WLI to mentor COJO scholars
THE Women’s Leadership Initiative (WLI) is to partner with Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) in providing mentorship for former wards of the state who have received COJO scholarships to local tertiary institutions.
The offer was made by Eva Lewis, WLI Mentorship Committee chair on May 22, as 14 former wards received their awards at the COJO annual scholarship luncheon at the AC Marriott Hotel, Kingston, where she applauded Gary Williams Chairman of COJO for “unprecedented support of Jamaica’s underserved children in state care”.
“COJO has been privileged to provide support for these children and we welcome the offer from the WLI to assist them as they transition out of state care and into the world of tertiary education. We have no doubt that the lessons imparted by these ‘Bis Sisters’ will be of tremendous value to them,” Lewis said.
She explained that the 19-year old WLI has as its main mission promotion of sisterhood and the advancement of women and girls while contributing to nation building.
Founded by former US Ambassador to Jamaica, Sue Cobb in 2004, the WLI membership consists of female CEOs, business owners and senior executives of companies in Jamaica who are, “top of their game and making sterling contributions in a range of spheres”, Lewis explained.
The organisation has over several decades developed and funded mentorship programmes which benefitted several primary, secondary and tertiary students. In addition to funding infrastructure, equipment and special needs education at the Voluntary Organisation for the Upliftment of Children (VOUCH), the WLI has also hosted annual Darkness to Light education workshops on preventing and treating with child sexual abuse . Another programme, “Conversation With Boys” is a forum for adolescent boys to help with socialising and giving them an opportunity to discuss matters of concern to them including cyber bullying, empathy for other students, peer pressure and the pitfalls of drug and alcohol abuse and challenging community and home circumstances. Respect for girls and women is a constant theme at the annual workshops.
Addressing the scholarship awardees by name at the luncheon, Lewis said, “I am sure I cannot begin to appreciate how different and yes challenging it has been to spend your formative years in less than traditional settings and I surely won’t attempt to address that for fear of trivialising or making assumptions. Yet with different journeys, different life stories , you are all with us here today because you have been specially chosen to receive these scholarships.”
“I suggest that none of you have let your past define you. The challenges you’ve faced, the struggles you’ve overcome â€” they have shaped you into strong resilient individuals who possess unique perspectives and I humbly suggest that these have also helped you remain focused and disciplined as you untap your potential and build futures that reflect your dreams and aspirations… You deserve it. I applaud each and every one of you.”
She urged the scholarship awardees, “never forget where you come from and the communities that have supported you along the way. As you progress in your education and career, remember to uplift those who may still be on the same path you once walked. Be a source of inspiration and guidance for others who face similar challenges. Your success can become a beacon of hope for those who follow in your footsteps”.
COJO presented 14 scholarships to wards of the State moving on to tertiary institutions, at its annual scholarship awards luncheon. This tradition has seen over $40 million disbursed in scholarships to Jamaican tertiary institutions since 2012.
COJO is a USA-registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organisation founded in 1994 by Gary Williams on the principle of creating opportunities through empowerment and social development for the less fortunate children in the society.