Reformed youth Lawrence Martin prepares to make the festive season a safe one in Port Moresby, writes STEPHEN DAWANINCURA
PLANS are once again afoot in the National Capital District to mobilize youths and community leaders in preparation for festive season street patrols in city hot spots and once again at the helm of the program will be Lawrence Martin The Safe Place Program is part of Yumi Lukautim Mosbi which was initiated by the National Capital District Commission with the support of AusAID through its Law and Justice Sector program, and community stakeholders such as church, youth, and women’s groups, YLM has linked hands with the police and law and justice sector agencies in a partnership that has achieved much.
Five years down the track since the YLM concept was initiated, the program has made a marked impact on the streets of Moresby, in particularly within settlements during the Christmas period and has watched every step.
Lawrence believes that there is no better recipe for crime and disorder than large groups of people with not much to do, hence YLM addresses these root causes of crime, particularly by working with young people.
“During the 2008 highly successful Christmas Safe Campaign 1,868 young men in Port Moresby were assigned to the 28 police stations throughout the National Capital District and worked with supervising officials to patrol streets and maintain festive season order,” said Lawrence.
Working amidst a Port Moresby population pushing 400, 000 is a challenge in itself, but the amazing fact about this huge logistical effort is that the program offers real hope and real results that himself is testimony to.
Having emerged as man who has come to terms with his dark past on the wrong side of the law, Lawrence now dedicates his life to giving troubled youth a second shot at life and an opportunity to pull away from negative habits with a bit of self belief and motivation.
Lawrence is a mainstay behind the program since making a commitment to himself and his family to reform his wayward past.
“A life in crime has no time-frame, it was a matter of survival that then became a way of life,” Mr Lawrence recalled.
You won’t find many people as passionate about the job of mobilizing youths who have been left marginalized and left behind by society.
It’s a far cry from a man who once rode alongside some of the most hardened criminals in Port Moresby.
“I know what it’s like to be in that situation, I lived it, and I’ll be honest, my decision to change didn’t come over-night.”
It took five prison breaks and life on the run or behind bars for over 10 years before Lawrence finally valued the price of freedom.
With all that now consigned to history, Lawrence works full-time as Program Coordinator at the YLM headquarters within the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce Secretariat.
In fact, the popular YLM jingle and music video performed by the ‘Rabiagini Band’ and featured regularly on national television and radio was written and composed by Lawrence himself.
These days the demands of Lawrence’s job sees him channelling his energy between youth counselling, searching for donor funding, and knocking on doors of business houses ‘politely’ hassling them to become agents of positive change in the nation’s capital.
Through YLM, the process of reaching out to and developing partnerships with settlement leaders, gangs, and community groups has quietly been delivering results in small but sure steps behind the scenes.
And now even more than before, there are more doors opening and helping hands being offered to inspire positive change for those who rebel and feel rejected by society – thanks to the commitment and motivation of reformed people like Lawrence Martin who still believe in making a difference every day.
Media Inquiries: Stephen Dawanincura, AusAID Public Affairs, Ph: 325 9333 ext 216