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Youth advocates Empower Budding Entrepreneurs

Published:Monday | February 16, 2015 | 12:32 PMTamara Bailey
Successful participants of the Youth Entrepreneurship Project of Young Women and Men of Purpose (from left) Adaigo Powell, employee and now partner of Akeith Johnson who operates a welding service.

Mandeville, Manchester:

With unemployment among youth increasing - and there appears to be little to no funding available for the aspiring entrepreneurs who seek capital - the non-profit organisation Young Women and Men of Purpose (YWOP/YMOP) has partnered with UN Habitat to help young aspirants transform their dreams into reality.

The six-year-old organisation, which provides moral support, career mentorship and guidance to young people in the parishes of Manchester and St Elizabeth, YWOP/YMOP launched a project under Youth Entrepreneurship in 2013, which saw 50 persons from the parish of Manchester being trained.

"We partnered with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC); the mayor of Mandeville, Brenda Ramsay; the Ministry of Youth and Culture/Manchester Youth Information Centre, and were able to successfully complete our training with 44 of the 50 participants," stated project manager Shamoy Hajare.

With the future plan of having a select number from the lot moving on to another rung of the ladder, the assistance of the UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund, an arm of the United Nations Human Settlement Programme based in Nairobi, Kenya, was sought.

By undertaking research on best practices in the non-profit organisation, the UN Urban Fund saw it fit to distribute a grant of US$500 to 14 participants each.

"The project had two phases: training, and mentorship. In tandem with mentoring individuals, a youth pitch forum, which concluded in November of last year was conducted. It was from this pitch session that we were able to select our 14 grantees, who received a grant of US$500 each in order to further develop their business," stated Hajare

capitalised on opportunity

As the first organisation to receive grant funding from UN Habitat in Jamaica, YWOP/YMOP has, since recently, capitalised on the opportunity of having participants network with global leaders.

"Just last week, three of our grantees - Melissa Preddie, Keila McKenzie and Javin Williams - were able to attend the Nexus Career Youth Summit in Montego Bay. Nexus focuses on innovative philanthropy, impact investing and social entrepreneurship. Persons are able to interact with global leaders also. The participants will also receive, in kind, a contribution from Nexus. Our successful participant, Javin Williams, who did the best in the pitch session, will be allowed to pitch his idea in July at the UN headquarters," beamed Hajare.

With more than 8,300 youth-led organisations around the world applying for grants every year, unit leader for Youth and Employment at the UN Habitat, Douglas Ragan, who was on an official visit to Jamaica recently, expressed that there is uniqueness to what abounds in Jamaica and more will be done.

"We are very proud of this project here, specifically because of the impact, the professionalism and how it's been developed - as it very much focuses on the issue of entrepreneurship. Young people have the potential to take on leadership roles and should be able to do so," said Ragan.

Providing more than 250 groups in 63 countries since its inception, the UN Habitat Youth Fund is keen on having recipients not just creating jobs for the sake of job creation, but for community impact.

It is for this reason that three of the 14 participants from YWOP/YMOP have since employed three other persons, each, in their businesses.

Participant Akeith Johnson, who is experiencing this growth, told Rural Xpress that greater things are to come for his business because of the grant.

"I do welding and moulding and it's been going good so far. Sometimes it takes a little time for you to get work but it's ok ... I have been doing this business aspect for six months now and, actually, welding for more than two years now. I was able to buy a welding plant and a cutter with the funds. With time and more tools for the moulding, like a drill, business will get better. I'm proud to say I have employed three persons and one, Adaigo Powell, has now become a partner in the business. I'm looking forward to bigger and better things."

Beaming with pride, founder of YWOP/YMOP Lanisia Rhoden stated: "We have created several partnerships with stakeholders in the parish and it is because of that (why) we exist today. Because of the support of our partners, the commitment and hard work of our volunteers, the organisation has grown to this level today."