In May of 2021, the Jamaica Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) developed an around-the-clock national helpline, SafeSpot, for children and teens. Originally developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SafeSpot has expanded beyond its original purpose to help children cope with all sorts of difficult situations. In the nearly two years since, important modifications to the helpline have followed thanks to philanthropic donors and corporate sponsors. These partners include Digicel and the Digicel Jamaica Foundation, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Jamaica, the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and more.
One major change was centred around accessibility. To ensure that more people could use SafeSpot, the OCA created a dedicated website to increase access to resources, along with the service’s existing toll-free helpline and WhatsApp. The content shared on SafeSpot’s website and social media helps to spread awareness and minimise fears, concerns or stigmas that surround many of the heavy topics that children call to discuss.
The second transformation was around service efficiency and management. SafeSpot developers combined phone call and social media data into an integrated software platform for more sophisticated metric tracking. This way, the process of pairing youth with mental healthcare professionals can continuously be improved. More than 2,300 children and teens have accessed SafeSpot since its launch, about 930 have received personalised counselling or help and 50 follow-up consultations have been made for ongoing treatment.
Digicel’s Advanced Features for SafeSpot
In addition to SafeSpot’s website, helpline and WhatsApp features, the Digicel Jamaica Foundation has worked directly with the OCA to create the SafeSpot channel on the BiP app for Google Play and the App Store. Users can subscribe to the SafeSpot BiP channel on the Discover page or contact the free BiP-text messaging number. These additional features have helped earn Safespot an international certification; it is now a part of Child Helpline International and globally recognised in about 150 countries.
Following this achievement, the Digicel Jamaica Foundation and the OCA collaborated on an interactive social media competition to increase awareness of SafeSpot. In this contest, children had the opportunity to win their school J$100,000. To enter, all they had to do was open the BiP app, follow the SafeSpot channel and vote for the school of their choice.
Digicel’s Shared Vision with the Office of the Children’s Advocate
For the Digicel Jamaica Foundation and the OCA, this collaboration is much more than engineering a new app feature. Together, both organisations are working to ensure a safe, positive future for younger generations.
For the OCA, this means protecting Jamaica’s children, one of the most vulnerable groups. The OCA was founded in 2006 as a result of the 2004 Child Care and Protection Act. The OCA operates as a Commission of Parliament, taking on regulatory, investigative, educational and advisory responsibilities. Its mandate reads, “The Children’s Advocate is mandated to protect and enforce the rights of children and promote their best interests at all times.” The OCA’s online resources include a regularly published three-month newsletter, yearly annual reports and posters covering topics such as trafficking, abuse and child custody.
The Digicel Jamaica Foundation provides access to education for Jamaica’s children. The Foundation has worked to repair primary and secondary schools in collaboration with Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission and the Ministry of Education. To expose children to professional opportunities in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), it helped create the Amber Coding in Schools programme and it has built information and communications technology (ICT) rooms and science workshops in schools. To help close the digital divide in the education system, Digicel has gifted tablets to classrooms at no cost. And, to assure that students with disabilities can access school grounds, the foundation has donated ramps and retrofitted facilities with accommodations.