Lee-Chin a man of his word - NCB contributes to building a better Ja
The National Commercial Bank (NCB) under the leadership of Michael Lee-Chin, has through the NCB Foundation made significant contribution to fulfill his promise to 'build a better Jamaica'.
Formalised in 2003, the foundation has contributed significantly to community and sports development and youth leadership and entrepreneurship. But its support of education brings the most plaudits. Recently, the foundation surpassed JA$1 billion in donations across their three areas of focus. CEO Nadeen Matthews admitted the organisation does fly under the radar somewhat.
"We give the Ministry of Education JA$10 million every year, we donate JA$25 million in scholarships every year," said Matthews. "But we don't go out and beat our chests, because we want to make sure that most of the funds are deployed to actually serving the community."
Close to 100,000 students have benefited from assistance and about 5,000 students have received tertiary scholarships for the entirety of their study, providing they maintain good grades.
Chair of the foundation, Thalia Lyn, said there was a need to let people know the foundation is there to help.
"Every year when we open up the scholarship programme, the numbers continue to grow," she said, noting that about 3,000 applications come in per year. "We need the people to know and that's the only way they will know, if we get the word out about what we're doing." The NCB Foundation currently sponsors two subjects - principles of accounts and principles of business - at the CSEC level.
"That's important because the ministry finances four subjects. The minimum qualifying standard for tertiary enrolment is six," said Matthews. "So, in sponsoring two, we are guaranteeing each secondary student qualifies to meet the minimum standard."
Originally, the foundation predominantly focused on secondary and tertiary-level education, but since 2014, there has been an expansion.
Adopt A School
"We launched our Adopt-A-School programme and we are now focusing on primary schools," said Matthews. "We've adopted 35 primary schools across the island. It's a continuous support and it's based on the need of the particular school. We also have some standard programmes throughout the year, one of which is Junior Achievement Jamaica, focused on improving the financial literacy of grade five students.
"And when we looked at the exam results, we saw significant improvement," she said. Perhaps the greatest achievement is the foundation's role in the Ministry of Education's Mathematics Scope and Sequence programme that took on the low performance of students in the subject.
"Based on the feedback, the results have been great," said.
Matthews. "We funded that in a major way; our name is not associated with it, but it impacts the nation and we're proud of that." Matthews said surpassing the billion-dollar mark was also a good time to reflect, celebrate and plan for the future.
Matthews explained that one per cent of profit from the bank provides the foundation's budget along with a contribution from the public, every time persons swipe their NCB Keycard.
Lyn added that the foundation doesn't have a staff per se, just one person who handles much of the administrative matters. So it's really volunteer work from everyone else, including the board members. But there is tremendous buy-in from the NCB family.
"When you have the staff involved as well, it's like part of their incentive programme, she said. "They're putting in the effort to the job, and it's part of the bank's profit that's going toward the foundation."
The foundation recently launched its volunteer corps, made up partly of employees and beneficiaries of the foundation.
"We get many requests from persons who see our work on Facebook or hear about us, and want to volunteer," said Matthews. "So it is something that we are exploring." Recent impact assessments show the targeted area improving, so there is the plan to double these investments.
Matthews said the foundation is also looking to create a youth empowerment seminar, designed to encourage youth and expose them to the myriad of different opportunities available for employment in the modern world. Both the CEO and chair also promised the foundation will be more visible.
"We want to get the word out, not that we're giving things away, but that we want to support," said Lyn. "We know the need, but sometimes we see it too late. Sometimes all they need is that break, that little chance".
Matthews encouraged persons to look for the foundation's programmes and give them a try.
"Hopefully, we can give them a greater sense of hope," she said. "Yes, Jamaica has problems, but there are people who want to help."