August 16, 2016
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – Twenty-one former remandees and wards of the State have received business start-up grants valued at over $6 million, through an Organization of American States (OAS) initiative.
Dubbed ‘Pitch It’: Learning and Investing in Your Future, the project seeks to improve the lives of youth in conflict with the law, by addressing their emotional, social, educational, and economic challenges.
Forty-nine youngsters were shortlisted from a larger group of more than 100 from Kingston and Montego Bay, St James, of which 21 were awarded business start-up grants at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge, on International Youth Day, August 12.
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, lauded the programme and commended the sponsors for their contribution to empower the youth.
“We truly appreciate all that you are giving to our youngsters. We acknowledge the challenges that our youth face to secure employment and it is an even greater challenge for our youngsters who are ‘at risk’ and those who are incarcerated,” he said.
The State minister, with special responsibility for the correctional services, said there is a stigma or label that comes with living in particular communities or in an institution.
“We say to Jamaica and the world that we reject labels and urge you to redefine in your minds how you see our young people. I submit that we should see you (participants) as persons with potential and as our ambassadors,” Senator Charles said.
The State minister gave the assurance that the Government will continue to support programmes of this nature, as it is a policy initiative of the administration.
“We intend to do what is necessary to reduce recidivism in our country. We intend to put in place the necessary mechanisms to reduce reoffending in Jamaica and to develop our children, no matter what the circumstances are, into ambassadors who will help us to stop other children in their communities from becoming involved in criminal activities,” he said.
For her part, Commissioner of Corrections, Ina Fairweather, said the Department is particularly pleased with the programme and commended the partners for their contribution to the rehabilitation and reintegration process.
“We find it to be the appropriate response to several issues affecting our children during their time in the correctional facilities and their return to their communities,” she said.
Fairweather commended the participants for having taken on the challenge to make a difference in their lives.
Meanwhile, OAS representative in Jamaica, Jeanelle van GlaanenWeygel, said it was quite fitting to have an innovative youth entrepreneurship initiative on International Youth Day.
“Considering the important role of youth, which in Jamaica makes up almost half of the population, the OAS and the Trust for the Americas, through the economic inclusive ‘Pitch It’ initiative, seek to offer youth, especially at-risk youth, a fair chance to achieve prosperity,” she said.
Volunteer with the OAS and chaperone for the participants, Trishauna Williamson, told JIS News that she finds the programme very positive, one that uplifts the participants.
“I think it is a very good programme for at-risk youth and I love where it is going. Although all of them were not awarded, 21 of them were given an opportunity to go into their communities and make a difference,” she said.
Junior Anderson from Denham Town in Kingston, was awarded for being one of the most improved participants. He is also one of the 21 participants who received a business start-up grant.
Anderson, who is a certified electrician, intends to set up a business in the field.
“I am happy about this. Everyone knows I was looking forward to this. I have been called on a lot of jobs and I had to turn it down because I did not have the equipment. Now I can improve the business and I will hire three or four people from my community,” he said.
Anderson received certification through the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), and like several others, was recommended to participate in the initiative.
‘Pitch It’ is a subset of a larger programme – ‘A New Path: Promoting a Healthy Environment and Productive Alternatives for Juvenile Remandees and Offenders in Jamaica’.
It was implemented by the OAS, the Trust for the Americas and Junior Achievement Jamaica, with financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).