Ann-Marie Blackstock is one of 28 micro-business owners in Denham Town who have benefited from more than $2.9 million in grants distributed by the Jamaican government and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) collaborative efforts to respond to the needs of economically disadvantaged communities.
In the second phase of the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP-II), the 13 men and 15 women received much-needed financial support not only to contribute to Jamaica’s overall economic growth, but also to be able to create more jobs within the community, for the benefit of others. They operate within the community in areas such as retail and food service, photography, videography, hairdressing and livestock raising,
The objective of the project is to identify eight socially unstable communities in Jamaica in order to improve access to basic social services to create sustainable jobs and generate income. Seen as a lifeline, the funds came at just the right time for Blackstock, 54.
She said the gleaner that she worried about how she was going to carry on after losing both her son and her business, and enduring the financial difficulties that arose following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
RESUMPTION OF BUSINESS
Through the intervention of JSIF in December 2021, she received a refrigerator and a cash donation of over $20,000, with Blackstock able to take over her business and replenish her stock to sell on a push cart in the community and stock his store in downtown Kingston.
“Since I got the grant, I don’t know, it’s like God is blessing me,” Blackstock said.
“Every day I buy filler (supplies); normally I never did that,” she added, referring to her ability to store groceries that she sells to residents.
Thanks to this help, she is now able to earn up to $70,000 on good working days, which is, she says, weekends.
Entrepreneurs also received business development training on costing, customer service, marketing and sales, financial literacy and budgeting, business record keeping and legal requirements for micro-enterprises, in addition to receiving tools.
Mona Sue Ho, Senior Director of Social Development at JSIF, in her remarks, noted that it was important for JSIF to design a project that would connect entrepreneurs with business support services outside of communities. Some of these service providers included the Jamaica Societies Office, the Scientific Research Council, the Department of Health and Welfare and HEART/NSTA Trust.
“It is very important for us to recognize that the grants are a helping hand and not a handout, and that the businesses that benefit from them have a responsibility to themselves, to the community and also to the Jamaican government,” said- she said, noting that the goal was to transform business owners from informal entrepreneurs to formal business operators, while recognizing the importance of partners.
She also encouraged them to give back to their community, after identifying areas in need and thus giving them the required attention.
“As you move forward, be open to the possibility that you too can play an important role in providing resources to the community,” Sue Ho said.
Desmond McKenzie, MP for Kingston Western, said in his address that despite the community’s reputation for unproductive young people on street corners, crime and violence and other illegal activities, willing and genuine hard-working individuals can always be found.
“It’s an incredible story here west of Kingston, because a lot of people believe that all we’re good at here is either rubbing our fingers in the middle of our hands or [be] involved in activities that are questionable…but there are very motivated and committed people who live in West Kingston who need an opportunity,” he said.
McKenzie also echoed Sue Ho’s call for residents to take advantage of the opportunity before them.
“No matter how small what you do, you can’t keep depending on people to do something for you. So someone gives you a start; take the opportunity. Run with it and run with it in a positive way,” he said, hoping positive changes will transform the community.