PM youth awardees passionate about service, not rewards

Career & Education

PM youth awardees passionate about service, not rewards

Sunday, January 26, 2020

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For Ricardo Burke, youth development embodies a personal mission to give children in his community of Gregory Park, Portmore, St Catherine, and across the country, the opportunities he never had.

“It has been a journey for me that has been both fun and emotional because I get to do something that I love and also, [get] to give children opportunities I didn't receive,” said the volunteer, who quit his job four years ago to manage his foundation full-time.

Burke, along with fellow awardee Shanique Rogers, were recently at the JN Money Services Limited's head office in Kingston to receive their cash awards for being conferred the Prime Minister's 2019 Youth Award for Youth Development; and for Nation Building through Community Development.

A third recipient, Rodain Richardson, who also received the award for Nation Building through Community Development, was represented by his friend Zoie Ann Harris and his grandmother, Delceta Roberts.

Burke started Yute4Change Foundation Homework and Integrity Centre in 2014. He manages the homework centre and a breakfast feeding programme for students in Gregory Park. The foundation also provides meals for the homeless and provides personal care packages to people in rural communities.

“I didn't volunteer for accolades and awards,” Burke said. “I started this work to assist people in need. Therefore, I am thankful for those who donate and support our foundation. The reward to me is that someone decided to nominate the foundation.”

Burke explained that his rationale for starting the foundation is that he understands what it means to want something as a child and not be able to afford it.

“I grew up in a family which didn't have a lot of money,” he disclosed. “The aim of the foundation is to create opportunities for children left behind. And our focus has now moved beyond that to numerous outreach projects that benefit the elderly, parents, and youth. We try to prevent children from dropping out of school by giving them the push they need,” Burke said.

Rogers, meanwhile, is a resident of Portland, and she, too, expressed dedication to youth development.

“I have always been involved in community work from I was younger,” said the third-year student. “I've always had the heart to give, which grew during high school. I found out that I could give back, whether it was through a club in high school, or one which gave to persons in need in my community.”

Rogers is involved in several organisations dedicated to community service. She is part of the Port Antonio Theatre Group, which performs for children at Port Antonio Hospital as one of its main outreach projects. She is also an organiser of the Ms Marlin Tournament through which she trains young women in the areas of speech and drama, grooming and proper etiquette.

Additionally, Rogers assists Lighthouse, Shot Over, Spring Bank & Stony Hill Benevolent Society with community development projects and is vice-president for Simna Entrepreneurship Group which offers free entrepreneurship training.

“I felt excited to be nominated, because someone saw the work that I have been doing and recognised me. When I won, I felt appreciated; and thought that it was good for the Government to recognise persons who did work in their communities,” she added.

For his part, Richardson is founder of Jamaica Youth Motivators, an organisation whose members visit schools across the country to motivate and empower students.

“We did not get involved in community service for recognition, but sometimes it's good to say thank you for the hard work; and here is an award to highlight what you have been doing,” Harris said.

Sanya Wallace, senior manager, strategic planning and marketing, at JN Money Services (JNMS), explained that the remittance company was proud of the recipients and the contributions they have made to community development and to nation-building.

“Based on the work that these young persons have done, I can say with confidence that Jamaica's future is in good hands. These young persons have been selfless in terms of devoting their time and effort to their communities and deserve recognition,” said Wallace.

“As a company which believes in nation-building, developing Jamaica and Jamaicans, we at JNMS are proud of their efforts. We commend them for their various projects and wish them all the best,” she said.

The Prime Minister's National Youth Awards for Excellence was introduced in 1998, to recognise young Jamaicans who have excelled and contributed to national development. The awards programme is open to all Jamaican nationals between 15 and 29 years old who have attained excellence and world-class achievement and reside in Jamaica, or the Jamaican Diaspora.

JN Bank and JN Money are among the government's partners for National Youth Month, which is observed in November annually.

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