Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation focusing on holistic development | News

The Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation seeks to relieve poverty and distress among the poor and unemployed through access to education and general community development.

What started out as developing the skill sets of members of the community through micro-loans and small business projects, transitioned into educational programmes which have led to greater sustainability and transformation.

The foundation’s vision is to empower young people into achieving their optimum potential and meaningfully participating in their own development, the development of the community and contribute to the development of others.

According to Sandrina Davis, chief executive officer at Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, they believe that the youths are indeed the future, and, as such, they are heavily invested in their development.

“Our mission is to contribute to nation-building by supporting community development through partnerships in education and empowerment activities and utilising the voluntary support of GraceKennedy staff and affiliates,” Davis said.

The genesis of the foundation, she said, lies in the ‘We Care’ mantra of GraceKennedy Limited and the shared vision of staff and leaders in seeing Jamaica, develop to its full potential.

MISSION

“The foundation’s mission, vision and objectives indicate a consistent focus on the holistic development of the communities we serve. Honourable Douglas Orane when speaking at the recent GraceKennedy lecture reminded us all that we have a responsibility to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. We strongly believe that each day we inch closer to seeing our audacious vision and success stories from the beneficiaries we have worked with over the years is evidence that we are achieving our mission,” Davis said. “I don’t know if many people know this, but on our team are three social workers and one counselling psychologist. This group of persons being on staff is essential because our mission is more than just covering the problem with a Band Aid, we are really interested in trying to get to the root of the problem.”

One of the foundation’s major programmes is their tuition support initiative; secondary and tertiary students are able to apply for support for the costs of their education. “When we receive those applications and make our shortlist, we then have our interviews with the families. During those sessions, we ask the right questions that give us insight into the issues that could cause the student to not achieve their fullest potential. When the issues are identified in the interview and the student is placed on our tuition support programme, we activate our supporting programmes,” Davis said.

PROGRAMMES

These supporting programmes include counselling for the student, counselling for their family members, the social worker following up at the home to see how things are progressing, parenting sessions, parenting workshops, tutoring programmes and extra classes through the foundations homework centres.

“These centres are nurturing environments that cater to the holistic needs of the young people by constructively engaging them in educational and social activities after school that builds self-efficacy and diverts them from antisocial options,” Davis said.

The centres are located in communities across Kingston, St Catherine and Westmoreland. These include the Learning Institute of Central Kingston (LICK), Barbican, Majesty Gardens, De la Vega and Quarry Hill in Spanish Town, St Catherine, Savanna-la-mar in Westmoreland and the STEM Centre in downtown Kingston.

“We have looked into what makes up the formula for a successful student and we want to be able to support and fill the gaps so that the likelihood of the student doing well is even greater. Now once we are working with the students and we are working with the parents, naturally we have built trust and a good rapport within the community. Community groups, school and churches reach out to us to partner whether for sponsorship of different projects or to utilise our resources,” Davis said.

Volunteers at the centre include beneficiaries, parents, community members, GK staff and volunteers from other corporate entities. The Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation extends its reach to the community-based organisations and other stakeholders within the communities being served by the foundation.

“The ongoing partnership has been rewarding, like with everything in life, there are challenges, however, at Grace and Staff we have a mutually beneficial relationship with our students many of whom produce good results academically, the families which advance in their socio-economic status because of the support received from us, our volunteers who play a significant role in our programmes leads us to conclude that for the most part we are achieving return on our investment and we are inspired to continue,” Davis said.

According to Davis they have had the privilege of contributing to the education of thousands of people who have advanced in their socio-economic status. “The impact of Grace and Staff spans across generations. Over the past four decades we have been serving Jamaicans in providing access to education and supporting community development initiatives, we get to witness our beneficiaries transition and make significant contributions to the health, education, sports, finance and other sectors both locally and internationally,” she concluded.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com