Central Village rising on the back of chickens
Alessandro Boyd, Gleaner Writer
It has been 16 months since the inception of the Digicel Foundation's Project LIFE (Low Income Family Entrepreneur) in Central Village, St Catherine, and the participants are fairly pleased as they are gearing up to lend a helping hand to other residents.
The Central Village Benevolent Society (CVBS) has been working to develop its community through basic infrastructure, youth development, community outreach, and economic development.
Project LIFE has been an ongoing project done on a small scale across seven communities in St Catherine and Clarendon: Central Village, Knollis, Shelter Rock, Tawes Meadows, Bucknor, Lauriston, and March Pen.
The persons who are selected for the project are given a starter kit, which comprises 50 chickens, two water fountains, two feed fountains and medication for the chicken. They have to provide the coop themselves.
The objectives are to engage families of lowly paid earners to improve their income-generating potential, engage them to be productive, and increase social interaction among communities.
Mark Lewis, who is the project manager for the Central Village community, stated that the project has been a success for many of the residents, as they were in dire need of assistance.
"We target certain families that need the help, because it's a low-income earning project. We have persons that are scattered throughout the community, and give them a helping hand as they really need it," he told The Gleaner.
"The feedback has been good and they have been really appreciative of the opportunity that they have been provided with," Lewis added.
Hopeton Henry, a 64-year-old beneficiary of the project, told The Gleaner how the initiative helped him after retiring as a correctional officer four years ago, a job he had for 37 years.
"Currently, it is a good venture, and I would recommend anybody to go into chicken rearing. I raise chickens and have a few markets that I can sell to. When I just came to Central Village more than 30 years ago, we raised about 35 chickens. If I never had a job back then, I would have definitely gone into chicken rearing," he told The Gleaner.
Henry is also used as one of the advisers when conducting training because of his vast knowledge of raising chickens.
"Rearing the chickens is not just about putting them in the coop and letting them live; it takes more work than that and a lot of tender care. They need to know how much to feed the chickens and the right temperature at which the coop should be or the chicken would die and we end up at a loss," Lewis said.
"We need to do this in order to ensure things go well. After all, it is a sustainability project," he added.
Lewis also noted that the participants are required to give back to their community.
"In the contract that we have with each participant, it states that after their third cycle of chickens, they must give back to the benevolent society so that they can help another person in the society. If they get 25 chickens, then they can give someone else in the community five to start their own business," he said.
Samantha Chantrelle, CEO of the Digicel Foundation, has stated that the feedback from the members of the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
"At the Digicel Jamaica Foundation, sustainability is at the core of our work. When we are approached by organisations looking for assistance, the foundation evaluates projects based on a number of key criteria, such as the sustainability of the project and the impact it will have on the lives of persons within in the communities," she told The Gleaner.
"The Central Village model, because of its impact and the buy-in received from across the communities, has now been adopted in our other communities across Jamaica. The Central Village community has also reported that they were able to send at least five children of the participating families to university. Community groups such as this one show all of Jamaica that with a little investment, training and support, the spin-off benefits will continue for many years to come," Chantrelle added.