It is no secret that the lottery scam is a problem in many communities in the parish of St. James; and, Flanker, in that parish, is often mentioned in disparaging undertones, similar to the way many in ancient Israel spoke about Nazareth.Stigmatised, unemployment is a real issue for many Flanker residents, who often find it difficult to reveal their real place of residence when applying for employment.“If you tell them you are from Flanker, no one will hire you,” says Alecia Spence, Project Officer at the Flanker Peace and Justice Centre, who has been working in the community for seven of the 12 years since the Centre was established.
“However, there are many talented young people here,” the young volunteer affirms. “And, many of them are hidden; but, if you get them to do something that is when you see their talent emerge,” she adds.
“There are many who are functioning as entrepreneurs: cosmetologists, designers and musicians. Some of them are also good at planning events; however, they simply need the right kind of information, training and support to help them to make their dreams become reality,” Miss Spence explains, noting that the lack of access to training and employment result in their being attracted to participate in the illicit lottery trade.
It was against that background that the Flanker Peace and Justice Centre recently organised a one day Entrepreneurial Symposium. The objective was to educate and inform the more than 100 youngsters about organisations and companies, which are able to assist them with launching their entrepreneurial goals.
The participants, aged 14 to 22 years, were exposed to presentations from the HEART Trust/ National Training Agency, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and representatives from JN Small Business Loans Limited (JNSBL).
“I’m really thankful for the symposium,” 22 year-old Marvin Barrett stated. A trained hospitality worker, Marvin is marginally employed, engaged only during the peak of the tourist season and he has been out of work since January.
“It was a good symposium, because many of the young people here can’t get a job; but, now we understand that there is a way for us to start our own businesses,” he said, noting that, as a result of the information he received, he was now thinking about opening his own restaurant, which would position him to make a better contribution to his household of four siblings lead by his single mother.
“There are many young people in our country, who only need the right kind of support to help them achieve their potential,” reasons Julian Alscott-Robinson, Senior Field Officer, JNSBL,who presented information about how to secure assistance to finance the development of a business.
“We are pleased; and, we commend the Flanker Peace and Justice Centre for embarking on this initiative,” she stated.
JNSBL General Manager, Philip Bernard also congratulated the Flanker Peace and Justice Centre. He said, “This is a first step towards engaging and equipping young people in at risk communities with the skills, training and support services required to create sustainable earning opportunities’. We have to ‘think big’ and instill in the youth the confidence to pursue their goals and dreams. There are many opportunities set to emerge in the type of economic framework we are trying to establish for ourselves through the drive for Jamaica to become a Logistics Hub.”
He also pointed out that many could benefit from the economic opportunities in tourism industry; and in particular, the designated economic zones to be established in and proximity to Montego Bay.
“We need to take the training of all our young people far more seriously, if we really want to benefit fully from these development initiatives,” he said. “We can’t simply believe in some, we must believe in all of them,” Mr. Bernard declared.