'Step Up 4 Armadale'
JNBS, Pure Potential and other private-sector entities join hands to support survivors of 2009 fire at correctional facility
Buoyed by support from corporate Jamaica, the Step Up 4 Armadale initiative has moved into a new phase as it tries to assist survivors of the May 22, 2009 fire at the State-operated juvenile female correctional facility that left seven girls dead.
Last week, 25 survivors of one of the greatest tragedies in a government facility in recent Jamaican history were hosted in a training and mentorship programme in response to their cries.
"We have been hearing your plight, and we want to help to do great things to overcome your challenges," said Marie Sparkes, initiator of the Step Up 4 Armadale project.
"I was approached a year ago by six of the survivors seeking help to move forward, and today represents one of the steps we are taking to ensure that you are able to do something positive with your lives," added Sparkes, who is the founder of Pure Potential, which is leading the initiative.
The interactive training and mentorship session included educators, motivational speakers and entrepreneurs, all with the objective of encouraging independence and self-worth among the girls.
With an obvious interest in entrepreneurship, the girls listened to testimonials from business owners, some of whom shared the challenges they experienced and how they have survived to become successful business owners.
One person the girls seemed to identify with was fashion store owner Shameca Green, who grew her business from a stall to a store, which now sells wares, retail and wholesale, to clients across the island.
Green emphasised that the growth in her business was possible because of loans she received from JN Small Business Loans (JNSBL).
Lack of jobs, minimum high-school education and unstable living situations are some obstacles the girls said they are now experiencing, as they try to adjust to a society from which they were locked away.
Against that background, JNSBL's Julian Alscott-Robinson encouraged the girls with entrepreneurial desires and interests to explore the option of financing their dream, which could propel them on a journey of independence.
"At JN Small Business Loans, we believe in entrepreneurship. We believe in giving young people such as you the option of becoming owners of businesses, which will enable you to chart your own path," explained Alscott-Robinson.
Acknowledging that money is a scarce and prized commodity for the survivors, they were also taught basic money management principles on how to spend wisely and to develop a pattern of compulsive saving.
The girls were engaged in a discussion about effective tools for money management by Rose Miller of the JNBS Foundation's Financial Literacy Project.
With the common cry among the girls being that there was no money or too little to save any portion, Miller walked them through decision-making steps, which can help them to prioritise.
"When you earn money, you should always remember to save; that is important for your journey to financial independence," declared Miller.
Beverly Clark of the HEART Trust/NTA also urged the young women to take the route of education to improve their lives.
The young women will participate in a yearlong project which includes one-to-one counselling sessions and themed workshops to assist them on the road to empowerment and financial stability.
And, despite the trauma and physical and emotional scars they walk around with, they are being encouraged through the support and guidance being provided by Pure Potential, Jamaica National Building Society, and mentors who are on board to Step Up 4 Armadale.