Wed | Jun 19, 2019

Once jail-bound, chef has recipe for change

Published:Monday | January 28, 2019 | 12:22 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Professor Rosalea Hamilton, CEO of the LASCO Chin Foundation, is flanked by Andre Griffiths (left) and Kevon McLeish, winners of the LASCO Chin Awards for Community Impact and Influence. The event was held at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Sunday.Shorn Hector/Photographer

Before the intervention of the LASCO Chin Foundation, there was a warrant out for the arrest of Kevon McLeish for owing more than $60,000 in rent almost nine months ago.

Today, he is not only a free man in that he was able to avoid jail time, thanks to the foundation’s Sustainable, Socio-economic Intervention Entrepreneurship Programme, but he believes that the initiative has unleashed the potential for him to be his own boss.

McLeish, 34, is from the often volatile community of Majesty Gardens, better ‘Back To’, in St Andrew, and because of wanting to run away from this reality, he was almost placed behind bars.

Nowadays, he boasts of having “options” and basks in the joy that he dodged prison – and worse.

“Presently, I am a catering chef. I have a conch café, soup café, and I also have a juice container. I really have three jobs. I balance them.

“My hope was to relocate from Majesty Gardens almost nine months ago. I ended up paying rent in an outside community with a friend. Rent was $20,000 per month, and my hope was just to leave Majesty Gardens, and get rid of it, but I found out my friend for years was unfaithful. Rent began to back up,” he recalled.

“There was a warrant out for my arrest and persons actually came to Majesty Gardens to arrest me. The good thing was that one of the guys who was supposed to arrest me was one of my friends from high school. I would have to pay $65,000 or spend 10 days in jail repeatedly until I could pay.”

From there, he explained that he stumbled on a movement called Operation Save Jamaica for help, and that was when life-changing events began to unfold.

“To come from the garrison and to have a conviction would not have been a plus. Within the whole thing, networking with Operation Save Jamaica actually helped me through and helped me come up with part of the $65,000. In the same time when your mind was racing, thinking about jail, a friend told me to join this programme. It changed my life and gave me a new leaf.

OPTIONS AVAILABLE

“Presently, I have options. Before, there wasn’t much option. I probably had opportunities, but now I have options. With options, I can continue my business,” he declared.

Eight other persons from other volatile communities successfully completed the programme.

Chief executive officer of the LASCO Chin Foundation, Rosalea Hamilton, told The Gleaner that the programme was geared at tackling crime and giving young people a second shot at life.

“We are trying to tackle fundamental problems in our society of intergenerational poverty and crime. We had 21 that started and nine came to the end. Some of them got jobs, went back to school, or dropped out for different reasons,” she said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com