Career & Education

Jamaican IVLP participant describes experience as enriching, educational and inspirational

Sunday, February 18, 2018

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ALLISON Tenn is a dynamic young woman with a passion to see young people realise their full potential. This she does through her profession as a social worker with the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), where she has served since October 2012.

She also assists the peace-brokering process, and organises community interventions to facilitate healing. Her common interests include advocacy for women, children and at-risk youth.

The PMI was established in 2002 and uses alternative dispute resolution methodologies to treat community-based violence. Tenn is primarily a first responder to crime scenes, providing support for victims.

As such, she was selected to participate in the US State Department's International Visitors' Leadership Programme (IVLP) on the subject 'Advancing & sustaining civic engagement'. The programme took place from September 11-29, 2017 in Washington, DC, where she met counterparts from 20 different countries.

This IVLP programme explored the American experience of expanding equal opportunities through political and social engagement. It also sought to survey key movements, such as women's rights, civil rights and immigrant rights.

Tenn is expected to be an influencer and driver for social change through continuous civic engagements in Jamaica.

In a recent interview with the US Embassy, the young woman described the value of the programme and how she benefited.

How would you describe the programme?

The programme was enriching, educational and inspirational. Two major highlights of the programme for me were (1) the opportunity to volunteer and give back to those in need, and (2) the home hospitality visit.

What were at least two major highlights?

We volunteered at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, a hunger relief organisation in North Carolina that provides food items for children and low-income families. Americans are big on volunteerism, and we felt blessed as a group from different corners of the world to pack breakfast and snack items for American schoolchildren in need.

Another highlight was having dinner in North Carolina with a couple that I will never forget. Scott and Rebecca are a sweet, energetic retired couple who enriched our stay with colourful stories of American history and cultural topics and delicious food! There was never a dull moment around them, and we were free to ask questions about the American way of life and share [information] about our respective cultures.

How can your experiences from this programme assist in advancing civic engagement in Jamaica?

Accountability and transparency are important themes that Jamaica needs in order for us to sustain civic engagement. We need more “watchdog” organisations and awareness among citizens about issues facing our country, and more follow-up on the handling of these situations by the government and organisations involved. What I believe the US has that is working for them are several agencies and grassroots organisations that monitor issues of interest in their nation, and are willing, ready and able to speak out and demand answers when wrongs have been committed. These agencies are not afraid to demand accountability and transparency and to speak out on social media when a wrong has been done. They will go as far as to demand a public apology or a resignation, and host protests and advocate to build awareness around the issue. The few local organisations on our tiny island that do this need to become more visible and utilise social media to let Jamaicans know what it is they are doing. They should host campaigns, fairs and/or community events highlighting their work, and raise awareness of what civic engagement really means. This engagement needs to go into the schools so that children and youth from an early age can understand what it really means to be involved in the civic life of our communities and develop the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. Pamphlets, brochures, blogs and short videos in the form of skits or songs on the importance of civic engagement are creative ways in which we can reach both adults and young people.

What can different local stakeholders do to raise awareness/profile of civic engagement among Jamaicans?

Local organisations can build civic engagement in Jamaica through the recruitment of volunteers. Developing programmes to attract young people and adults to volunteer for a cause will help educate and foster civic engagement in citizens. Also, giving back and assisting those in need is a way that stakeholders can increase civic engagement in Jamaica, and organisations that are doing so should be publicised as a way of recruiting volunteers and seeking out donations. I plan to help develop our volunteer programme at my organisation so that people who want to give back and make their communities safer can volunteer their time and skill sets at the PMI.

The IVLP facilitates short-term visits to the United States for current and emerging leaders in a variety of fields. Participants experience the United States first-hand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. For further information on this and other professional exchanges facilitated by the US Embassy in Kingston, visit or email

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