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Story Highlights

  • Superior Crafts & More, a social enterprise organization helping to create employment and training for the blind and visually impaired in Jamaica, is committed to empowering members of the community through its work.
  • The organization does professional caning, webbing, wicker and cording at the Jamaica Society for the Blind on Old Hope Road in Kingston.
  • On January 26 and 27, Superior Crafts & More will be one of 18 organisations displaying their products at the Social Enterprise Summit Marketplace at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

Superior Crafts & More, a social enterprise organization helping to create employment and training for the blind and visually impaired in Jamaica, is committed to empowering members of the community through its work.

The organization does professional caning, webbing, wicker and cording at the Jamaica Society for the Blind on Old Hope Road in Kingston.

On January 26 and 27, Superior Crafts & More will be one of 18 organisations displaying their products at the Social Enterprise Summit Marketplace at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

The Summit is being organized by the Jamaica National (JN) Foundation’s Social Enterprise Boost Initiative (SEBI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It will bring together organizations working to improve the lives of their communities with local and international resource persons who will share best practices.

According to SEBI, the summit will give participants insight on global trends and enable them to learn more about the critical success factors in operating a social enterprise.

This is good news for Craft Worker at Superior Crafts & More, Maxine McIntosh, who is looking forward to the summit and sees participation as a great opportunity for her company.

She explains that the main purpose of her organization is to train and employ blind and visually impaired persons, so that they can have a more meaningful life in their community.

“We try our best to ensure that the blind and visually impaired community is less dependent on people for support, so after we train we employ you and then we mobilize you. We teach you to go on your own, and we also build your self-confidence and your self-esteem,” Ms. Brown tells JIS News.

The organization is owned and operated by a committee comprising visually impaired and blind people. However, Ms. McIntosh explains that the group either works in tandem with talented local carpenters to create bespoke furniture based on the customer’s designs, or gives new life to old furniture with skillful repairs.

It is one of 10 organizations benefiting from a three-year pilot project implemented by the JN Foundation’s SEBI.

Ms. McIntosh says with the help of SEBI, the group now has a working business plan and is operating a sustainable social enterprise.

“When they started with us, we didn’t know anything about business; we were just working and collecting our little money on Fridays. We didn’t even know much about business plan and so SEBI came in and now we have our business plan up and running,” Ms. McIntosh says.

“It is going to be very important exposure for us, because it will be the first time for Superior Crafts & More to be at a summit and just for the people to see what we do as blind and visually impaired persons, will be enough,” she adds.

The SEBI project aims to mobilize increased employment, investment and revenue within select communities across Jamaica in a socially responsible manner, and improve the nation’s economic, social and environmental conditions.

Another group that has been impacted by its work is The Network of Women for Food Security.

This group of rural women is engaged in building a sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural industry centred around the production and marketing of fresh and processed mushrooms.

Executive Director of the group, Pauline Smith, says The Network of Women is using farming by rural women to tackle poverty by equipping and training women to participate in the formal economy.

“In order for us to tackle real poverty and fix it in a long term way, we must look to social enterprise, because that is the only way it becomes sustainable,” Ms. Smith argues.

She says the group decided to focus on growing mushrooms because of the demand for the product locally, the little resources needed and the economic value of the crop.

“It needs limited land space, it’s a quick turn-around crop, you don’t have to have a lot of physical strength and it’s a high value crop,” Ms. Smith tells JIS News.

She adds that the crop grows perfectly in the cool hills of Manchester and Clarendon and can be harvested within six weeks.

“In six weeks you can take an 8×8 (plot) and six women can produce mushrooms that will earn them $18,000 per week. That is moving away from real poverty,” Ms. Smith says.

She points out that the group is about empowering poor, landless women in rural Jamaica to end poverty and contribute to the economy, and that help from the JN Foundation’s SEBI project has made a huge difference.

“They gave us the extra boost, that we can see where it is possible to organize rural women across Jamaica to replace the US$45 million of mushrooms that’s imported for the hotel industry,” Ms. Smith notes.

She informs that the support from SEBI has made the organization more structured, professional and sustainable.

“Through SEBI, we had communication training. We have been forced to make sure that from the beginning our governance structure is in place, our marketing is looked at, we’ve got proper logos and gained experience from business consultants. Now, we’re not just getting by,” Ms. Smith adds.

Project Manager for SEBI, Jennifer Sharrier, says the Foundation hopes that the success stories that will be on display at the Social Enterprise Summit marketplace will leave an impact on individuals, organizations and the country.

“So, we hope that when others see how well some of our groups are doing, it might motivate them to become social enterprises,” she adds.

Ms. Sharrier is encouraging more support for social enterprises, through volunteering investment or by purchasing the goods or services they produce.

Meanwhile, General Manager of  Jamaica National Foundation, Saffrey Brown, says  that supporting social enterprises such as Superior Crafts & More is about helping to make a community wealthier and better.

“It’s like the Buy Jamaican movement. The value to the society of buying Jamaican is immense versus buying overseas goods, so it’s even more immense for social enterprises,” she says.

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