For nearly forty years Grace & Staff Community Development Foundation has been working in communities, building a bridge of human care and understanding. Our current programmes provide support in education, community outreach/development and volunteerism. The work of the Foundation is geared towards positively impacting the most poor and vulnerable within our society. Strides at building social capital creates opportunities for meaningful dialogue, which builds trust and leads to more peaceful interactions. Assisting young people to access educational opportunities has led to meaningful and positive life outcomes and income generation. Several activities promote family empowerment and holistic community development, all while fostering a spirit of volunteerism within GraceKennedy, among beneficiaries and within the communities.
Our education programme involves contribution towards school fees/tuition, lunch money, transportation, and the critical element of guidance and counselling. The Foundation has five homework centres in the corporate area: Central Kingston, Majesty Gardens, Barbican and two in Spanish Town. A centre is also located in Westmoreland. The centres are open to students supported by the Foundation, as well as any other students residing in the respective communities. Students receive assistance with their homework, and scheduled classes are conducted for reinforcement. Light refreshment is also provided at the end of the sessions. The Foundation steadily moves towards a target of providing financial assistance to one thousand students to mark the 100th anniversary of GraceKennedy in 2022.
Homework/Youth Development Centres
The Foundation’s education programme received a boost in 2013, when a grant of just under US$450, 000.00 was received from the USAID. This allowed for the equipping of the homework centres with state-of-the-art computers and equipment. The scope for training and development has been enhanced by this project, and several members of the different communities have gained certification and experience in a number of areas. Some beneficiaries have gone on to identify jobs and are now gainfully employed. Co-curricular activities for the students in the homework programme also benefitted, through the upgrade of camera and printing equipment for our award-winning photography clubs.
The centres operate on weekdays and the activities are coordinated by a Grace & Staff Field Officer, while we rely on volunteers to teach and mentor students. The approach is to work jointly with parents to ensure the success of the students. As a result, the Parents of Inner-City Kids (‘PICK’) group was established through funding from the Van Leer Foundation. This led the way for similar parent bodies to be established at each centre. The parent bodies meet monthly and work closely with the Foundation in ensuring the success of the programme. They are registered with the Council for Voluntary Social Services CVSS and are very active in their respective communities. Parent groups allow for integration of ideas and a melting pot of differences in opinion, political affiliations and geography.
GraceKennedy/Parade Gardens STEM Centre
We now have a major thrust towards promoting and working in STEM Education with the establishment of the GraceKennedy/Parade Gardens STEM Centre. The build-out of the centre -the first of its kind in Jamaica- was made possible through USAID funding under the Education Enhancement Programme. This Centre serves as a medium to prepare students for the world of work and entrepreneurship. The STEM Centre currently serves hundreds of primary and high school students, as well as students from early childhood institutions in the Central Kingston community. The addition of the Bob Marley Music Room, a donation of the Bob Marley Foundation, has introduced the Arts into the programmes offered, with students receiving basic training in playing a variety of instruments and general music appreciation. The Bob Marley Music Room students have benefited from music professionals coming out of the Alpha Boys School, the Jamaica Constabulary Force, JCF and independent music instructors. The impactful work of the STEM Centre has been made possible through meaningful partnerships established with both private and public entities, as well as civil society organizations. Since its establishment, the Centre has partnered with the Scientific Research Council (SRC), to host summer camps for children from schools across Central and West Kingston, Rae Town and environs. Other summer programmes have been made possible through support from other entities including the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Women in Maritime Caribbean (WiMAC), and our GraceKennedy subsidiaries, among others. All programmes involve a parenting component reinforcing lessons learnt by the students and addressing challenges faced by parents and guardians.
Career Guidance & Mentorship
Each student benefitting from the education programme has access to career guidance and counselling. This component of the overall programme is managed by our in-house Counselling Psychologist. Career mentoring has aided our young people in gaining experience and insight on career options and choices. The objective of the Career Mentoring and Professional Development Programme is to support the transition of students into the workplace, and involves employees of GraceKennedy in a mutually beneficial partnership. This programme connects a more experienced employee (the mentor) with students (mentee) to expand their insights, knowledge and perspective of their career options.
Additionally, quarterly workshops and seminars are conducted focusing on areas pertinent to student empowerment and growth. Our parents also receive resource information and support through the engagement of presenters from a wide cross-section of areas. We have received significant support in this area from agencies such as the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS), Social Development Commission (SDC), Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEY) and, of course, our volunteers from GraceKennedy.
Each year over seven hundred and fifty (750) seniors receive care packages through our Christmas Outreach Programme.
Our little ones are not left out, as a school – usually from within one of our communities where GraceKennedy operates a business, is selected to benefit from a children’s treat. On the day of the treat, the entire Early Childhood Institution is feted. This includes the teachers and support staff. The Foundation makes a quarterly contribution to the Salvation Army Geriatric Clinic in downtown Kingston. This aids in the delivery of health care and medication to the elderly living in Rae Town and surrounding communities.
Solid relationships are established with the community-based organisations and institutions in the areas where Grace & Staff operate. Some of these organisations include the Parade Gardens Community Development Committee, the Dela Vega City Benevolent Society, Women Empowering Women, Quarry Hill Citizens’ Association, St. Andrew Settlement, Barbican Baptist Church, Riverton Meadows Citizens’ Association and a host of other entities. Technical and product support is extended through these organisations in the development work taking place in the communities.
A major objective of the Foundation is to inspire a spirit of volunteerism within the GraceKennedy Group and beyond. Several avenues are created through which persons can volunteer by giving of their time, expertise and talents. GraceKennedy staff volunteer within our homework/youth development centres, serve on committees, participate in outreach activities such as Labour Day projects and Christmas Treats, and serve as mentors to our young people.
We are pleased to have our external volunteers from other corporate companies who serve as tutors within our homework centres. Grace & Staff also requires that our tertiary students “give back” by volunteering at a social agency for a minimum of twenty (20) hours each semester. This is intended to motivate our young people to serve others and make contributions to the Jamaica’s social development.