Foundation provides second chance for high-school dropouts
Jamaican research scientist and educator Dr Simone Badal McCreath has embarked on a noble mission aimed at providing a second chance for persons to gain the education and skills necessary to acquire a job or pursue higher learning.
Through her brainchild Anti-Cancer Research Jamaica Foundation (ACRJF), which was established and registered in January 2017, close to $1 million has been raised to date to assist high-school dropouts and others to sit Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects or to pursue vocational training.
Approximately $540,000 has come from corporate donors, and about $380,000 from a wide cross section of individuals.
The foundation has identified an initial three beneficiaries for CSEC assistance this year at a cost of approximately $173,290 for three subjects per beneficiary.
Dr Badal McCreath lectures in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences Teaching and Research Complex, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona campus, St Andrew, where she is also engaged in anti-cancer research from which the foundation derives its name.
She indicates that as the beneficiary of a solid formal education, she feels obliged to give back to society through this avenue.
CHANCE TO MAKE SOMETHING MEANINGFUL
She said there are many persons "who need someone to give them a chance to make something meaningful of themselves. So I came up with the idea of establishing a foundation that targets assistance for high-school dropouts and also can help other persons, such as inner-city residents, to get skill sets or go back to school if they want to."
Dr Badal McCreath says she pitched the concept to her family, several colleagues and associates with whom it resonated, resulting in several of them forming the core board of directors overseeing the operations of the foundation, which she chairs.
They include husband, Gregory McCreath, who is director for strategic planning; and Community and Workers of Jamaica Cooperative Credit Union President Pete Smith, who is finance director.
The team of directors also includes persons with responsibility for areas such as requisitions; marketing and communications; overseeing the donating partners committee and the organisation's overall governance; information technology; spearheading the newly formed learning centre, which will engage post-graduates in subject delivery; and the mentorship academy.
Additionally, Dr Badal McCreath says the organisation has forged collaborations with several churches and schools to assist in identifying persons for support. Among these are Swallowfield Chapel and Gaynstead High School in Kingston.
"These are entities that come in contact with a plethora of potential candidates. Partnering with stakeholders who know the individuals directly ... makes it easier for us to actually dispense the resources to persons who will make use of these," Dr Badal McCreath reasons.
Three main programmes
Director of Marketing and Communications Damion Wilks points out that the ACRJF offers three main programmes.
These are the early school leavers' programme, which targets high-school dropouts; a vocational skills programme; and a mentorship programme.
Wilks said the focus on vocational training is in recognition that "not everybody is going to be comfortable in a traditional classroom environment. There are persons who prefer to work with their hands ... and earning a livelihood this way to support their families," he noted.
He explained that the mentorship component is to ensure that in addition to academic and technical training, beneficiaries are equipped with the requisite social skills that will enable them to interact seamlessly with others.
... Jamaicans urged to support initiative
Finance Director Pete Smith said the support of all well-thinking individuals and organisations will be imperative in ensuring that the foundation achieves its goal of enabling beneficiaries to fulfil their aspirations.
In this regard, he said individuals are being encouraged to commit to donating $1,000 per month, and corporate entities, a minimum of US$1,000 per annum.
He said the foundation will also be staging several fundraising events, noting that "in 2020, it is our aim to garner more than $20 million to continue the support".
He advised that two accounts have been opened at the National Commercial Bank (NCB) and Scotiabank to which donations can be lodged, and persons can visit the foundation's website at www.acrjfoundation.org.jm for additional information.
He informs that the foundation is also in the process of setting up PayPal to accept contributions online.
COMMITTED TO TRANSPARENCY
Smith said the entity is committed to transparency and accountability, and monthly reports are being generated and circulated to all donating partners and members of the foundation, which will be supported by audited financial statements.
The foundation recently held a reception at the University of the West Indies' Faculty of Medical Sciences Teaching and Research Complex to say thanks to the individual and corporate donors supporting the initiative.
They include Community and Workers of Jamaica Co-operative Credit Union Limited, Virgin International Trading Limited, Jomo Auto Sales and Supplies, Big Brother Auto, and Creative Screen Printing.
Garfield Virgin, Virgin International's chief executive officer, said he believes in the vision of the Anti-Cancer Research Jamaica Foundation (ACRJF), "but, more so, I have the faith in the founder, that my contributions will be used for its intended purpose".
University of the West Indies (UWI) undergraduate, Shannique Clarke, who is an individual donor, feels that "if more persons are educated, we will be able to make better decisions that enhance our outcome as a country. So it is important for me to contribute to this cause that will help to steer us in that direction".
Founder Dr Simone Badal McCreath is appealing to well-thinking Jamaicans at home and abroad to support the initiative.
Noting that an estimated 2,000 youngsters drop out of high school annually, she contends that boosting Jamaica's global competiveness requires an adequately educated and trained labour force.
CANNOT AFFORD TO LEAVE PERSONS BEHIND
"If we want to get there, we cannot afford to leave the persons who have dropped out of high school behind. Furthermore, an educated society is a safer society. Let us not just be persons who talk about the changes that we want to see, but let us be persons... who accompany those discussions with solutions. So we implore you to help us to get there," Dr Badal McCreath underscores.
Meanwhile, Finance Director Pete Smith said there are plans to expand the foundation's reach to the wider Caribbean.
"The ACRJF is seeking to assist. Many premature high-school leavers are stuck in a place where they really don't belong. They, too, have dreams, they have aspirations, and they want to go places. The Anti-Cancer Research Jamaica Foundation is here to help them soar like eagles," Smith added.
Individuals and organisations interested in supporting ACRJF can visit the office on the first floor of the UWI's Faculty of Medical Sciences Teaching and Research Complex or call 927-2290.