Amitabh Sharma, Contributor
Excitement resonated in the voices of Shayzan Andriade and William Lewis as they proudly pointed out the numerous jewellery items handcrafted out of wires, twines and coffee beans, explaining the meticulous process.
"I took a wire, twisted with pliers and then put coffee beans," explained Lewis, as Andriade, with a gleam in her eyes, clutched a bracelet she made from coffee beans.
The budding artists, Lewis and Andriade are part of Chupse, an initiative of The Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID), to encourage intellectually disabled persons to acquire skill sets, hone their creative acumen and integrate them into the society.
"Chupse was conceived as a brand name to sell the fashion jewellery made by persons with intellectual disabilities (ID) by JICA (Japan International Cooperative Agency) volunteers," informed Marilyn McKoy, development officer at JAID.
"It was catchy and also summed up the love and affection behind the initiative," McKoy added. "When you buy a Chupse product, you get something that's made from the heart and you spread love."Chupse, which means a kiss in Jamaican parlance, has seven participants in Kingston, who make coffee-bean accessories, which are sold at various outlets across Jamaica.
The coffee beans are supplied by Jamaica UCC Blue Mountain Coffee Ltd.
For this is the Yuletide season and the spirit of goodness is in the air, Chupse accessories make for a perfect gift and give a new dimension to the morning brew.
From necklaces, bracelets, earrings and key rings - all products are handcrafted, with designs visualised by the designers themselves. "I look at a picture and then make a design," says Lewis, one of JAID's success stories, who starts work at a coffee farm next year.
"We want to defy the myth that they (those with ID) cannot be productive citizens," said Yuko Matsumoto, special education adviser and JICA volunteer. "They have a lot of skills and need the opportunity to lead fruitful and productive lives."
It is a dollar well spent for those who are looking for unique and indigenous gift items. The revenue earned from sales of the accessories is put back into the programme.
"The participants are given a stipend, a little incentive and given a chance to integrate with the society," said McKoy. As a part of the programme, the Chupse team members go dining, shopping and get a chance see life beyond the confines of their homes.
Launched in July 2011, through Chupse, JAID envisions integrating those with ID into the societal stream and making them meaningful citizens.
"This cannot be achieved without local volunteer support," Matsumoto, who has been working with JAID for two years, said. "We will go back home (to Japan) but we want to make Chupse a vehicle of success."
As Charles Dickens said in A Christmas Carol: "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year … ," supporting initiatives like Chupse will spread lots of love, happiness and gratifying that the money spent goes into making a difference.
More information on Chupse products can be had from: The Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities, 7 Golding Avenue, Kingston 7. email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 1-876-977-0134 or go to their website: jaid.org.jm.