Trishna's Story: A Second Chance to Dream

A Second Chance to Dream

Imagine you are a top student in school. You work hard to get good grades. You focus on your subjects instead of just having fun. Unlike some of your peers, you keep your eyes on what lies ahead. Surely, if you keep up your hard work, your dreams will ultimately come true. You just need to finish school ...

But suddenly, everything stops.

Trishna’s World

 “My mom, she didn’t have the education that she needed. But I do, so I’d want to replace her life with mine.”

“My mom, she didn’t have the education that she needed. But I do, so I’d want to replace her life with mine.”

This is exactly what happened to Trishna, a young woman in Dela Vega City. As a quiet, reserved teenager, making friends was not the easiest thing. Most people her age seemed too busy with the friends they already made to take much notice of her. So she kept to herself and clung to her family.

But when handed these lemons, Trishna resolved to make her own type of lemonade.

As she spent most of her time with family, Trishna poured her energy into being the best and most responsible daughter and sister she could. It wasn’t easy, but she ended up helping her parents care for her 3 younger siblings. While, admittedly, her patience was tested several times, this young girl discovered a genuine love for children. Meanwhile, she also threw herself into the role of ‘top student’ at school. She was constantly driven by the need to make both herself and her parents proud. Eventually, as a way to combine her love for children with her goal of being successful, Trishna began to dream of becoming a nurse.

So things were looking up… She had a goal in life, and she knew she had what it would take to see her dreams come true.

Facing the Unexpected

 “Not working ... It’s very hard. People talk about you so you kind of feel down and depressed sometimes. But, you know, you just have to [..] brush your shoulders off and try again.”

“Not working ... It’s very hard. People talk about you so you kind of feel down and depressed sometimes. But, you know, you just have to [..] brush your shoulders off and try again.”

Fast forward to the year 2017. Trishna had just finished her 10th grade exams. Just one more year was left in her journey to complete high school. But not everything was looking as optimistic as she had hoped at this point in her life. Her mother was no longer employed, and this ultimately took a toll. For a while, Trishna had nervously considered the possibility of them no longer being able to afford upcoming school fees. Despite this, she tried to focus on her work. But, as the school year came to a close, she could no longer ignore the chance of this becoming reality.

Her worst fear was confirmed. Trishna would not be going back to school. Her family simply didn’t have enough money to pay for the expenses associated with her schooling. In that one moment, all of her future plans seemed impossible. She was stuck. To make matters worse, she felt like people began looking down on her for not having a job. She was now in the same box as all those peers she had worked hard not to be like. Others now saw her as just another “lazy, ambition-less youth who can’t get a job”. Unemployed, with zero qualifications and overwhelming boredom, she now spent most of her days at home … praying for some semblance of the life she once dreamed for herself.

But she knew she couldn’t let the story end there.

Can hope survive?

 “It was coming down to my birthday. So, yeah, it was like, on my mind all the time. Wondering if I was going to get in or whatever. So, when I got the news, I was like screaming, jumping ...”

“It was coming down to my birthday. So, yeah, it was like, on my mind all the time. Wondering if I was going to get in or whatever. So, when I got the news, I was like screaming, jumping ...”

After being out of a job for quite some time, Trishna’s story took another turn.

By now, she had moved out of Dela Vega City but still could find no job opportunities. One day, her stepfather told her about an upcoming program back in Dela Vega City called the “Young Adult Circle” (YAC). She heard that the program offered a variety of opportunities, but she got really excited when she heard about the possibility for further academic training. It had been so long since she’d been able to really stimulate her mind and learn new things … which she used to love doing. And, of course, maybe she could use this training to eventually find a job. Maybe, it could even lead her back to chasing her old dream.

She was accepted.

Trishna has now been a YAC member for over 3 months … And an impressive one at that. She has room to grow, but so far she has been one of the top YAC performers . Being in the program has also sparked in her the hope of new friendships. For years, she saw the faces of the current cohort of YAC members around, but never really got to know them, until now.

