FOR over 21 years, Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), the premier mentorship programme in the developing world, has been serving Jamaican youths, parents, teachers and communities promoting growth through various mentorship and training programmes.
And for the 21 years, they have depended on the funding from various donor agencies like the Inter American Development Bank (IDB), USAID and the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica to run their 21 programmes, which is sometimes insufficient to meet their administrative needs.
This year, when the organisation hit a financial crisis and were faced with the possible closure, they sent out a distress call to corporate Jamaica, and it was telecomunications company LIME who came their rescue.
The LIME Jamaica Foundation presented a donation of $700,000 to YOU last Thursday, covering the total cost of the organisation's fund-raising Christmas card production, a beneficial income-generating project necessary for the organisation's sustainability.
Each year, YOU also asks local artistes to donate pieces to be used as the covers of their Christmas cards, to widen their selection for sales, as the proceeds will be used to help cover the organisation's administrative overheads and keep it running.
"They asked, we looked at the need and we thought that it was something that we should do, and what more worthy cause could there be, I mean mentoring our young people, with so many of them at risk," said Errol Miller, chairman of the LIME Jamaica Foundation.
"LIME has always been there for the young people of Jamaica. We live here, we make our money here, and we figure we should spend it in the society to support the various causes," he added.
"We are very pleased that LIME has come on board at this time and we are also appealing to other members of corporate Jamaica to assist in keeping the largest mentoring organisation of this kind in the region open," said Claudette Chin, managment consultant & YOU director.
YOU tethers mentors to at risk Jamaican youth so that they have a stable adult in their lives to whom they can look up to and emulate. YOU's mentors are chosen from the wider Jamaican public and are normally asked to be committed for two years but many have developed exceptional relationships with their mentees and have been a part of the programme for at least five years, with a few mentors having been a part of the programme since its inception.
"The mentors are there to offer emotional support and psycho-social support, so it's really helping them to enhance their lives in terms of focusing on their school work, to help them with their sense of integrity and their development as a human being. They offer a parental role, many of the youngsters don't have stable parenting and they act as parents," Chin said.
YOU also offers critical programmes that provide young people with life skills and employability skills, and each of the 21 programmes has been developed based on the need of a particular community, with the programmes being continuously restructured to keep up with the times and the needs of the community.
"We are known as the smallest but largest mentoring programme in the developing world. A lot of the international mentoring organisations are just coming on board with some of the things that we have been doing for years, for example, parent mentoring and peer-to-peer mentoring, because of the need that's here," said Georgia W Lewis Scott, YOU executive director.
Adding "Many of the organisations that exist do not pass a hundred mentors, but at any point in time we have between 250 and 300 active mentors, that does not include the others that we still have to keep in touch with. We also have between 3,500 and 4,500 youth per year enrolled in the programme, so a lot of our mentors take on more than one child."
The LIME donation will incorporate the printing of 50,000 greeting cards as well as 4,000 promotional flyers. The pieces chosen for this year's card selection are: Bernard Hoyes' Urban Jazz, Sharon Fox's Mould Hibicus 5, Lennox Coke's Jelly Man, Betty Granville's Blue Mountain, Sonia Richards' Market Vibes, and an orginal photograph taken by Lewis Scott entitled Paradise at French Man's Cove.
— Kristen Laing