KINGSTON — Wynter's Pen resident Steven Allen is a proud and happy young man, who is looking ahead to a bright future.
Once “just sitting at home” with little job prospects, he is today an entrepreneur, who operates a thriving barber shop in his Spanish Town-based community.
Steven is crediting his new lease on life to the skills training he received under the Jamaica Social Investment Fund’s (JSIF) Empowering Lives for the Future Ministries (ELFM) programme, aimed at reducing poverty through education, training and nutrition support.
With the Level I certification in barbering he gained through the programme, Steven is now able to make a good living. “It (skills training) helped me a lot because…it is putting food on the table for me. I have a little shop at my house and I trim (up to) eight people almost every day,” he boasts.
More than 28 persons in Wynter’s Pen have been trained in cosmetology and some 11 others in barbering, under ELFM, which has enabled them to eke out a sustainable living.
The project is funded through $900,000 from the JSIF, a component of the Government’s national poverty alleviation strategy, designed primarily to channel resources to small-scale community-based socio-economic infrastructure and social services projects.
Managing Director for ELFM, Marchelle Turner-Pitt tells JIS News that the programme has had a far-reaching impact in Wynter’s Pen since its inception in April this year, staying true its slogan: ‘Working Together to Change Lives.’
“The students, who benefited from the skills training… some of them are now self-employed and some are doing further studies. They have related to us that they have benefited extremely from the programme and the community members are also starting to look up to them because they see them now as achievers – people who want to go out and make something of themselves,” she states.
The students, on successful completion of the training course receive a certificate from ELFM and certification from the HEART Trust/NTA following successful assessment. Mrs. Turner-Pitt says that the students assessed by HEART, were found to be competent in most areas.
Under the ELFM programme, residents benefit from remedial classes in Mathematics and English Language, and there is a nutrition promotion component where community members are taught how to prepare healthy meals and snacks, and receive counselling on feeding the infant and young child. The latter course was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and facilitated by the Ministry of Health.
Yet another aspect of the project involves backyard gardening through collaboration with JSIF and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
“Families within the community actually started backyard gardening in their homes. They are doing well, they planted tomatoes, sweet peppers and other vegetables and fruits,” Mrs. Turner-Pitt informs. The backyard gardening aspect has extended beyond Wynter’s Pen and involves wards of the Strathmore Gardens Place of Safety in Spanish Town.
Tasha-Kay Smalling, another young resident of Wynter’s Pen, says she has benefited greatly from the programme, having already gained a Level I certificate in cosmetology and is pursuing a Level II certificate.
“It has done a great deal because…yes, I gained a skill, but during the six months I was there, I gained more than that because we did not only do cosmetology but we got introduced to other programmes… where we can actually help our community,” she says.
Having participated in the child care and nutrition training, she says that she teamed up with several of her classmates to create a breast feeding support group. “We are able to go out in our communities now and support breast feeding mothers (and) give information (on breast feeding),” she tells JIS News.
Tasha-Kay also points to the invaluable entrepreneurship class she participated in as part of the programme, noting that “I am now able to plan and operate my own business when I choose to do that”. She says she is also grateful for the start-up kits that JSIF presents to participants upon completion of the courses.
Tasha-Kay says the programme has also helped to boost her confidence, and she is encouraged her to pass on the knowledge she has acquired. She says she also appreciates the fact that participants are not just taught “how to do things,” but “why you should do it,” an important aspect, which she says, enables participants to effectively replicate the lessons they have learnt in their community.
ELFM’s efforts at nutrition promotion were duly recognised when earlier this month, the entity came awaythe first place winner of the Caribbean Nutrition Promotion Competition, which is coordinated by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) annually. The awards ceremony took place in Guyana.
Mrs. Turner-Pitt tells JIS News that ELFM submitted information on the programme being undertaken in Wynter’s Pen.
“Of all the Caribbean countries that entered, ELFM came out on top. In addition to the first place trophy, fully sponsored trip to Guyana, tour of Guyana and cash prize of US$350, ELFM was also winner of the sectional prize for greatest impact/benefit (and was presented with a plaque and US$150,” she informs.
The Managing Director says other areas of focus are also being looked into based on the needs of the community, as the programme continues to aid the Government’s poverty reduction efforts.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter