• JIS News

    Story Highlights

    • The Abilities Foundation of Jamaica will shortly establish a business enterprise from an overseas grant, with the profit to be used to expand training opportunities for special needs youth.
    • Under the Social Enterprise Project, supported by Family Health International (FHI360) for the development of the venture, called ‘Herb Thyme’, the objective is to grow organic herbs and vegetables, and to facilitate apprenticeship for persons with disabilities.
    • Although the funds have been secured, the Foundation has to go through capacity building and training of its personnel, and demonstrate that it can manage an enterprise.

    The Abilities Foundation of Jamaica will shortly establish a business enterprise from an overseas grant, with the profit to be used to expand training opportunities for special needs youth.

    Under the Social Enterprise Project, supported by Family Health International (FHI360) for the development of the venture, called ‘Herb Thyme’, the objective is to grow organic herbs and vegetables, and to facilitate apprenticeship for persons with disabilities.

    Although the funds have been secured, the Foundation has to go through capacity building and training of its personnel, and demonstrate that it can manage an enterprise.

    Managing Director at the Foundation, Susan Hamilton, says the funding from the United States (US)-based group is also helping to provide a business coach and other vital support.

    “They will help us to get our feet into the market; they will look about our packaging, capacity amongst staff, inventory management, QuickBooks training, and they will ensure that we have a business coach to journey with us,” Miss Hamilton tells JIS News.

    The group will also make sure that the organisation strengthens its governance structure, and provide mentors for the operators of the enterprise.

    “It is a business, but the surplus that we will get from that, we will be able to enhance the training at the institution, and provide jobs,” the Managing Director outlines.

    Customers targeted for the herbs and vegetables are health-conscious persons, stores, supermarkets, and organisations that support the Foundation.

    Miss Hamilton tells JIS News that leaders of the organisation strive on opportunities to develop the full potential of persons with disabilities, and to manage financially sound projects that are aimed at increasing the employability of the population that the Foundation serves.

    She notes that when persons buy products from the Foundation, it is not a regular shopping activity. “You are helping a greater good; you are assisting with training of persons with disabilities, and ensuring that persons with disabilities get opportunities in the workforce,” she adds.

    Miss Hamilton says a new energy has permeated the organisation with the prospect of operating a multimillion-dollar enterprise that will help “persons with disabilities to create incomes for themselves, and to fund more workshops for parents and students”.

    Managing Director of the Abilities Foundation, Susan Hamilton (right), and students at the facility point to some of the plants that the organisation is growing for the consumer market, at its farm on Constant Spring Road in Kingston.

    The Abilities Foundation was registered with the HEART/Trust NTA on October 5, 1992 as a voluntary organisation and community training institution, after lobbying efforts by the disabled community for a specialised vocational training facility. It is also an agency of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

    Over the years, the organisation has developed and marketed products and services from its Horticulture and Landscaping Department on a small scale, enabling it to earn a steady income.

    Utilising hands-on instructions, the Foundation also provides customised training in the areas of housekeeping, furniture making, data operations, design and décor/soft furnishing, horticulture and landscaping, cosmetology, nail technology and make-up artistry, and customer service (Level 2).

    The Foundation is committed to provide quality vocational education to persons with disabilities, to enable them to function as creative and productive citizens.

    To improve employment of young adults with disabilities, it has forged many partnerships with private and public entities.