But, perhaps the most unexpected effect of the YAC, is related to her career. She’s still chasing a career in nursing, but she’s also exploring and being exposed to other career fields.

Second Chance

 What’s your favourite part of the YAC program?   “ The work. You know, you got new things to do. You have to take on the challenge.”

What’s your favourite part of the YAC program?

The work. You know, you got new things to do. You have to take on the challenge.”

Trishna’s story could have been a lot different.

Her dream could have died at a young age, after leaving of school. But, instead she had parents who supported her entering the YAC program. She had loving community leaders who work with her in the program every single day. She has people like YOU who, without even knowing her, have helped to change her life by supporting our efforts to help Jamaica, one community at a time.

But, most of all she had a strong spirit within her that would not let her lose hope. She always believed in her ability to succeed, and she never lost her drive to work hard ...

She just needed a new opportunity to act on it.

We Dare You . . .

We Dare You . . .

… To  Experience Extraordinary Joy in Giving

Jalawelo is run by mostly volunteers and we find super-duper extraordinary joy working together to give a helping hand to young adults, parents, and children who need a hand up.

Want a taste of that joy? Now’s your chance!

Get ready for #GivingTuesday 2018!!!

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Hmmm ... But  what exactly is #GivingTuesday?

It is a fun, innovative day for you show your gratitude, share the love, and to wrap up an amazing Thanksgiving!

After giving thanks for your many, many blessings… You can choose to bless someone else on the Tuesday after! So many people don’t have much in their lives to be thankful for. People across Jamaica, both young and old, are suffering from lack of opportunity, hope and real love. You can help to change this.

How can you help?

Partner with Jalawelo on #GivingTuesday to join in and help uplift parents, youth, and children in at-risk communities in Jamaica. A donation of any amount will help provide help to those who need it most. But it doesn’t stop there! Using the power of social media, you can choose to support people in need by not only making a donation of any size, but also by simply spreading the word about  our #GivingTuesday campaign!

Giving ... for the 21st century

Check our social media to see all the amazing upcoming content about important social issues. You will get a peek into the minds of the people we help, and you’ll hear about all the ways YOU can get involved!

So follow us to see, like, and share all the exciting blogs, photos, games and more we’ll be posting on our pages below!

Save the date! #GivingTuesday: November 27, 2018!

You don’t want to miss this incredible opportunity to help change someone’s world and to experience extraordinary joy!

3 Things You Need to Succeed!

We love to speak about reaching our goals. But how do we actually do it? What are the key ingredients we need to gain success in different aspects of our lives? Could it possibly be just raw talent? Or maybe pure passion? Or … Something entirely different?


Raw Talent?

 Parents at our  ICP  session who are open to learning how to parent in more healthy ways.

Parents at our ICP session who are open to learning how to parent in more healthy ways.

You know it. You usually do better in areas in which you are naturally talented. You also usually prefer to spend your time and energy in such areas over others. So a person who drew well as a young child may be more driven to pursue art as a career than one who could not. Or a student who felt math was easy in school may be encouraged to enter more math related careers than one who did not. Talent is definitely a factor in one’s success. But should we only go after things which come somewhat easily to us?

Some of our I Can Parent (ICP) parents had children for whom they did not plan. Several of them were not born as natural leaders, caregivers or role models … Yet, despite this, they try. Everyday they make mistakes, learn from them, and try once more to be the best parents possible. Sometimes, we need to push ourselves to learn and try new things. This even includes areas in which we may not be the most naturally talented. Because, with some practice and a willingness to learn, we may just surprise ourselves.


Pure Passion?

 What's your passion? "Right now … just my kids." -  YAC  Member

What's your passion? "Right now … just my kids." - YAC Member

How many of us did poorly in a subject at school in which we knew we were capable of excelling … But we just couldn’t bring ourselves to care enough about it? It can be extremely hard to apply yourself to things you find boring or upsetting. For this reason, many people have preached a Gospel of only doing things for which you have a true passion. And this makes sense. Doesn’t it? Passion offers us an emotional push - a strong feeling of excitement and purpose - that helps us dive deep into a task. We often depend on it to spur us into action and excel at different things.

