Inner-city youth empowered with social, career skills
Eighteen youth from the Kingston inner-city communities of Trench Town and Hannah Town are now trained, empowered and equipped with both social and certified vocational skills to join the workforce, thanks to USAID and The Women's Resource and Outreach Centre Limited (WROC).
The objective of the six-month programme, under USAID's Community Empowerment and Transformation Project Phase 2 (COMET II), which ended Thursday, was to provide transformational development for innercity youth, certify them with practical job skills, while teaching them to combat gender-based violence. It also aimed to create sustainable development in urban underserved communities.
Running from January 9 to July 9, at a cost of $1.8 million, USAID funded the bulk of the programme, to the tune of $1.67 million.
"When we heard that USAID was launching a project geared towards transforming young persons from inner-city communities, we wanted to be a part of it, having over the years worked with residents from numerous innercity communities on a number of upliftment projects, including the communities they were targeting, namely Trench Town and Hannah Town," Dorothy Whyte, executive director of WROC, told The Gleaner.
Following recommendations and interviews, the participants, between the ages of 18 and 24, were selected for the three- to four-day per week programme.
Five students were trained in animation and 13 in customer service, both courses certified by HEART Trust NTA. Workshops were also held on gender-based violence, climate change, communications and being agents of change. The students were also given remedial mathematics and English classes.
With the exception of the animation classes, most of the classes were held at WROC's 47 Beechwood Avenue, St Andrew location. The animation students were trained at the Professional Development Institute (PDI), located on Maxfield Avenue, St. Andrew.
GLAD FOR THE OPPORTUNITY
The youths were more than delighted for the opportunity and experience, now with a boosted self-esteem and worth, empowered to make a meaningful contribution not only for themselves but to society.
"I was very grateful to get this opportunity. When I heard about it I just grabbed it. I was home doing nothing, and to see that now I am certified to pursue my dreams really means a lot to me," stated 19-year-old animation student Kevin Nesbeth, from the Maxfield Avenue community.
"I have always wanted a career in cartoons, because I always liked drawing. I have now learnt a lot, it has changed my life. I also teach my friends about the things I learnt. I can also use animation to send a positive message to stop violence against women."
Fellow animation student Rogena Chambers, 20, from the Denham Town community, expressed similar sentiments.
"I have now learnt something new and different. I want to be a behavioural psychologist and now I can use animation to help me with that. For instance, when I am going to do a talk on puberty, I can use animation to demonstrate it and make CDs on it, where guidance counsellors can use them to teach students," said Chambers.
"I find that nowadays, kids don't like to listen, they like to watch, so I know animation will be the best way to bring across positive messages that they need to hear in a fun but effective way."
Thankful for the programme, 21-year-old Imotep Sutherland from Maxfield Avenue said within six months he has learnt enough about animation to manage on his own.
"I always loved cartoons and curious to know how it was done. Now I not only know how it is done, but I can do it myself. It really does take a lot of work and not as simple as it seems. Now whenever I watch cartoons, I see it from a different point of view," said Sutherland.
"I really would like to create cartoons to teach persons how to treat others."
Over in the customer service centre, Sasha-Kaye Pusey, Floyd Hensley, Danielle Fraser and their fellow classmates expressed gratitude for the invaluable teaching from their instructor Sandra Davis.
"I have gained so much knowledge about customer service. I am so very, very happy. I hope to make a career as a social worker, helping young persons in my community, to make them know that it is not where you come from that determines where you are going," stated Pusey, who hails from Denham Town.
20-year-old Hensley, from the Arnett Gardens community, who hopes to one day own a business, hailed the programme as a gift.
Fraser from Rose Town grabbed the opportunity with both hands, after being at home struggling with "hand-to-mouth hairdressing".
"I didn't even know how to use the computer before and now I can use it very well. I wanted this so bad, I worked really hard to get good results. This is such a privilege," Fraser stated.
Davis, who is the managing director of SC&S Training and Consultancy Services, said her company was proud to have partnered with WROC to do the customer service training.
"It has been a very positive programme and I have seen some very positive results from it. The students all did very well and were quite receptive," noted Davis.
WROC has been in dialogue with a number of organisations to provide jobs for the now certified, career-ready young men and women.
"One of the challenges youths from inner cities face is persons not wanting to employ them because of where they are from, many being stereotyped simply because of their address," said Whyte.
"So we think that not only is it important to train them but we have to assist them to get jobs, because we don't want them to go back into their communities with all this training and sit down and do nothing. It is important to assist young persons to understand that they have a contribution to make to Jamaica, and they have a contribution to make to themselves."
Whyte said she was heartened by the positive responses she has been getting from companies willing to provide employment for the participants.
"Programmes like these are very important, especially targeting our innercity youth, training them not only in the formal courses but also addressing the myriad of social and personal issues they face everyday. We try to make the programme as comprehensive as possible," stated Whyte.
"We have to train our human capital, and we have to work with particularly the young people from the innercity communities, because a lot of them don't have a good self esteem and they don't think that they are capable of going out there and being useful citizens in the county."
Rating the success of the programme, the head of the 32-year-old organisation declared, "a lot of them were so negative when they came in, but now their attitude has changed. I must admit, they do still have some habits and attitudes that need improving, but overall I have seen great improvement. Many now feel better about themselves and their worth and value. They now feel ready to make their mark on the world."