An enduring JCDC community project
BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
MANDEVILLE, Manchester — In 2009 when Manchester resident Lanisia Rhoden walked away with the crown as the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) festival queen for the parish, she wanted to embark on a community service project that would assist young people, particularly young women.
Rhoden said that her interest was sparked from seeing students at the HEART Trust/NTA, where she worked as an instructor, who were brilliant and had great potential but lacked the necessary guidance in choosing careers and taking steps to achieve them.
"...Considering a big sister programme sounded a bit cliché, but then when looking at my surroundings in the classroom where I was, I realised that this project would have made a difference...," she said.
With five volunteers and eight mentees, an organisation bearing the name Young Women of Purpose (YWOP) was launched.
The community service project, which provides mentorship and moral support to young people aged 13-25, has long outlasted her reign and recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.
Vivien Morris-Brown, JCDC parish manager for Manchester said YWOP is by far the most successful community service project in terms of its continuity.
"The projects of the festival queens are intended to be fully implemented during the year of the queen's reign. However, the ideal situation is that the project will become such an important aspect of the life of the communities in which they are executed that the communities themselves will take over and will be part of that continuing process. This one (YWOP)... is by far the most successful in that regard," she told the Jamaica Observer Central.
Since the inception of YWOP, several related charities have also been created -- Young Men of Purpose (YMOP), an annual Christmas Treat mainly for special needs children at 3D Projects, and a club at Cross Keys High School in South Manchester.
Young Women/Men of Purpose in 2012 became the first Jamaican organisation to receive a UN Habitat Urban Youth Fund Grant and Rhoden, who now serves as chairman, said the award is top among its achievements.
Through YWOP/YMOP's Youth Entrepreneurship Project 50 young people were selected for training and 14 participants who were successful in a business pitch session received a grant of US$500 each towards the development of their business.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Project was continued over a nine-month period and YWOP/YMOP's fifth anniversary celebration was also the Project's closing ceremony.
"This project attracted some of the most creative minds in Jamaica...," said project manager Shamoy Hajare.
Rhoden said going forward, the organisation plans to establish a social enterprise which will enable the organisation to generate an income to sustain projects. She told the Observer Central that they envisage a career services business using a technology platform for that purpose.
Rhoden said that getting YWOP/YMOP into more high and junior high schools and its own property to conduct business are also part of the organisation's plans.
Entrepreneur Heneka Watkis-Porter, who was guest speaker at the Youth Entrepreneurship closing ceremony and fifth anniversary celebration, has also indicated an interest in having a YWOP/YMOP group in St Catherine.
Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay has encouraged the group to take succession planning seriously in order for the concept, which she described as noble, to continue and expand.