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  Life in Jamaica
Updated 09 April 2003, 10.49
Laura talks to children in S-Corner
By Laura Jones
CBBC Newsround in Kingston, Jamaica

"Fasten your seatbelts, we will soon be landing in Montego Bay".

I looked out of the window and caught my first glimpse of Jamaica.

Endless white beaches, palm trees and a clear, turquoise sea. It looked like a postcard. But we weren't getting off the plane with all the tourists. We were just stopping on our way to Jamaica's capital city, Kingston.

An hour later and it was as if we had landed in a different world.

No pretty beaches here and no palm trees. Instead, we found a sprawling city, where many people are desperately struggling to overcome poverty and illness.

Gun fear

It's difficult to imagine what life is like for children in downtown Kingston. Many of them live in shacks, made from scrap metal and bits of wood.

Some of them are hungry, many can't afford to go to school. And children here have something even more scary to worry about - guns.

We visited an area called Bennett Land where there's been a war going on in this part of town for years.

No-one can even remember how it started, but everyone knows that it's still going on and that it's still very dangerous.

Gang wars

It's between two gangs who carry guns. One lives at one end of the street, the other at the other end. There's a line that runs across that street - you can't see it, but if you cross from one side to the other, you may get shot.

It's a strange place - people look at you suspiciously. No-one trusts anyone. But there are people in Bennett Land who are trying to change things.

S-Corner is a community centre, which organises football games and other activities. Sometimes children from both ends of the street play together at the centre, and it's the only time they ever speak to each other.

After a while people talked to us about music and football. We were told that it had been a good couple of weeks because no-one had been shot and the atmosphere was getting more relaxed.

I was talking to Barry, a worker at S-Corner, when we heard it. He realised what it was before I did. - a gun.

Two shots rang out and faces all around me went pale. "Not again" someone said, "Get inside" someone else shouted.

The shots had been very close. A man walking by on the street had been hit.

Scared of being shot

"This is what life is like when you live here," Shanice, a 9-year-old girl told me. "You hear a shot and all you can do, is hope that it's not your mum, your dad or your brother. But it's always someone's"

"Do you think you'll ever get shot?" I asked her. "Yes" she replied.

The plane stopped at Montego Bay on the way home, to pick up the holidaymakers looking tanned and relaxed. There are two sides to Jamaica - and I wondered just how much anyone else on the plane knew about the other side.

Probably just as little as Shanice did about the beaches and palm trees.

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