But even with this … Is it enough?

Sadly, that immense feeling of enjoyment and drive that comes with passion … Is just that. A feeling. And, as we know with most feelings, they fade over time. Which is why we all should cultivate this last ingredient for success ...


The biggest one of all ...


Unfortunately, perseverance has become such an overused word now that it may have lost some of its meaning. Oxford Dictionary defines it as “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” That means despite not being as talented as others. Despite not always feeling like you want to do it. Despite ANY obstacle.


Success at our fingers

One of our top ranking Young Adult Circle (YAC) members has a learning difficulty and is probably no longer working off the high she felt at the very start of the program. YET she has worked consistently every week since. Because she knows, apart from talent, passion or even outside support ... The biggest thing you need to reach your dreams is pure grit and a willingness to work hard in any situation

... And she’s well on her way.

Any ingredients we missed?

Let us know down in the comments below!


Top 7 Back to School Pointers for Parents

Taking Good Care of Moms, Dads & Kids

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During the Back to School season, it is easy for us to focus on pens and pencils, notebooks and binders, new outfits and new sneakers, and to forget about the things that are truly important and which will have lasting value for many years to come.

Below are 7 key pointers for parents to consider as they prepare to send their children back to school.

  1. Think beyond the upcoming school year and take hold of a vision for all the ways in which you want to see your children grow and develop when ALL the school years are over. (It’s never too early to take this first step).

  2. Spend some time reflecting on the last school year (or just the last year if this is your child’s first year in school) and, based on what you know about your child and your own family context, make a list of things you want to do as a parent this year to support your child’s overall development.

  3. Write down the concrete steps that you will take to meet the parent-child development goals you came up with in No. 2, and share this list with your spouse, a friend, or an accountability partner.

  4. Remember that each child in unique so commit to an individualized parenting approach; you are not parenting your niece, your nephew, your neighbor’s child, or even your older or younger child for that matter.

  5. You want to focus forward, not backward, but, nonetheless, consider how parenting has supported your own personal development in the past and prepare yourself for the new lessons you will learn and the new ways in which you will grow as an individual and as a parent this school year. 

  6. Get your room, home, office and other critical spaces organized and prepared to support your new parent-child development goals.

  7. Relax and think about one capstone fun activity you can do with your child to wind down the summer.

Be as Passionate as Wicked Men!

Do Not Abuse Your Charity

The seventeenth century Puritan minister Cotton Mather once said the following to his congregation:  “Instead of exhorting you to augment your charity, I will rather utter an exhortation . . . that you may not abuse your charity by misapplying it.”  He added, “Let us try to do good with as much application of mind as wicked men employ in doing evil.”

It is always interesting to see how quickly we will respond to emotional appeals to give even when there are no mechanisms in place for accountability and no thought to long-term impact or sustainability.  It is common and easy enough for us to engage in non-sacrificial philanthropic acts that provide a balm for our consciences and leaves our deep commitment to consumerism and individual self-interest untouched. As Marvin Olasky reminds us in his book titled The Tragedy of American Compassion, “virtually everyone is pro-philanthropy”.  

It is also amazing just how quickly and generously we will give to causes that generate excitement and what we may call “feel-goodism.”   But, maybe it is time for us to become “thinking philanthropists”. As Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Are you a thinking philanthropist?  Are we using enough "application of mind" as we do good in society or are our actions motivated and directed primarily through our emotions?

We are always grateful for the strategic and thinking individuals who see the need for us to test new approaches to bringing help to the disenfranchised in Jamaica and in developing countries across the world.   According to Keith Suter, “People can be very stubborn.  They prefer to stick with old paradigms that are in trouble, rather than seek better ones.”  We desperately need to consider new paradigms for social engagement and these paradigm must take into account the need for personal discipline, faithfulness, and integrity on the part of everyone involved. We must also be ready to confront the reality of an ever-changing world that if we want to engage sensibly in a discussion on transformation in our communities.

