Clonmel Primary students learn the value of banking
Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer
Five lucky grade-six students from Clonmel Primary and Junior High School in St Mary each received a voucher worth $2,000 last week, thanks to an inspiring initiative that encourages children to learn, understand and adopt the basic principles of banking.
The scheme was launched by the First Regional Cooperative Credit Union (FRCCU) and the Social Development Commission (SDC) as part of the agency's annual Christmas Treat event, which was held at their office in Clonmel and attended by dozens of local children and their parents.
Secretary of the FRCCU, Patrick Haywood, hopes the vouchers will encourage the five students (Shauna-Kay Pitt, Khyle and Khalra Green, Vemarie Hidol and Rajay Grant) to open accounts and introduce them to the concept of saving.
He said: "Every year, we encourage successful GSAT students whose parents are members to apply to our scholarship programme.
"If they are successful and maintain a certain average, we pay for everything towards their education for five years. We give back to our communities, so this is something normal and natural that we do throughout the parishes we operate in: St Mary, St Ann and Hanover.
"We want young people to develop the habit of saving to create wealth because when there is a rich individual, there is a rich community; and when there is a rich community, there is a rich country."
Haywood added: "Young, black people don't think they should get rich. They prefer to be on the margins, but we want to change this way of thinking. We are emphasising that our young people (should) be financially secure.
"Instead of spending all your money on fun, and having to depend on children as a pension or insurance, save so you have something to live off when you are older and no longer working."
According to the SDC's manager for St Mary, Travis Graham, the project is part of his organisation's strategy to reduce poverty and create wealth in rural areas.
He told Rural Xpress: "We are trying to nurture a culture of business and entrepreneurism in accordance with the SDC's Local Economic Development Support Programme, where we engage communities to start thinking entrepreneurial and encourage community groups to become social enterprises.
changing of view
"As they become more familiar with financial institutions, people will come out of the mentality where they save money under the mattress, and start interacting with formal institutions so they can engage in simple business practices, which will grow and develop into other areas over time."
In addition to a brief, but informative presentation by a spokesman from the local fire brigade, the event also featured a football match, board games, a bouncy castle and a Christmas gift for every child.
Graham explained: "Our annual treat is an initiative whereby we try to engage the community in which our office is located. It's really for the kids, but it is our way of strengthening our relationship with the community.
"For us, engagement with the local community is paying dividends because people from the area are now employed here. We support any initiative either of us is doing and work together, hand-in-hand on development.
"It's a very strategic and impactful event, and I know those five GSAT students appreciate it and will now be saving their money."