Thanks to support from the Lasco Chin Foundation, we launched our first micro grant giveaway of $500 USD. In August, we opened applications to Caribbean & African women around the world whose businesses or projects are positively impacting culture + community. Here’s a profile of the woman we’ve selected as our first micro grant recipient. Read about her work and how she’s changing the lives of youth in her community.
We are happy to announce the recipient of our first micro grant, Kenene Senior!
Kenene runs a non-profit in Ocho Rios, Jamaica called God’s Investment for Today (G.I.F.T.).
G.I.F.T. is a social initiative catering to the psychosocial, spiritual and economic needs of at-risk children and youth. This is achieved through: individualized mentorship; empowerment sessions; gift and talent development; entrepreneurial coaching; civic engagement; and academic support through tutoring, scholarships and college career preparation.
In this interview with Kenene, we learn more about her and this amazing project.
What inspired you to start your non-profit?
Kenene: G.I.F.T. was initially founded by my father, Clifford Senior, who died in November 2020. He was always passionate about youth development and providing those who are ostracized for one reason or another with a second chance. I took on the mission in 2018 having worked alongside my father, and I guess you could say the passion was transferred. I love young people and I believe with the right environment and support, they have the potential to thrive. I want to be a part of that experience, and that has inspired me to continue the mandate that my father started.
How long have you been operating your non-profit?
Kenene: G.I.F.T. was relaunched in 2018 to reflect our current operational model and framework.
How many youth have you worked with so far?
Kenene: We have touched the lives of at least 50-70 youth and our goal is to expand our reach through key partnerships with schools, churches and community based organizations.
Describe the mechanics of how you work with youth.
Kenene: Currently, most of our recruitment takes place through word of mouth, and snowballing. Most of our activities are centralized within Ocho Rios, specifically the Buckfield community. Persons who are aware of us may make referrals. Also, in cases where we know of a young person who could benefit from what we have to offer, we may make contact with the parents/guardians and invite them to participate in our activities. Our aim is to partner with more churches and schools, and to offer ourselves as key partners for psychosocial and spiritual support, as well as character education.
What are the methods you use to help youth while you’re working with them?
Kenene: Our methods include one-on-one mentorship; each child/youth who comes into our program is matched with a mentor. We also engage our youth through provision of academic support; we offer after school and weekend tutoring, as well as our annual back-to-school supplies distribution. An integral part of our brand is the engagement in gift development. We identify gifts and talents that our children possess, and create avenues for those gifts to be nurtured so that they can capitalize on the numerous opportunities that may exist for them to be highlighted. Civic engagement is also key to how our youth are engaged. They are integral to identifying persons and families in need, and in ministering to the vulnerable through the sourcing and distribution of care packages. Finally, each month we have an empowerment session where keynote speakers address the children/youth on the selected theme for the month. We are now looking at adding the entrepreneurship coaching arm, which I know will certainly impact their development and empowerment.
What is your bigger vision for the future of your non-profit?
Kenene: The bigger vision is to have an established G.I.F.T. Centre where our services are available 24/7 not just to at-risk youth, but to all children and youth. We would like to develop positive behaviour curricula that can be sanctioned by our Ministry of Education and implemented nationwide within our schools, specifically for students who are deemed ‘antisocial’.
How will you use this micro grant, and how will it help you make a greater impact?
Kenene: The micro grant will aid in our registration and attainment of non-profit status in Jamaica, and also begin our financial literacy and entrepreneurship aspect of G.I.F.T.. Through these avenues we are more likely to garner other support and partnerships, and also attract more youth who may be able to see immediate benefits from their involvement in the program.
Do you think your Jamaican heritage has impacted your work?
Kenene: Being Caribbean has certainly impacted my work. There are challenges faced by Caribbean nationals that are unique to us, and so from very early in my life I became cognizant of those challenges – socially and economically- and have made it my life’s work to help in whatever way I can. Crime and violence is rampant in Jamaica and our young people are even more prone to gang involvement. Many of them never attain higher education, and this I know because I also work within a tertiary institution. I know that we are better off putting in preventative measures than reacting after the fact.
How does your work positively impact culture + community?
Kenene: We are promoting positive, altruistic behaviors as well as resilience among youth. Through G.I.F.T. we are ensuring a safer community and safeguarding a brighter future for our community where youth are less likely to become engaged in antisocial activities. Through our outreach activities, families that are less fortunate are supported financially, and the homeless community is cared for. Families/parents are gaining support and assistance and children are learning the value of giving back to their community. Ultimately, the community will have more productive citizens.