IN the heart of Drews Land stands an agent of change. Transforming Lives, a non-profit organisation housed in the community is doing exactly as its name suggests with the help of foreign currency company FX Trader.
With a $250,000 injection from FX Trader, Transforming Lives has been arming the residents of the inner-city with tools to not only help them make a living, but provide an avenue for self-employment and upward mobility. The institution gives both vocational and life skills to some 100 persons annually, as young as 17-years-old. Most courses offered are Heart Trust/NTA certified and teach practical skills the students can apply to better their lives. Training is given in the areas of Garment Construction, Cosmetology, Information Technology, Soft Furnishing, and Multimedia Production.
Kerrian Johnson, FX Trader's marketing manager, said her company became involved in the project to have a meaningful impact on lives.
"The age old adage of 'teaching a man to fish' applies to the work of Transforming Lives. It is heartening to know that our financial support is resulting in a better quality of life, not just for these students but for their families. We believe that this programme and others like it are the start of ending the cycle of poverty in Jamaica," she said.
Transforming Lives chairperson Navene Harris has seen firsthand what victims of poverty battle.
"Trasforming lives was born out of a desperate need I saw. So many people here lack education and skill. It is difficult for these individuals to provide for themselves and their families. This has contributed to the crime and violence," said Harris.
Harris said her team walks the streets of inner-city communities to recruit students in the programme.
"You can see the boys sitting on the corner rubbing out their hand middles and the girls in the middle of the day just hanging out at their gates," said Harris.
"These are the people we engage. We also get some referrals from the Social Development Commission," she continued. "These are all young people in need of help who if left there, they could easily take the wrong path. I try my best to give them an alternative to the street."
She and a team of six undertake the task of transforming the students. The most recent additions to the team are two graduates of the programme.
Sandra Reid is part of the most recent cohort of students. Enrolled in the Information Technology programme at Transforming Lives, the middle-aged woman said the institute gave her an opportunity to finally engage a computer.
"Right here was my first time turning on a computer. I know now how to turn it on, how to go on the web, I learn about the programmes in Microsoft, a lot of things I learn here. I'm even learning about Facebook. The more I do it, the more interesting it becomes, so I put out a lot of effort in it and come," said Reid, who plans to enrol
in the Fashion Designing programme once she has completed her current course.
The number-one challenge identified by Harris in running the facility is a financial one, and this is the reason the FX Trader partnership is of such importance, she said.
"We use the contribution from FX Trader to offset most of our rent. Without a place to stay, none of this would be possible."