Remand centre opens doors to business - Young women make strides with fledgling ventures
When Kadian Lewis and Iyania Turner were shipped off to the South Camp Juvenile Remand and Correctional Centre in Kingston, they never imagined that their stay would redound to more than rehabilitation.
They left the facilities with capital to start their own businesses and a new lease on life.
Both women were engaged in the ‘A New Path’ project, which seeks to transform youth who are in remand centres and state care facilities.
The initiative, which was implemented by the Institute of Law and Economics (ILE) in 2015, is funded by the Organization of American States and the United States Agency for International Development.
Yesterday, 80 young women and men, along with case managers who were trained in specialist reintegration for inmates exiting juvenile correctional facilities, were awarded by ILE. The case managers’ training was financed by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.
Lewis grew up in Airy Castle, St Thomas, where she attended St Thomas Technical High School.
“Peer pressure caused me to go astray, and my mother just wanted me back on track,” the 19-year-old recounted of her fifth-form year.
Her mother, Ann-Marie Harris, was also in attendance at the pre-International Women’s Day forum held at The Spanish Court Hotel.
“I tried at guidance counselling, I tried everything I could until the day came when I said I had to take her to the CDA (Child Development Agency). Sending your child to a correctional facility is tough love, but I knew it was for the best.”
“I am a higgler and I’ll be coming down tonight (Friday) to come to Coronation Market to sell, but I put everything aside just to be here with her today. The journey was troubling at one time, but now I can say, ‘Thanks be to God,’ my child is moving ahead and in the right direction,” she said of her first child.
Their mother-daughter bond has strengthened, and neither party has any resentment about the decisions made in the past.
“I don’t regret it at all. I enjoyed staying at South Camp for the short time – two months, one week and five days,” Lewis said.
Lewis was recommended for an entrepreneur pitch competition by the correctional facility. She wrote up her business plan and successfully pitched it to a panel of judges in 2018.
Lewis was granted $300,000 to start the business, Kay-Dane’s Sparkling Car Wash, which operates in Old Harbour Bay, St Catherine.
She won again in 2019, pitching at that time an expansion plan, to include an office space, as well as an electronic point-of-sale machine.
Lewis employs three workers and plays an integral role in the day-to-day activities of the business, which has a clientele largely made up of taxi operators.
“I oversee the two workers and get feedback from the customers. I’ve washed about 1,000 cars since I started. We do taxis and private cars, so the taxis would come every day, and private cars would come on average three times per week,” Lewis explained.
Lewis rents the property where she operates the business, and the next step is to set up a food court or ‘lyming’ area for customers while their vehicles are being serviced.
Her mother wore a bright smile and expressed gratitude to the various stakeholders.
“I couldn’t have given her a car wash. I couldn’t have helped her to raise the money to open her own business, so I thank them for seeing the opportunity for her and all the other children,” Harris said.
Iyania Turner’s story was similar to Lewis’, although her experience at the facility was mixed.
She dreaded the seven months she was away from her family, but used the opportunity to transform her life.
“I learnt principles of business and principles of accounts, which I didn’t learn at school. I learnt to manage my anger and create stuff – flower bouquets, pillows, and I also played netball there,” she said.
Turner, who lives in St Thomas, ventured into poultry farming.
The $250,000 grant allowed her to build the coop that houses 150 chickens and purchase the necessary supplies for start-up.
She is helped by her mother and supplies chicken to schools, jerk vendors, shops, and households.
“I have been saving my profits to expand the coop. I want to raise more than 200 chickens,” she told The Gleaner.
Turner completed a yearlong practical nursing course in 2017 and harbours dreams of becoming a registered nurse.