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Back-to-school bliss - National Centre for Youth Development stages wellness and empowerment fair

Published:Saturday | August 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Residents of Upper Rock Spring, Hanover, and surrounding communities collect school supplies and treats at the Sandals Foundation's booth during the National Centre for Youth Development's wellness fair at Upper Rock Spring in Hanover last week. - Contributed

Approximately 200 residents from communities in Hanover and Westmoreland were recent beneficiaries of a back-to-school empowerment and wellness fair staged by the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD).

Held at the Upper Rock Spring Primary and Infant School in Hanover, the fair saw residents of Upper Rock Spring and neighbouring communities, including Green Island, Grange Hill, Jerusalem Mountain, Savanna-la-Mar and Little London receiving school supplies.

The supplies included stationery, shoes, khaki uniforms for boys and book vouchers, courtesy of the Sandals Foundation and Sandals Resorts, as well as Lucea business partners, including Sinclair's Bargain Centre, CAP Sales and Services, UG's Better Buy, Tan-Tan Restaurant and the Hanover Co-operative Credit Union.

The Social Development Commission, the Sandals Foundation, Sandals Resorts, the Hanover Health Department, Jamaica Fire Brigade, Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), National Youth Service and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security partnered in the venture.

Representatives of the JFLL and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security were also in attendance at the event. Voluntary counselling and testing for HIV were also offered by the Hanover Health Department, and blood-pressure checks were facilitated by the Emergency Medical Services of the Hanover Fire Department.

"We targeted Rock Spring as it connects several Westmoreland and Hanover communities and because of what we identified as a deficiency in access to infrastructural and educational opportunities that our nation's youth need to holistically develop," said Donmarie Latouche, NCYD youth empowerment officer for Hanover.

"As youth workers and community officers, it is important to recognise that these communities still help to advance the parish on different platforms. As such, our empowerment and development framework models must be inclusive of their active participation while we seek to expose residents to the social services that are available to them," she added.

Principal of the host school, Clayton Smith, said the intervention was a first in the community and was well needed.

"We hardly get a lot of organisations coming in to try to uplift our residents because it is easier to access urban areas. I was very happy to see that the fair impacted all age groups - children, youth, adults and the elderly - and I'm very pleased about the relationship that we have started to build with all the entities involved," he said.

Sandals Foundation representative and regional public relations manager for the Sandals, Beaches and Grand Pineapple Resorts in Negril, Kendra Johnson, said her organisation was pleased to have participated in the event.

"We partnered with the NCYD for a youth-empowerment expo a few months ago and the response from participants was overwhelming. It showed that people are looking at new opportunities for growth. We believe that programmes like these certainly give us a wonderful avenue to help provide the social support that will subsequently take our communities where we want them to go in terms of national development," she said.