By:Curtis Morton

Charlestown-Nevis: The Department of Youth and Sports hosted a Youth Forum at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Tuesday 26th April. The forum featured a presentation by former prison inmate, Chris E. Charles, who is originally of Dominica.

Primary and Secondary school students were in attendance, along with a representative from the police force and other individuals.

The session commenced with prayer by Pastor Edmund Belle out of St Kitts, and was followed by the singing of the national anthem.

Miss Zahnela Claxton, Youth Coordinator in the Department of Youth and Sports, then gave opening remarks. In her opening remarks, Miss Claxton indicated that as part of the youth month of activities, her Department decided to partner with Pastor Belle to get the Dominican former prison inmate to come and share a bit of his experiences with the youths, in an attempt to dissuade them from the life of crime and violence.

The Youth Coordinator then showed some video clips of inmates at Her Majesty’s Prison speaking out and discouraging the youths from making the same mistakes they did.

Pastor Belle was then recalled to the podium to introduce the guest speaker but before doing so, he read a profile of Mr Charles.

Mr. Chris E Charles then gave his life’s testimony. Although he was born in Dominica, he indicated that he spent the vast majority of his life in United States of America since he migrated there at a very young age in the year 1988. He spoke of witnessing his mother getting abused by his father, which had a negative impact upon his life.

Mr Charles told the persons present how he got involved in the gang life after he quit school and that led to him committing various dastardly crimes. He indicated that some of the crimes he was involved in while in the USA, were selling drugs of all kind, drive-by shootings and even murder. As a result of committing murder, he was charged and sentenced to 18 years to life in a state federal prison.

He further expounded on some of the horrific things he saw and experienced while he was incarcerated.

He then switched to a more positive side and spoke to the process of rehabilitation he experienced while he was in prison.

He finally gave his heart to Christ. After he had served a full eighteen (18) years sentence, he became eligible for release and was thus liberated.

He told his intrigued listeners that as a result of God’s divine intervention in his life, he was not only able to walk out of prison a free man but he was also able to turn the mess in his life into a message. He also urged the youths to guard themselves from negative peer pressure that may surround them in the schools and other places.

The guest speaker also touched on the issue of anger management and told the gathering that it is very important for the youths to seek help from someone who can help them manage their anger and not let it get the best of them, since it would only destroy them in the long run.

Mr Charles went on to tell the youths that no matter how much bad they would have done in the past, as long as they seek God, their lives can change dramatically since God has the ability to transform their way of thinking just like he did for him

The young persons present then had an opportunity to interact with the guest speaker who took time out to answer their questions and encouraged them to live positive lives.

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