Transforming Jamaica: One Word at a Time

The depth and breadth of many of the social, economic, and spiritual problems in Jamaica can oftentimes only be addressed through strategic collaborative initiatives. In reality, the complexity inherent in these challenges makes it absolutely essential for us to pay close attention to strategies for building and nurturing trust.


When individuals and organizations work together, they are able to accomplish what each one could not have accomplished alone. So, it makes sense that we are intentional about acting in ways that will nurture trusting relationships if we are to effectively serve our communities and our nation. Building these kinds of relationships is easier when individuals share the same priorities and values.

In a meaningful and thought-provoking conversation with an old and wise friend who has been involved in community development work for decades, he stressed the importance of ‘faithfulness’, just doing the things you say you are going to do and showing up if you say you are going to be somewhere. Just as important, is taking the time to apologize if things go awry.  

As we interact with each other as individuals today there seems to be almost an epidemic of unfaithfulness.  It almost appears that casually making and breaking promises has become a cultural norm. Brothers and sisters, we must remain vigilant about our word and our commitments.  In fact, this may be a good place for transformation to begin in Jamaica as each of us becomes more sensitive and considerate of others as we develop the habit of keeping our word, even in the small things.  

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Trust building must be pursued both at the interpersonal and organizational levels.  It is true that when relationships are new there is always some element of risk. But, with each new interaction, we have an opportunity to learn to trust each other more so that over time the sense of risk is reduced.  

The goal is for trust to grow and develop as expectations are met and new endeavors are undertaken with people and organizations we have come to know, to love, and depend on.  

Even though formal agreements can and should be used be used to establish a framework for collaboration, informal understandings based on trust often prove to be more important.  And, yes, it is true that trust is only one factor in a successful partnership, but when there is trust, other elements that contribute to successful outcomes are much more likely to fall into place.

What's in a Jamaican Mother?

When you look back at your childhood and you think about your mother, what are the special memories you have about her?


Do you remember her telling you not to leave the dirty dishes in the sink, asking, “Who in here you think will be cleaning up after you? Mi look like helper?”. Or do you remember her singing in the kitchen, off-key but with gusto, to the Jamaican songs on the radio while cooking Sunday dinner? Perhaps all you’re picturing is simply the screwed up face she made with a look that could kill as she threatened to punish you for any back talk. “Seh “feh”, if yuh tink yuh bad,” she’d say. A mother’s looks can comfort you or strike fear into the bravest of hearts.

In all the daily fun and “not-so-fun” interactions that mothers have with children (no matter the age of the child), there is usually a strong foundation of love. Despite their sometimes stern and no-nonsense demeanor, Jamaican mothers speak and behave out of the overwhelming love they have for their children. It is this type of love which is spoken about in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13.  The way this famous chapter describes love often seems lofty and maybe even impossible to embody. But, if we really think about it, we’ll see that so many of our mothers display different aspects of this “lofty/impossible” love.

We spoke to various Jamaicans as well as our "I Can Parent" (ICP) parents to see if mothers in Jamaica acted in keeping with this type of love.


Love Is Kind.

       “She trained us to be kind.” - Jamaican daughter and mother.

      “She trained us to be kind.” - Jamaican daughter and mother.

We know we have personally experienced the kindness of our mothers. But, think about it. Our mothers can also be some of the kindest human beings in general. Whether it’s saving an extra bag of mangos or otaheiti apples for you to give to your teacher or a neighbour ... Or stretching dinner so your friend could stay over and get something to eat … Or it might even be worrying that the rude boy from across the street may badly influence you, but still taking him under her wing and being a mother to him as well.

One lady we spoke to remembered that her mother would always save extra food to share with others in the community who needed it. And this is pretty remarkable because, in many cases, these mothers barely had enough for themselves. This model of generosity and consideration stayed with her for life and is something she has now passed on to her daughter and her grandchildren. Most of us have been privileged to live with a mother who was kind to other people beyond her means. By seeing how they treat others with kindness, sensitivity and generosity, we have learned how to do the same towards people in our own lives! The kindness of our Jamaican mothers remind us that they oftentimes didn’t have much, but they always had enough to share.


