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Story Highlights

  • Eleven unattached youth, aged 17 to 27 years, have been equipped with HEART Trust/NTA National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) certification in landscaping.
  • This follows their participation in the recently concluded Alternative Livelihood and Skills Development Hope Zoo Landscape Training Project.
  • JSIF, an agency of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), provided training material, as well as a stipend for each participant.

After undergoing two months of training, 11 young persons from several inner-city communities are now empowered to earn a living from skills they acquired through a landscape training project, undertaken by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).in collaboration with Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation.

Eleven unattached youth, aged 17 to 27 years, have been equipped with HEART Trust/NTA National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) certification in landscaping, following their participation in the recently concluded Alternative Livelihood and Skills Development Hope Zoo Landscape Training Project.

The initiative was undertaken at a cost of $3.34 million, under JSIF’s World Bank-funded Inner City Basic Services Project which, through various interventions, targets improvements in the quality of life of residents in 12 inner-city communities.

Funding was also provided by the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation which contributed $334,000 to the project sum, and provided technical support and the training venue.

The six males and five females, who hail from the communities of Whitfield Town, Jones Town, Craig Town, Passmore Town, and Federal Gardens, in Kingston, and March Pen and Central Village, St. Catherine, benefited from the full scope of the landscaping programme facilitated by the Ebony Park Heart Academy in Clarendon.

They learnt how to establish and maintain landscaped areas, plant crops by hand, and operate small equipment.

The youngsters were also exposed to ornamental horticulture and introduced to environmental principles that served to increase their awareness and appreciation of the natural environment.  Additionally they engaged in animal keeping and building practices in the garden area, where they also built a gazebo.

The participants’ landscaping skills were put to the test as they assisted with the ongoing beautification works being undertaken at the zoo, which included planting of various trees and flowers.

Their inputs complemented other development work already undertaken at the zoo. These include: the construction of gazebos with picnic tables; erection of perimeter fencing;  renovation of various enclosures and exhibits; and installation of various ponds, waterfalls, and other water features.

In addition, there are now individual management buildings which are used to house and attend to the animals domiciled at the facility.

Other works undertaken include construction of: paved roadways, kerb walls, walkways, wheelchair-accessible ramps,  an administration building with high-speed Internet and wifi, meeting and conference rooms with multimedia and audio-visual equipment, vendor kiosks, and expanded car parks.

The participants were presented with their certificates during the project’s closing ceremony held at the zoo’s compound in St. Andrew, earlier this month.

Managing Director of JSIF, Scarlett Gillings, said the project demonstrated the Government’s and donors’ continued commitment “to explore different ways to stimulate young minds”, as also prepare youth with skills to “enable them to be employable.”

JSIF, an agency of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), provided training material, as well as a stipend for each participant. The agency also covered the cost to provide training facilitators.

Mrs. Gillings said the venture, though varying slightly from engagements JSIF usually undertakes, was ideal, given challenge the agency has experienced in helping inner-city youth to identify alternative livelihoods. “We felt (the zoo) would have been a beautiful place for young persons to be exposed to,” she stated.

Instructor at the Ebony Park Heart Academy, Kirk Williams, said he was pleased with the participants’ enthusiasm to learn and stick with the programme, noting that “they have grasped the concepts well”.

He said the participants were taken through all landscaping principles, which focused on concepts such as simplicity, balance, rhythm and alignment, and focalization, when designing an area.

Mr. Williams pointed out that the youngsters, who attained competency in four units of the programme, now understand that they have to be visionaries to engage in landscaping, as much thought and planning goes into this undertaking.

Chairman of the Hope Zoo Preservation Foundation, Kenneth Benjamin, said he  was pleased that the zoo could facilitate the training. He pointed out that the facility also  benefitted from the youngsters’ contribution to the overall development efforts currently taking place there.

Mr. Benjamin commended the attitude and work ethic displayed by the participants, which was so impressive that one of them, 19-year-old Jodi-Ann Blissett, has been retained as a junior zoo keeper. “She has turned out to be one of our better zoo keepers,” he quipped.

In describing Hope Zoo as one of the best of its kind in the world, with its collection of exotic animals, Mr. Benjamin contended that it is the only place, where a family “can come and spend an entire day without getting bored.”