RJRGLEANER Honour Awards | For Voluntary Service (Special): Rise Life Management - Changing J'can lives for the better
Reaching Individuals through Skills and Education (RISE) Life Management Services, a non-governmental organisation, established in Jamaica in 1989 as Addiction Alert Organisation, has been changing lives for the better through educational, vocational and health-related services.
According to Sonita Morin Abrahams, executive director, who has been at the helm of the organisation for the past 27 years, it started by offering outpatient drug treatment programmes for persons suffering from addictive disorders.
"Our vision of a Jamaican society is where young people and other vulnerable populations are empowered to make healthy lifestyle choices in a supportive and rehabilitative environment," Abrahams said.
However, over the years, she said the organisation's direction and focus changed to include other interventions, which sought to address some of the issues faced by at-risk and vulnerable youth.
"We realised the importance of delivering services for community members, including primary and secondary preventions. Instead of waiting until persons had an addictive disorder or engaged in a life of crime, we decided to put more resources into reaching them at a much earlier age, when they were still children." Abrahams said.
Over a 15-year period, the organisation expanded its services into inner-city Kingston and in 2005, the name changed to RISE Life Management Services. Over the period 2005 to 2012, RISE impacted in excess of 127,000 students, parents, guidance counsellors, company employees , and community members through its educational, health-related and life skills training.
"We reached out to different grant agencies and we started working with primary-school children. We brought in young people into RISE and other community centres and we put them in a remedial education and a life skills programme. We were able to mentor these young people from they were about 10 years old until they were in their teenage years," Abrahams said.
"Many of these young people are still with us today. When they graduated from the programme they formed clubs in their communities, and now they work with us as youth leaders and trainers," she added.
Services offered by RISE include the prevention and treatment of addictive disorders; community-based health and education interventions to include violence, drug-, and HIV/AIDS-prevention programmes for at-risk youth
and family members; remedial educational programmes; life skills training; parenting programmes; social and health related services; and HEART/NTA-accredited vocational skills training. These interventions take place in some of Kingston's most volatile inner-city communities.
Wealth of data
According to Shawn McGregor, programme manager, the organisation has been fortunate to collect a wealth of data from the communities that they work closely with. Over the years, this has helped them to understand the varying needs of the individuals in the areas they serve.
"RISE is very responsive to the needs of the communities and the requirements of our funding agencies. When you put these two things together, what you get are successful programmes. We have a wide cross section of clients who access our services on a daily basis, individuals and families seeking recovery from addictive disorders," McGregor said.
RISE Life's main funding comes from grants, which is augmented by donations from companies and foundations, and fees for service activities. The European Union is the main funding agency; however, others include the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Commission; the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund, and others.
However, McGregor said there is still the need for funding, based on the demand for the programmes offered.