Teach them to Fish
Keisha Shakespeare-Blackmore, Staff Reporter
Businesswoman Loraine Clunie is living her long-time dream. She is helping to teach inner-city men and women a skill through her Teach to Fish Foundation training programme.
Clunie told Flair during a visit to one of her classes held at Elegant Weddings, Annette Crescent in St Andrew, that she enjoys helping those who don't have access to formal educational training. She said the concept of the programme is to empower inner-city men and women by teaching them a marketable skill.
The programme began six weeks ago and will run for the next three years, 10 weeks at a time. Currently, there are about 12 students enrolled, but Clunie said she has future plans for expansion.
"We are looking to get a proper classroom at another location because currently we are occupying my work space. The new venue should be able to accommodate up to 40 students," said Clunie.
Classes are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. but eager students get to class by 9 a.m. She noted that, as an incentive, they get lunch and a stipend at the end of each week to assist with travelling.
Clunie said that the students are from both political areas and the group even includes one young man whom she literally took off the streets. He was a windscreen wiper and he was willing to put in the work, as he aspires to be a bartender. She also said that her aim is that, whatever they learn, they will be able to share with others from their communities.
The programme follows the Human Employment and Resource Training module and has the blessing of education minister Andrew Holness. The course includes English, mathematics, personal development, conflict resolution, housekeeping, bartending, basic computing and civil-rights tips. At the end, graduates will receive a certificate. In addition, they will be afforded the opportunity to get work experience at local hotels and an ice-cream company that has agreed to assist. Clunie hopes that other organisations and companies will offer assistance as well.
Clunie, who has for years assisted women in at least one penal institution, said she is often asked why she is doing the programme, especially in this financial climate. Her response is, "someone has to do it because knowledge has no use unless it is imparted."
"I am doing this for selfish reasons, as well, because the more I help these young men and women, then the less likely it is that they will turn up at my gate to beg or otherwise."
Carmen Clarke and broadcaster Cliff Hughes are both volunteer teachers in personal development and English, respectively. Other teachers are Clunie's son, Kevear, who teaches introductory computer science and her husband, Owen, who teaches them basic civil rights.
Clarke told Flair that at the beginning of each class, the students are asked to read the editorial pages of The Gleaner. She said six weeks ago the students could hardly read the paper. But now they have improved, and words they cannot identify they underline and then they look for the meaning in the dictionary (a much-needed item).
Clarke further stated that they have found out that one of the young men in the programme is dyslexic.
"I was amazed because he went through high school and graduated without anyone picking it up. However, I plan on getting him enrolled in a special programme that The Mico University College has that will assist him, because he has very good reasoning abilities and is articulate," said Clarke.
When Flair visited the class, students were in the middle of reading a composition on what were their expectations in a year's time. Patricia Campbell, one of the students and who the teachers said is the most improved, wrote a composition that they were proud of.
She wrote, " First, I would like to tell you a little about myself. My name is Patricia Campbell. I am 38 years old and I have two sons ... . My hobbies are reading, writing and playing netball."
She continued, " What I want to happen in my life for the next year is based on me finishing this class, which ends in May. I am going to attend class every day, do my homework, try to focus and learn everything my teachers teach, then graduate and get my certificate, which will enable me to get a job at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel or a Sandals resort hotel doing house keeping ... ."
Others also wrote about their aim to complete the course. Some even wrote about acquiring a house, car, and getting a job, but Clarke explained to them that while they want to achieve all those things, it is important that they set realistic and achievable goals.
She also encouraged them to work hard and be committed in order to move forward. Clarke also told Flair that Campbell and a few other students since enrolling in the programme, have been the ones to read the paper to their household or others in their communities.
Campbell added that since she started the programme, she has realised what it is to be someone. "I am glad for the opportunity to be a part of the class and I hope I will achieve all my goals for the coming year," said Campbell.