Lanisia Rhoden - A woman of purpose

Lanisia Rhoden - A woman of purpose


Sunday, July 31, 2016

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HER personal philosophy is ‘whatever the mind can conceive one can achieve’, and that’s what she’s been living by.

Lanisia Rhoden, 32, is a purpose-driven, persistent, God-fearing young woman with a passion for working with young people and making a difference in their lives.

Born in Mandeville, Manchester, Rhoden grew up in the Newport and Knockpatrick communities in a small family that comprised her father (a pastor), her mother and older brother.

She told All Woman that during this time various scenarios were played out around her that influenced her eventual calling, but it was not until adulthood that she realised it.

"My mother was always helping young people, whether it was through the children’s home or infirmary outreach at our church or taking other young girls under her wing, and I would often wonder if she had other daughters. I would see her give special attention and care to guiding young women, especially teenagers, to ensure that they were following the right path. If she saw you doing something wrong she would want to correct you, not necessarily to reprimand, rather to steer you on the right path," Rhoden said.

While at Manchester High, Rhoden says being a part of the Girl Guides, Tourism Action Club and Key Club made her discover her passion for community service and hospitality, though she initially wanted to become a teacher.

"In high school and growing up as a child I always wanted to be a teacher. At home I was always teaching the chairs or whatever there was, but in high school I joined the Tourism Action Club and it sparked my interest in hospitality which influenced what I studied at the time. So I did subjects like food and nutrition and home economics management as I really wanted to work in the hotel industry," she said.

But after an internship in Negril, Rhoden, who holds a bachelor of science in food service management from the University of Technology, realised it was not her calling as she didn’t have time for herself and for participating in the community-based activities which she once enjoyed.

Subsequently, she had a change of heart and went to France for a year to teach English, after which she returned to Jamaica and taught hospitality and tourism at HEART before enrolling in an entrepreneurship training programme and starting her own company called Le Monde Concessionaire and Catering, where she found herself employing mainly young people.

Still not satisfied, Rhoden, then 24, decided to enter the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission’s Miss Manchester Festival Queen competition, which she won, and used as a platform to realise her passion.

"One of the requirements for the winner of the parish was to do a community service project. It really gave me the platform because at the time I was teaching at HEART. But one thing I realised was that many of the students were brilliant but some had mishaps during their childhood," she said. "Many of the girls became pregnant, so some of them didn’t complete high school, some didn’t have anyone to guide them and say it isn’t the end of the world. Many didn’t get to sit with a teacher and discuss their career paths, so not only was I a teacher, I was a also a friend and mentor to many of them. So after winning the competition, when I needed a community service project, immediately I wanted to carry on the work I was doing in the classroom in terms of guidance and mentorship for young women."

Rhoden added: "I was exposed to so many things and it really opened my eyes to a lot of things young people face in terms of abuse — physical abuse from partners or boyfriends. It was an eye-opening experience and I wanted to help to empower [them] in that way."

And so in 2009 she launched her community service project and non-governmental organisation called Young Women of Purpose (YWOP) to provide career advice and guidance for women in vulnerable circumstances.

However, by 2010, what started out with eight volunteers catering to women ages 16-25 was quickly expanded to include men, and catering to young people ages 13-25.

At present the non-governmental organisation, which provides mentorship sessions on different vocations, presentations from professionals, and pairs a mentee with a volunteer, has over 50 members and regularly goes into schools to do presentations aimed at empowering students and building their self-esteem.

The organisation also puts on an annual Christmas treat for children with special needs as part of a collaboration with 3D Projects.

"Usually you don’t see children with special needs out with their parents, so we wanted to do something for them. Every December, usually the second week, we get these children together and have them feted and treated," Rhoden explained.

"I’m the kind of person who looks for those who are underserved — those whom we tend to overlook. That’s why the organisation was started — to help young women who are ignored or who aren’t given enough attention based on their family background or situations they may get themselves in," she said.

Rhoden, a Rotarian who also holds a master of science in innovation management and entrepreneurship from the University of Manchester, UK, further stated that outside of mentorship, YWOP carries out two projects that are internationally funded: The Youth Entrepreneurship Project, which was funded by the UN-Habitat Urban Youth Fund in 2013, and REAP (Realise Embrace Achieve Your Purpose), which is funded by the Commonwealth Youth Council and CUSO International.

"Through the entrepreneurship project we were able to train 50 young entrepreneurs in Manchester and were able to give business grants of US$500 to the top 14 businesses, and that was open to entrepreneurs between 18 and 32 years old. REAP is a project for young women in Manchester who’ve experienced some sort of abuse, whether physical, sexual, domestic violence and/or teenage pregnancy," she said, adding that YWOP has recently created a social enterprise called Link Your Purpose — a career development platform that will provide career development services to young people using the internet.

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