Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
KNOLLIS, St Catherine:TWENTY-FOUR-year-old Shandeen Ellis believes it is imperative for young people to be multi-skilled in order to survive in today's competitive world. It's for this reason that, although her dream is to become an early childhood educator, she grabbed the opportunity recently to get training in soft furnishings at the Knollis Community Centre.
"I always tell people, 'If it's free or not, you always can learn something else because anything can happen and you might not be able to fulfill your dream, but you can do something else'," she told The Gleaner.
Ellis was one of 30 participants in the Alternative Livelihood and Skills Development Programme, a subcomponent of the Inner-City Basic Services Project (ICBSP) implemented in Knollis, St Catherine, by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and hosted by the Knollis Benevolent Society.
PROGRAMME ON IN FIVE PARISHES
The programme is geared towards livelihood and skills development for persons from the 12 pre-selected inner-city communities in Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, St James, and Clarendon.
In addition to soft furnishings, welding and fabrication, participants in Knollis were exposed to résumé writing, business ethics, and interview preparation.
For Ellis, who has completed Level One training in early childhood education, the programme has broadend her focus.
"I've learnt how to make various types of cushions, the measurements for sheets, how to cut, sew, and string the various parts of the machine," said Ellis, a graduate of St Andrew Technical High School.
Thirty-two-year-old Indira Campbell was no less excited about being a participant in the ICBSP.
GRATEFUl FOR OPPORTUNITY
"At first, I never know how to string a machine, and I can close my eyes and do it now," she said proudly. "I am now a professional in cushion-making and I never knew how to do it before I came here. I must thank JSIF for the opportunity, and I also thank Miss Lee, who is a very good teacher," Campbell added.
Stophia Lee, soft furnishings facilitator, said while it was challenging to teach the participants who came from different social backgrounds in the four-week programme, she was proud of their achievements.
"After they finish this course, they are expected to be able to go out - although not everybody, but most of them - and help themselves by making a livelihood using what they've learnt here," Lee told The Gleaner.
Paul Ellis, public relations officer for the Knollis Benevolent Society and instructor of the welding and fabrication aspect of the project, said the 12 persons who participated in the programme showed a high level of interest in the craft.
"It was a bit difficult at first to teach them, but once they started, they were eager to learn. They made flowerpots, as well as patio sets, and they did tile-making," reported Ellis, a certified welder and a HEART graduate.
LEARNING TO COOK, WELD
Aspiring chef, 21-year-old Odaine Howell, said that in addition to cooking various dishes, he has learnt a skill that can earn him a living.
"I learnt how to weld and now I can make flower stand," he said proudly.
For 17-year-old Chanderpaul Ellis, whose ambition is to become a mechanical engineer, the programme has brought together youth on the corner in a meaningful manner.
"This project is a very good idea because many of the young people here now would be at home or down the lane doing nothing," he said.
Michelle Marshall, secretary of the Benevolent Society, told The Gleaner that while the ICBSP has been impacting young people in general in a positive manner since it was implemented in the community in 2006, it had a significant impact on males in particular.
"It has impacted the community a great deal, especially the unattached males," said Marshall.
"We try to keep them occupied keeping them out of trouble. Practically all the guys here will be going to Above Rocks HEART Academy. The programme has also helped to change their behaviour."