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Last updated: 29 October, 2008 - Published 16:21 GMT
 
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Olympic heroes aim for social change
 

 
 
Olympic Gold winner Usain Bolt
Fastest man Usain Bolt has become a leading role model
Jamaica has turned to some of its Beijing Olympic heroes and their parents to spark social regeneration and help curtail the country's spiralling crime problem.

Latest police statistics show that 136 murders were committed in Jamaica in September bringing the number of murders since the start of 2008 to 1241.

Maxine Simpson and Jennifer Bolt, the mothers of 100m Olympic champion Shelly-Ann Fraser and triple gold medallist Usain Bolt have featured in a series of newspaper ads encouraging Jamaicans to "unite and end crime and violence".

"You don't have to be an Olympian to make a difference ... I can... You can... Jamaican", the ads state.

Olympic 400m hurdles winner, Melaine Walker, has launched her own campaign to effect social change in the volatile community of Maxfield Avenue where she grew up.

Among her plans are rebuilding the community's youth club, encouraging area youth to get involved in sport, staging local rallies and giving motivational talks to children from schools in the community.

It remains to be seen if there will be any positive results from her efforts.

Gunmen shot and killed a man on the same day and within yards of where community members unveiled a mural of the athlete and held a peace march in honour of Walker two Sundays ago.

Jamaican women Olympians hope to be catalysts for change

Ending the violence

The event was also part of a move to help revitalise the community which has suffered social decay and the effects of violence.

Walker however hopes her feat of becoming Jamaica's second Olympic 400m hurdles gold medal winner from humble beginnings will be a catalyst for change.

“They have a certain amount of respect for me and I can use it to control them a little bit,” she said.

“I would start by trying to rebuild the youth club, trying to get sports involved where you might have some rallies or play on Sundays in the neighbourhood where all of them can come together first, then try to find the talent and hopefully sponsors or give them a step forward in life so that they have an opportunity to live their dream.”

Other sponsors

Walker said she will be providing much of the financial backing herself but that she would also be seeking sponsors to help fund her plans.

Jamaican ad
 You don't have to be an Olympian to make a difference ... I can... You can... Jamaican
 

She was however cautious in expressing hope that those plans wouldn’t fall by the wayside once the euphoria of the Jamaican triumph in Beijing wore off.

“It scares me... I hope they really want to change and it’s not just because of the Olympics and the gold medal and me, but that it’s a reflection for them to see that she (I) made it and maybe they can do the same.”

Jamaica won an historic 11 medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing sparking wild countrywide celebration.

 
 
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