Nanook Enterprises impresses Makers of More
Barbara Ellington, Public Affairs Editor
By the time Joan Webley, Jamaican attorney and founder of Nanook Enterprises, had shown a video clip of a budding reggae musician composing a tune and throwing in a few dance moves to match, she had literally danced her way into the hearts of everyone in the packed Oval Space in London, England last Thursday night.
It was the annual Arthur Guinness Projects, in association with Ashoka Changemakers, Makers of More Summit, and Webley was among five bright minds making a difference in the lives of people in Singapore, Indonesia, Uganda, Jamaica, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Her participation was sponsored by Guinness, local producers of Guinness. The group was seeking further help to develop their projects which focus on finance and sustainability, the environment, water and energy, unemployment as well as technology and culture.
Each participant got seven minutes to speak about their projects and themselves. Webley used her time to throw in a pop quiz, showcase a little of Jamaica's culture and explain that Nanook Enterprises is about nurturing all the nuances of and help people to be able to live off their creative genius. Webley has set up a cultural centre where musicians, film makers, writers and other artistes get help to make commercial success of what they do.
Two of the other very impressive projects were conceptualised by Nayda Fadila Saib, founder of Wangsa Jelita in Indonesia, and Alexander McLean, founder of African Prisons Project in Uganda.
McLean is the United Kingdom-born son of a Jamaican father who went off to Uganda at age 18 to see what life was like in the prisons there. Out of that experience, he founded the African Prisons Project which is an organisation that works to improve the lives of men, women and children living in African prisons, through health care, education, access to justice and community reintegration.
McLean, who is now an attorney and working on his doctorate based on issues regarding the death penalty, gave a presentation that left a lasting impression on participants. He has had many successes over the years including prisoners who have gone on to become lawyers and successfully defended themselves to overturn their death penalty sentences.
But of more significance, McLean's work has brought humanity back to the prison systems and transformed how prisoners are regarded by the public, the prison staff and themselves.
Saib, who is a pharmacist, devised a project which targets women rose farmers in Indonesia who sold their roses through middlemen who exploited them. By setting up a project that produces natural soaps using rose petals, she has trained many women in the art and provided a reliable year-round market for flower farmers. Through this initiative the farmers are now equipped to run their own farms and gain financial independence.
The five participants fielded questions from the audience on a wide range of issues related to their unique initiatives before breaking into workshops that were geared at producing solutions to helping them take their projects to more financially successful heights.
Speaking to The Gleaner after the session, Webley said the experience was, "beyond expectations - from the opportunity to highlight what is happening in Jamaica to the end result. It was all very encouraging. The suggestions I got were things I had been thinking about, but I am now very excited to see how I will take them forward," she said.
She said all her Christmases had come at once and she could not pay for the information she had received.
The Gleaner team's trip to London was made possible by Guinness.