JIS News

The Youth Empowerment Strategy (YES), being spearheaded by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, is a ray of hope for many young people from low income communities.
Director of YES Sylvester Anderson, tells JIS News that through the initiative, instituted in 2008, young people are receiving assistance to continue their education and pursue entrepreneurial activities.
“For the period, October to March 2008, we had about 27 persons, who actually got disbursement and the majority of those were for persons involved in an educational activity,” he informs.
Among them is Chevelle Powis, a bright, upper sixth form student from Clarendon, who is receiving support to continue her schooling.
One of the first beneficiaries, she is being assisted with the cost of her Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE). Chevelle is lauding the programme, noting that it has enriched her life.
“This service has been helping me for over one year in paying my school fee and my (CAPE) subject fee. It’s good because I am successful and they are helping me a lot. I am very happy with the programme since my parents couldn’t afford to do it for me and I am getting help now so I can move further with my education,” she says.
Part of the Ministry’s ‘Fresh Start’ social intervention and transformation programme, YES is in keeping with a mandate from the Prime Minister for Government agencies and bodies to “assist young persons, who would be deemed at risk, with some programme that will allow them to be gainfully employed and be of some worth,” explains Mr. Anderson.
The programme targets young people 16 to 30 years old, who are at risk of becoming involved in crime. The aim is to empower then to channel their efforts into productive areas, which would eliminate the possibility of them getting involved in crime.
In the first phase, persons in the low income communities of Allman Town, which is in close proximity to the Ministry, and Denham Town in Kingston and Summerfield in Clarendon were targeted, with support extended to Tower Hill, also in Kingston.
YES involves collaboration with the HEART Trust/NTA, Jamaican Foundation for Life Long Learning (JFLL), Social Development Commission (SDC), Ministry of National Security, Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Peace and Love in Society (PALS), Dispute Resolution Foundation, churches and other associations, Mr. Anderson informs.
Beneficiaries of the programme receive assistance through education and training, light manufacturing, retailing, and small farming ventures, including chicken rearing and planting cash crops.
“We target persons who are interested in doing retailing, buying and selling of a product, those who would want to manufacture an item. As it relates to agriculture, we target those persons, who are small farmers who would want to do some cash crop activities that can give them some quick turnover,” he outlines.
In terms of the educational aspect, the programme assists persons, who do not have any formal education, or who have been educated up to the secondary level but do not have the required academic qualifications to get a job or go on to the tertiary level. Secondary school students can also benefit from assistance.
“For those who would want to do short courses at the tertiary level, we try and assist them as well, so that the educational aspect will be the empowering factor that they are now able to go on to further their lives,” Mr. Anderson continues.
Mr. Anderson, in lauding the programme, notes that the YES initiative not only provides for the beneficiaries but it enables these young persons to touch the lives of others.
“We ask that they give back. We suggest to them that one of the ways you could assist someone from your community is through, for instance, a homework programme or just helping them to read and write,” he tells JIS News.
He says that for those involved in agriculture, they are encouraged to “look for the elderly person or couple in the community and you give them something,” he says, noting that this is part of their social responsibility.
In the meantime, Chevelle is encouraging other youngsters to sign up for the programme and benefit from what it has to offer.
“I would encourage other persons to join the programme, who really need help because they don’t help with school alone, they help also with work and stuff like those,” she says.
Since its inception of the programme in 2008, more than 230 persons have expressed interest in receiving assistance under YES. Mr. Anderson says that for financial year 2009/10, more people will benefit.
“We try to assist as many persons as possible and as long as the funds are available. Certainly, we will continue,” he says.
For additional information on the YES programme, persons are being advised to call the Ministry of Labour’s head office at 922-9500-14 ext 2125 or visit local parish offices island wide.

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