte shared. “I want to ensure that I am among the persons and institutions that contribute to vision 2030: ‘Making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.’”