Love Is Not Proud.

             “I tell her it’s fine not to be fine” - Jamaican son.

            “I tell her it’s fine not to be fine” - Jamaican son.

Think back to a time when you played at your cousins’ house. Or when you spent long days at your grandmother’s during holidays. Or opened new packages of clothing and food sent down by family abroad. If you had any experiences like these, it’s likely your mother had support from others as she cared for you. Our mothers are typically our primary caregivers and so it’s easy to think of them as superhuman women who can do everything by themselves and don’t need much support from others. THIS IS WRONG. Our mothers are simply people trying to do the best they can against all odds. But, while it’s extremely hard to be a good mother, it can be almost harder to ask for help. One of our ICP mothers recalled how hard it was to admit to her friend that she was struggling to have a good relationship with her son. But once she did, it was such a relief. By sharing her burden with someone else, she could get advice, practical help and a sort of emotional release which only helped her and her son for years to come. So if your mother has ever asked for help, be grateful. Her love for you outweighed her pride and desire to appear to have everything together.


Love Is Not Self-Seeking.  

 "She had a lot of opportunities to go abroad for work. But she stayed to take care of us." - Jamaican son.

"She had a lot of opportunities to go abroad for work. But she stayed to take care of us." - Jamaican son.

Mothers in Jamaica have given so much up in order for us to rise above. Some give up their chance to see us play, learn and grow because they spend most of their time working to provide for us. Others give up the chance to chase their dreams because they spend years preparing us to chase ours. Still others give up a natural desire to be liked all the time, by choosing to discipline us and be “the bad guy” when we need to be guided in the right direction. An ICP mother told us that she has given up her right to be seen as the better parent in order to preserve her child’s image of their father. Despite the fact that she does most of the work and makes most of the sacrifice, she always presents the child’s father as just as loving and caring to her child. Why? Not as a favor to the father, but because she wants her child to continue to have a positive relationship with their dad. She wants that for her child and, thus, gives up her chance to be acknowledged as the more involved parent. This is a picture of selflessness.


Love Always Hopes... Always Perseveres.


Thankfully, mothers tend to cling to an unwavering sense of hope when it comes to their children. So many of us have acted in ways which may have, at times, disappointed our families. However, our mothers continue to love and guide us despite all of this. Their affection for us is constant and rarely do they give up all hope that we can become our best selves. A mother in our ICP program shared how hard it was to raise her daughter. As a teen, her daughter created serious trouble in school and at home. This went on for quite some time and the police even became involved at one point. The child and her mother argued about everything. They saw no end to the conflict and misunderstanding between them. Still, both had a heart-aching desire for a more peaceful relationship to develop. Although her daughter seemed to be headed for a life of misery, she held on to a drop of hope which kept her going. She continued to advise, discipline and affirm her love for her daughter regardless of what was happening. Fast forward to today. Now, her daughter is also an ICP mom, and they share a remarkable bond. The ICP sessions are usually filled with their joint laughter and comments. In fact, they seem more like best friends than mother and daughter. This new, healthy bond between them may never have come about if not for the continuous hope and perseverance of this mother.


Anyone Can Be A Mother

   “My mother never loved me. But I love my children.” - ICP mother.

  “My mother never loved me. But I love my children.” - ICP mother.

Not everyone has or is a mother like the ones we have described. We either know or are people who have, in some ways, been deeply hurt by a mother. This is because, contrary to popular belief, you don’t instantly or magically become loving once you become a mother. You can choose not to be loving, especially if you never learned real love yourself. On the other hand, you can make the choice to show love. Those “loving” mothers we know have become that only because they make the choice to love everyday … even when it’s hard. The “love-qualities” listed above, which we associate with mothers, are part of a set of behaviors that anyone can choose to embrace. Because of this, “mom-love” can come from anyone. It can come from a birth mother, an aunt, an older sister, an uncle, a teacher, a grandfather, a friend. You name it. It doesn’t matter if you had a good mother or not. You can learn to practice the art of loving others unconditionally. So go out and show “mom-love” to someone who needs it!

