‘God just a bless me’
JSIF grant gives renewed hope to Denham Town businesses
Ann-Marie Blackstock is one of 28 Denham Town microenterprise owners who has benefited from the over $2.9 million in grants distributed by the Government of Jamaica and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s (JSIF) collaborative efforts in addressing the needs within economically disadvantaged communities.
In the second phase of the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP-II), the 13 men and 15 women, were given the well-needed financial support to not only contribute to Jamaica’s overall economic growth, but to be able to create more jobs within there community, benefiting others. They operate within the community in areas such as retail and food services, photography, videography, barbering, and livestock rearing,
The project’s goal is to identify eight socially volatile communities in Jamaica to improve access to basic social services to create sustainable employment and income generation. Seen as a life saver, the funds came right in time for 54-year-old Blackstock.
She told The Gleaner that she was worried about how she was going to carry on after losing both her son and business, and enduring the financial hardships that arose as a result of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Through JSIF’s intervention in December 2021, she received a fridge and cash donation of over $20,000, with with Blackstock was able to resume her business and replenish her stock to sell on a push cart in the community and supply her shop in downtown Kingston.
“Since me get the grant, me nuh know, is like God just a bless me,” Blackstock said.
“Every day me buy load (supplies); normally me never used to do that,” she added, referencing her ability to stock food items she sells to residents.
With this help, she is now able to earn up to $70,000 on good business days, which, she says, are during the weekends.
Entrepreneurs were also given business development training in costing, customer service, marketing and sales, financial literacy and budgeting, maintenance of business records, and legal requirements of microenterprises, in addition to receiving tools.
Mona Sue Ho, senior manager of social development at JSIF, in her address, noted that it was important for JSIF to design a project that would connect entrepreneurs to business support services outside of the communities. Some of these service providers included the Companies Office of Jamaica, the Scientific Research Council, the Ministry of Health and Wellness and HEART/ NSTA Trust.
“It is very important for us to recognise that the grants are a hand-up and not a handout, and that enterprises who benefit have a responsibility to themselves, to the community, and also to the Government of Jamaica,” she said, noting that the aim was to move business owners from being informal to formal business operators, while recognising the importance of partners.
She also encouraged them to give back to their community, after identifying the areas that are in need andso provide the required attention.
“As you go forward, please be open to the possibility that you, too, can become an important part in providing resources to the community,” said Sue Ho.
Desmond McKenzie, member of parliament for Kingston Western, said in his address that despite the community’s reputation for unproductive youngsters on street corners, crime and violence and other illegal activities, willing and genuine hard-working individuals can still be found.
“It is an amazing story here in west Kingston, because many people believe that all we are good for around here is either to rub our fingers in the middle of we hands, or [be] involved in activities which are questionable ... but there are very motivated, committed, persons living in west Kingston who needs an opportunity,” he said.
McKenzie also echoed the call of Sue Ho for residents to take make good use of the opportunity presented to them.
“Regardless of how small what you are doing is, you can’t continue to depend on people to do thing for you. So somebody give you a start; make use of the opportunity. Run with it, and run with it in a positive way,” he said, hoping that positive changes will transform the community.