Homeless to hopeful

Orlando Grant benefits from HOPE programme

Monday, June 04, 2018

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It was sheer determination to improve his situation that led Kingston-born Orlando Grant to sign up for the Government's Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment Programme (HOPE).

“Because of some unfortunate events in my family, I ended up on the street begging strangers for money and food,” explains Orlando in an interview with JIS News.

Grant says that life on the streets was difficult and after several months “I decided that I had to do something about my situation”.

From the money he had accumulated through donations from passers-by, he purchased phone cards and began reaching out to Government agencies and departments for assistance. His quest led him to the Office of the Prime Minister, where he says a “very kind-spirited lady” offered to make some checks and call him back.

“True to her word, the lady called me back about one hour after and told me that she spoke to Col Martin Rickman, and she promised me that he was going to give me a call,” he relates.

He says he was quite surprised the following day when his phone rang and the caller identified himself as Martin Rickman, national coordinator of the HOPE programme.

“He asked me what kind of identification I have and directed me to the HEART Trust/NTA office,” Grant says, adding that he was instructed to take any form of identification he possessed to the office and to submit an application to join the September cohort.

He says he wasted no time in following the directives, as he was desperate to turn his situation around.

Just before he started the programme, Grant said he had the good fortune of being offered shelter by a lady who was concerned that he was on the street.

He has since completed the initial training with HEART and is now finalising the internship portion of his tenure as a customer service representative at the National Land Agency (NLA). He will complete his tenure in the programme in April 2019 and hopes to continue making strides toward a productive future.

“It has been a great experience being at the NLA,” Grant tells JIS News. “The staff has really welcomed me and I think I fit in well,” he adds.

Col Rickman calls Grant's story truly heart-warming.

“I really admire his determination to change his circumstances and often tell him how happy I am that he… chose to turn his life around,” Rickman says.

“He is an inspiration to everyone that no matter what your circumstances are, you can choose a better path in your life, and help is available to do so through HOPE and other programmes,” he adds.

Col Rickman tells JIS News that the feedback from the NLA regarding Grant has been complimentary.

“I want to thank (Col) Rickman of the HOPE programme and the staff at HEART for all their help and for believing in me. I want to also thank the NLA for all the support that I get from them right now,” the young man says.

Launched by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in May 2017, HOPE is aimed at providing educational and job opportunities for young people, aged 18 to 24, who are either not employed or enrolled in a school or programme of training.

It is part of a broader training and apprenticeship programme which will provide an avenue for the development of fully rounded individuals who have the social, academic and technical skills to become productive members of the society.

Up to April 18, there were 5,000 participants in the programme and of that number, 2,500 are actively engaged in a number of specialised areas across various government agencies and departments.

“We have persons placed within organisations such as National Housing Trust, Accountant General's Department, Factories Corporation of Jamaica, Urban Development Corporation, Port Authority of Jamaica, HEART Trust/NTA, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, among others, and we are hoping to have some take-up within the private sector in short order,” Col Rickman says.

All HOPE programme participants or interns participate in a mandatory core training programme inclusive of life skills, citizenship, work ethics, discipline, volunteerism and entrepreneurship. They also engage in specific skills training and serve as apprentices, earning a stipend.

After this engagement, which will be for up to one year, the plan is for these interns to transition into the workforce or go on to further training with improved attitudes and skills, and a foundation on which they can build for further employment, training or education.

The HOPE programme is guided by the principle that every Jamaican youth will be provided the opportunity to work to learn, work to earn, work to give service to the nation and work to save for their future — learning, earning, giving, saving.

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