COMMITTED to paying it forward in a meaningful way, Jamaican-born international supermodel Stacey McKenzie has found an avenue through which she can both empower and equip young Jamaican girls. The TV personality recently hosted The Walk Camp Jamaica, where she engaged inner-city girls in tasks designed to develop their self-awareness and self-esteem through mentorship and other activities. The initiative originated in Canada before McKenzie brought it to Jamaican shores to benefit young girls as she felt compelled to invest in the youth of her homeland.
The camp, which was in its third staging, was held at Half-Way-Tree Primary School and was free to participants who were mentored not only by McKenzie but by business moguls and celebrities who eagerly gave of their time and expertise to coach the girls who became like little sisters to them. Some of the mentors included dancer/choreographer Orville Hall, singer Nadine Sutherland, radio personality Nikki Z, author plus communication and public relations consultant Amashika Lorne, TV producer Sharon Shroeter, businesswoman Tina Matalon, and TV producer Odessa Chambers.
As one of the mentors, Lorne said that it was an easy decision to support McKenzie's effort as we all must make some time to pay it forward.
The mentorship of young girls, she emphasised, is an ideal medium through which to nurture and mould the next generation of businesswomen, models and entrepreneurs.
"When Stacey approached me, I was excited to be on board as I believe in the cause. I took the opportunity to share with the girls various tools and skill sets pertaining to media and marketing, such as creating videos with a message; current affairs and brand messaging, plus more personalised activities, including reinforcing self-acceptance and being okay with your image without filters," Lorne said.
McKenzie, who herself grew up on Slipe Pen Road in Kingston while in Jamaica, shared that she established the camp as a means of inspiring girls and providing that much-needed hope that can possibly change the lives of children in communities that are often marginalised and neglected.
"Whenever I came home to Jamaica and while I was in Canada, I would go back to these neighbourhoods and speak to the kids. One day when I was talking in my old neighbourhood, this little one came up to me and said, 'You're the only one that ever comes back and looks for us'."
Those words would forever be imprinted in her heart and later motivated her to try and play an active role in giving back to her community.
Through McKenzie's Walk Camp the girls are exposed to several mentors from various fields of endeavour, namely fashion, media, business, health, and entrepreneurship, who share with them their own journeys and what it took for them to achieve success in their respective areas of competence. These mentors who do these hands-on workshops facilitate the girls having a personal experience as they see and interact face to face with actual people they may otherwise not have access to.
"My company Walk This Way Workshop was modelled after me as I am known for my walk. We train new, aspiring models to take the industry by storm, but later on, when I created The Walk Camp, I wanted it to be a more powerful platform for the participants to realise and cultivate their inner strength. We can acknowledge that they will have challenges and obstacles along their journey as that is life. What they then need to learn is the necessary tools to allow them to overcome these obstacles and persevere."
Some of the girls who participated in the camp endorsed the plethora of activities they were exposed to and said that they were excited to put some of what they learnt into action.
For young Jada Williams, the best thing about the Walk Camp was the mentors. "I found their stories very interesting. Their stories amazed me because of their careers as they are actresses, models, authors, and singers and this has made me gain so much confidence, and I would like to thank Aunty Stacey for that."
For Shamara Thompson, the Walk Camp impacted her in a powerful and positive way. "The camp has helped me by empowering me and helping me to believe in myself and be a better version of myself. It pushes me to never give up like how Auntie Stacey never gave up or she wouldn't be where she's at today. I enjoyed the camp and hope to go back next year."