A beaming Nicole Collins receives a plaque from Head of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, while Senator Damion Crawford, opposition spokesperson on youth, looks on. Collins is a current university student and beneficiary under the EU's Poverty Reduction Programme Scholarship and Internship Programme. She participated in the recent youth forum at the Mona Visitors’ Lodge.
Entrepreneurship, volunteerism and internship were the ongoing themes as youth from several volatile communities shared their vision for the Jamaica they want to live in and the avenues available to assist them. The youth forum, a joint initiative of the European Union (EU) and the Government of Jamaica, incorporated the views of some of the young persons who would have received scholarships and internships under the Poverty Reduction Programme (PRP) which has been implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF). The forum, hosted on January 10 in Kingston, encouraged a panel of government and private sector representatives and creative entrepreneurs to listen to issues raised by the young people and share actionable tips on how they can move their ideas to reality.
Head of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, while highlighting some of the challenges facing young people, stressed the importance of equal access for all.
“Not all of us are fortunate to be born into rich families or live in affluent communities. However, all of us have the same right to access the resources and services that will equip and empower us to become good citizens,” she noted.
She highlighted ways in which the EU is working to support countries to address the problem of youth unemployment, especially among youth in vulnerable communities. Since 2001, over 18,000 direct beneficiaries from the earlychildhood level upwards have been able to access educational and employment support.
SHAPING THE FUTURE
She further encouraged the young people to be committed to shaping their future.
“To all the young people, I want to stress that today’s discussion is not only about the kind of job, career or business opportunities you want. It is about what kind of society you want, what kind of Jamaica you want, and your role in shaping the future.”
Minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Floyd Green, in supporting the ambassador’s remarks, commended the inclusive approach.
“I welcome the thrust of this programme and the focus of the forum, as, too often, projects are developed and implemented with the intended beneficiaries being primarily passive recipients rather than active participants. This sometimes robs the programmes of the rich perspectives that come from the real-life experiences of those whom we want to help. We also know that our young people are brim full of innovative ideas and creativity, and so are more than capable of bringing their own dynamic perspective to programmes, projects and policies,” he said.
For her part, university student and PRP beneficiary Nicole Collins was grateful for the support received under the programme and noted that “it meant a lot to me, because I realise that someone else believed in me, and someone else saw the potential that I have and believed that I could actually achieve my goals by giving me a scholarship. It was really encouraging for me and I hope we continue to be the change in other people's lives in the same way the EU has done for me”.
The PRP Youth forum, which ran under the theme ‘Bridging the Gap: Solutions for Youth Unemployment’, featured a film where young people shared their current realities and proposals for addressing youth unemployment. Forum panellists who provided actionable tips included representatives from the Young Entrepreneurs Association, the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, Small Business Association, Jamaica Youth Business Trust, the Jamaica Social Stock Exchange, JN Foundation digital entrepreneur Rushaine ‘Dutty Berry’ Berry, entertainer Wayne Marshall, and Senator Damion Crawford, the opposition spokesperson on youth.