Photo credits: Jessica Brown

Inspired to be a “mom” to someone else? We want you as part of our team! You can show REAL love to people who are hurting in our Young Adult Circle program! You can learn more here!

Do you want to lend a hand of support to other mothers who may be struggling? You can support our ICP program here!

Jamaican 'Yutes': Our Unique Approach


Our future carries so much promise, as well as insecurity. Youth are the ones who will determine which one will come to pass. Their choices can either usher Jamaica into a new age of unity and hope, or add to collective wounds and lead the country into an era of further division and maybe even hopelessness. Our youth, no matter their social class, gender or political leaning, hold immense power. So why not invest in them now, to create the country we want to see in a few year’s time?  

While this is much easier said than done, we need to hold on to the fact that it can be done. We, at Jalawelo, have been working with young people in Jamaica for several years now. Over these years, we have refined how we engage with and help our youth. We believe our approach towards young adults is the best way we can impact their lives, in order to impact our future.

So, what is our approach? It can be broken into 7 key components…


1. Pay No Attention to Stereotypes

We learn who our youth really are…


Our Young Adult Circle (YAC) program helps youth who come from volatile communities and can often be ignored by society. However, this does not come close to fully describing who the youth whom we help are. Our country has countless young adults who are kind, honest and selfless. Many are bursting at the seams with creativity and innovation. Some can, at times, be fragile and insecure, while at other times, be armed with a rare confidence and extreme resilience.

In short, Jamaica’s young people are complex human beings with amazing potential.

Here at Jalawelo, we know this only because of our own experiences with some of them. Our media can sometimes paint a gloomy, overly simplistic picture of youth from a certain social background. Due to this, one can be led to believe that all such youth share a certain mindset or culture which needs to corrected. While this may be true for some, we disregard any preconceived notions and consciously try to approach each one with open minds. While we do research about their backgrounds, we never assume to know what they’re like as people until we meet them ourselves.

2. Help to Build on Unique Plans


We refuse to do a “one-size fits all” program for our young people. Such an approach chooses to ignore the distinct ways in which each person may need our help. Of course, we acknowledge the common needs shared amongst our at-risk youth. But we also refuse to ignore their differences. Every person is unique. Each one has a unique set of fears, skills, problems and dreams. We get to know each youth on a deeply personal level to learn their uniqueness before journeying with them to craft a customized plan to fit each individual youngster.

Each youth’s plan is highly personalized and extremely detailed. Such plans, which we call Individualized Education and Development Plans (IEDPs), aim to chart out a course towards their next desired step in life. It focuses on gently pushing the person’s educational, personal, and professional paths towards a higher degree of success.


3. Be In It for the Long Haul


We treat our young adults with extreme patience and commitment. Some may have gone through a traumatic event in the past… But, with God’s help, we are committed to helping each person overcome it. Complete healing may take months or maybe even years. But we believe our youth can get there somehow. And we’re excited to walk with each of them, no matter how long or difficult it may be.

We ignore cookie cutter notions of personal growth. We know that the journey to improve one’s life is rarely neat and easy. It’s often messy and long, filled with many steps forward as well as some steps back. Our mentors, who come from various walks of life, form real bonds with our young adults and commit to being a guiding ear throughout their journeys. It is this kind of faithfulness which we try to maintain in all our programs at Jalawelo.


4. Believe in Their Ability


Although we are sensitive to the damaging experiences which some may undergo, we do not believe that having been a victim to such things removes their ability to take action in their lives. We hope to empower each person to bring about some positive change in their own lives.

By saying they have agency, we do not give the rest of us in society a pass to leave them alone to do things themselves. Instead, we simply mean that we remember their ability to help themselves as well. If we offered to do everything for them, we would be ignoring the fact that they have their own set of skills, talents and ideas which they can use to contribute to changing their own lives. We’re simply here to offer additional resources and support while walking alongside them on their respective journeys.


