The Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights recently recognised Allison Hickling, director of club administration and communication specialist at the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), and Andrew Bruce, founder of Plant Jamaica, a non-governmental organisation targeted at renewing inner-city communities. Both received the club's Vocational Service Award for using their professional expertise to advance community development.
"It's an opportunity to use my creative skills and also help to transform lives and help communities to create good role models and leaders," says Bruce, who established the Plant Jamaica project in the summer after being involved in a similar renewal programme called Paint Jamaica just about a week prior to his organisation's start-up.
"I was painting at the time and thought I needed to broaden my skills and do something like murals," the social entrepreneur and visionary recounted about how he became involved in Paint Jamaica.
"I found them on Facebook and decided to join the group downtown one day as they did some activities. I loved it and I started Plant Jamaica a week and a half later," he said.
Plant Jamaica began on Fleet Street in Southside, Kingston, on a small plot of land across from the Paint Jamaica site. Bruce repurposed the space to engage young men in sustainable farming, furniture making and art. The site, known by the community as 'Life Yard', also includes a small restaurant. It is aimed at nurturing residents' natural talents and interests to encourage business success.
"The idea is to generate renewal in downtown Kingston and create opportunities for young people to learn about things beyond their communities," Bruce said, noting that the project was recently expanded to the Holy Family Primary School, also in Southside, where children do a bit of gardening.
He also intends to engage residents in tree planting, trash removal, planting running vines and removing zinc fences along Fleet Street in an effort to transform the corridor.
"It's also about broadening their minds and exposing them to new ideas in ways they can afford," he said.
Hickling's work has been similarly focused on broadening the knowledge base of people who may not have access to certain amenities. Using her expertise as a communication specialist, Hickling has worked on several projects and activities to bring hope and restore spirit to communities, particularly children.
These include work with her Rotary family in various inner-city communities, including Trench Town, Seaview Gardens and Maverley in the Corporate Area to improve literacy skills, health, and engage youth in uplifting activities.
She has also worked in Ghana and was a volunteer in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, helping separated families to reunite.
"She is very passionate about her work," says friend and fellow Rotarian Ruth Chisholm, who accepted the award on behalf of Hickling.
"She has always wanted to use her communication skills for service and she's doing that."