KINGSTON — To promote self sufficiency among working-age beneficiaries under its Programme of Advancement Through Heath and Education (PATH), the Government has made $70 million available in grants to assist persons with various micro-business ventures.
The grants, which were approved by the Government in January this year, is expected to benefit at least 1,000 clients, with each receiving a maximum of $100,000 to establish or expand viable micro-businesses.
Some 54 persons have already received funds totalling $3 million under the Entrepreneurship Grant Initiative of PATH’s Steps-to-Work project, which assists persons to undertake sustainable economic activities, ranging from poultry rearing to fashion designing.
At a recent presentation ceremony, Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles, said the initiative demonstrates the Government’s commitment to improve the lives of beneficiaries, empowering them to break the cycle of poverty and “move on to the road of success."
“Steps-to-Work is a step in the right direction – opening the door of opportunities for your own self development. This special initiative (will) assist the vulnerable families to help themselves,” he said.
The Minister explained that with the help received under the project, which includes training and business development opportunities, the beneficiaries could emerge as some of the country’s most successful business persons.
Co-ordinator for the Steps-to-Work project, Marcia Bolt, tells JIS News that any adult member of a PATH household can apply to receive grants under the Steps-to-Work project, once they have a legitimate business enterprise they would like to pursue.
“We support anything that is legitimate, so whether it’s in agriculture, agro-processing, catering, manufacturing, retail trading, cosmetology…once we have established that there is a need then we are willing to support those projects,” she says.
Once the recipients are chosen, they will undergo a rigorous training programme with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), where they are given basic business management and customer service knowledge.
The clients will also be exposed to the personal development programmes that are offered by the Steps-to-Work project, and are assisted to develop a three-year plan of action aimed at increasing their capacity to seek and retain employment.
Ms. Bolt says the project aims to assist persons “to not just hussle,” but to set up legitimate businesses that can lead to a sustainable source of income, so that eventually beneficiaries will be weaned from PATH.
“We do not believe that our clients want to be assisted through PATH for the rest of their lives. We believe that the majority of them really come to PATH as a short term solution and want to be empowered to earn their own living,” Ms. Bolt notes.
Beneficiary, Reah Martin Greyson, who operates a mobile book service, says the Steps-to-Work programme is “Godsend” that has now allowed her to expand her business.
“It (Steps-to-Work) is really good because it helps a lot of people. In Clarendon, we don’t have much things to do away from farming and with a programme like this, it helps you to go elsewhere,” she tells JIS News.
Mrs. Greyson explains that she carries books from parish to parish, where she stages book fairs at schools as well as deliver books to clients. She says the funds she received will assist her to purchase a tent, making her business more stable.
Stevel McKellop, a beneficiary from Hanover says his desire to become an entrepreneur has now borne fruit with the funds that will assist him in starting his bee farming business.
“From I was small I always wanted to run my own business and now that the opportunity has arisen, I am going to make the very best use of it,” he says.
“The funds will help me to purchase bee boxes and other equipment to actually start the business and to run it. I wanted to start this business from a year ago, but as a result of not having any funds I was unable to start. I am going to take up this opportunity and I’m going to make it into a big business,” he adds.
Administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the US$2.1 million World Bank-funded Steps-to-Work project, which was initiated in 2008, aims to provide eligible PATH beneficiaries with the training, entrepreneurial and job readiness skills to become self-reliant, so that they will no longer require state assistance.
PATH is a conditional cash transfer programme of the Government, which delivers social assistance benefits to the neediest persons in the society.
The Steps-to-Work project partners with agencies such as HEART Trust/ NTA, Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), National Youth Service (NYS) and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) to train beneficiaries.
For further information on how to receive benefits through Steps-to-Work, persons can call the Ministry of Labour at 922-9308.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter