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JIS News

It is almost 65 years old and is a household name in the country, but the Jamaica 4-H Movement has no intention of slowing the pace at which it is training and assisting young people.
This year the organization, as further proof of its dedication to the development of its members, gave $850,000 in financial assistance under its grants programme to 18 of its clubbites engaged in studies at the University and College levels.
Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Lenworth Fulton tells JIS News that the grants and scholarships are a way of rewarding clubbites and leaders who have contributed to the club as well as a means of capacity building.
“These same people will come back either to be employees or to be leaders or to be volunteers in the movement, so it is an investment in the Jamaica 4-H Clubs,” he notes.
Noting the phenomenal reach of the 4-H Movement, which has some 65,000 clubbites in 600 schools islandwide, Mr. Fulton says a wide cross section of parishes benefit from the scholarships.
“It’s a wide cross section; we try to select from as wide a cross section as is possible,” he notes, adding that final selections were made from 35 applications.
He says the effort is “an act of bravery” as the organization did not have a budget for the initiative but amassed the sum through individual and institutional donor support. However, plans are afoot to develop an endowment fund to sustain the programme. In a manner reminiscent of the independence it instills in club members, the organization is famous for fund-raising events, such as ‘Nyammins and Jammins’, ‘Hanover Jerk Fest’, ‘Westmoreland Seafood Jamboree’, and Central Nyammins’, with part proceeds going toward the grants programme. Between September 2002 and August 31, 2005, the Jamaica 4-H Club raised $54 million.
The Executive Director notes that despite being hard hit by the hurricanes, which affected the island earlier this year, the organization remains loyal to its pledge to assist in the continued development of its members.
Meanwhile, he informs that work is being done to expand the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan programme for entrepreneurial development.He points out that the initiative, spawned in the 1980s, features loans to clubbites who display entrepreneurial ability. Under this initiative, $15,000 is dispensed to individuals for small projects, while clubs are given up to $50,000. “It’s a character loan and they do things like growing vegetables, chicken rearing, goat rearing and pastry making and they pay back the money and we lend others as soon as we collect,” the Executive Director explains.
Lauding the programme, which is operated through the PC Banks, Mr. Fulton notes that work is currently being done towards its expansion as it has in the past produced entrepreneurs who now own businesses.
He says that since 2000, only some 50 persons have benefited as the lending capital is a small amount and can only be loaned when persons repay their debts.Mr. Fulton says in the upcoming year, efforts will be made to encourage clubbites to utilize the enhanced programme to start their own businesses.
“There aren’t enough jobs in this economy for them right now. We have to be helping them to improve themselves by providing a livelihood out of self employment,” he points out.
In the meantime, more funds are being solicited from several institutions for the programme. “I am now writing a proposal to one or more of our commercial banks to say partner with me, 4-H will run the programme, they will control the funds, and the profit will be theirs. I am saying to them put your money where your mouth is,” the Executive Director says. He points out that one application will also be sent to the IDB.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director is appealing to private sector and donor agencies to continue to support the organization, and with good reason.”We have the widest reach for youngsters in the country, the widest reach through 650 schools and we have got the staff to go out there and implement these projects. So if you have some money and you want to help people, the Jamaica 4-H Clubs will implement the project for you,” the Executive Director states.
The birth of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs is strongly linked to that of its parent body, the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS). The Clubs’ mandate is to educate and train young people between the ages of nine and 25 in the areas of agriculture, Home Economics, the Environment and Leadership and to provide opportunities and skills that can lead to careers.
There is also training in home-making and recreational skills, operation of projects, promotion of shows, displays, competitions, exhibitions and fund-raising activities.
The organisation has 12 centres islandwide – Georgia, Hanover; Bog, Westmoreland; Charlottenburgh, St. Mary; Denbigh, Clarendon; Font Hill, St. Thomas; New Forest, Trelawny; Roehampton, St. James; Rose Hall, St. Catherine; Salisbury Plain, St. Andrew; Thatchfield, St. Ann; Vernamfield, Clarendon and Warminster, St. Elizabeth.
The four Hs represent: Head, Heart, Hands and Health.