RON Cunningham, the Jamaican-born Canadian who received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal of Honour in July for outstanding work among youth in the North American country, is looking to replicate his efforts in Jamaica.
Cunningham, here on a one-week visit on personal business, said his passion for work among at-risk youth in Canada was stoked by his Jamaican roots and the memories of deprived young people during his boyhood days in Granville, St James.
He said he was interested in forming partnerships with individuals and organisations who would work with him to identify youth projects and raise funds to finance them anywhere in Jamaica.
Cunningham, who also received a Special Certificate of Recognition from the Governor General of Canada, co-founded the 10-year-old Citizens for the Advancement of Community Development (CACD), the vehicle which gained him the attention of the Canadian authorities through his work in the Peel Region, notably the Mississauga neighbourhoods of Cooksville, Dixie and Hurontario.
"I am especially interested in helping Jamaican youth to develop their natural entrepreneurial abilities through money management and mentoring programmes. This is an ability which I see borne out in their activities, whether legitimate or illegitimate," he told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Cunningham pointed to the lotto scam in Montego Bay, making it clear he abhorred the practice, but saying he could not help noticing that youths as young as 15 and 16 were displaying "unbelievable confidence to be calling people all over the world in what is an illegitimate activity".
"Imagine if we can channel this into legitimate programmes. I feel I could make a contribution to Jamaica in this regard, working with other interested parties to redirect their energies," he said.
Cunningham said he had started assisting some schools and community organisations in Jamaica, working with others to stage workshops or equipping computer centres or community centres with computers and sewing machines sourced in Canada. He plans to introduce his health promoting school project, targeting fatherless boys in communities like Papine, St Andrew, as the pilot.
"I'd like to see a pilot community/educational development centre situated in proximity to schools, police facilities, health clinics and other fundamental structural organisations, which will provide close linkage and coordination of services and supports and address community-identified needs and goals.
"Such a multi-faceted centre would represent an important new sun on the Jamaican horizon, a ball of light and energy that enables the Jamaican youth to grow, flourish and shine. I am talking about programmes and activities such as health promoting schools; life skills training, community policing and counselling programmes, adult literacy, counselling and parenting, employment preparation, entrepreneurship and money management, sport, recreation and leisure," said Cunningham.
On a personal note, he said while in Jamaica he would be seeking information on investment opportunities with which he could link investors in Canada. So far, he had noted opportunities in Information Technology and micro-finance.
He told the Observer that many Canadians of Jamaican descent had a strong desire to "get a piece of the Rock" and frequently complained that information on investment opportunities in Jamaica, despite JAMPRO, was hard to come by.
Cunningham said he woud accept inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org from serious interested parties who wished to explore the possibilities.