5. Encourage Youth to Help Others


While we focus on their personal challenges and opportunities with them, we also encourage them to continually look outside of themselves. We promote this by fostering bonds among our youth, so they can inspire each other on their respective walks. Each YAC session creates a safe environment for the youths to openly discuss their opinions on different life issues. Such group discussions encourage empathy and respect for one’s peers, along with healthy conflict resolution among members. 

Apart from these sessions, we also create opportunities for them to work together through volunteer activities. By helping others, our youth can take a break from their own circumstances and, instead, focus on others' - even if for a while. They can help to build up their community and hopefully inspire others in the community to do the same.


6. Keep It Practical


We offer personal as well as practical support. Our goal is to get each young adult to the next practical step on their desired life journeys. To do so, we use technology to offer virtual academic training. We think technology not only can allow for more dynamic lessons to be taught, but is also fit for a generation which operates in the 21st century. Apart from this, we also teach professional skills so that each person learns how to operate in the work world to the best of their ability. Furthermore, we connect our youth to income generating opportunities so they can better support themselves.


7. We Mean Business


Finally, we choose to work with young people who are serious about changing their lives for the better. We want to meet people at whichever point they’re at in life and help them from here. But the person themself should be highly motivated. Our young adults understand that we can’t do it for them. They need to be committed enough to put in hard work consistently. With their diligence and drive, we believe our support will help to get them closer to their dreams!


All in all, our youth deserve our best. They require support from people who will approach them without cultural assumptions, who acknowledge their uniqueness, who are committed, who believe in them, who encourage them to help others, and who offer practical help. We must respect our future leaders, business people, artists and teachers by making sure we deal with them in the right way today.

Is there anything you think we should add to our approach? Please comment below!

Do you want to impact a youth’s life in a real way? Check out our volunteer page! We’d love for you to join our YAC team or help out in any other way you feel like!  

You can read the stories of two of our young adults from the YAC program here and here!

Join the Movement.

Empower Our Next Generation.


Jamaican Diasporans Are Making a Difference!

Jamaican Diasporans Are Making a Difference!

For Jamaicans living overseas, life sometimes gets so busy that they can easily forget the many benefits and joys they had while living in Jamaica. But . . . There are some who choose to remember and want to give back in a very real way!

Jalawelo Diana pic.jpg

Meet Diana, a Jalawelo volunteer. She is committed to giving back to Jamaica and she’s not afraid to take the hard road to do so. Diana is a diligent, organized thinker who loves to laugh, yet she is serious about helping people in sustainable ways. Like bun and cheese, Diana’s values and genuine concern for others are a perfect complement to Jalawelo’s commitment to helping people in ways that make sense for the long-term.

Life as a “Country” Girl

A true "country" girl in her own right, Diana grew up in a "sleepy district" in St. Mary, Jamaica. She lived a modest life without many modern day comforts as money was often tight. As a child, she watched her mother study to become a teacher in order to provide for herself and her 8 siblings. Diana learned from her the priceless lesson of working hard and thinking critically to solve problems. To this day, her mom remains “a guiding light” for her.

During her teens, Diana moved to the metropolitan area of Kingston and St. Andrew. She eventually earned a Master's degree in Business Administration and, there, she also met her husband, Peter.   

 Looking back at her small island home of Jamaica

Looking back at her small island home of Jamaica

Onto New Shores

Though life was pretty comfortable, after having children, the couple decided that they wanted their kids to have a better chance at getting a college education than they had as youngsters. So, in response to the Y2K need for IT resources, Peter decided to take a job in the United States. This was not a difficult decision as they both felt they had hit a ceiling in their careers. Nearly 2 decades later, they now are settled in California where Diana works as an IT Business Analyst and Project Manager.

Though living abroad, Diana has never forgotten her small island home, Jamaica. She deeply misses the sense of closeness and community which she found back home.  As a way to connect with and actively help her fellow Jamaicans, she served on the Scholarship committee for the Jamaican American Association of Northern California (JAANC) for a few years . It was through JAANC that she was introduced to Jalawelo.

Real Help… From Afar

Diana felt quite drawn to the fact that Jalawelo’s approach was to 'Provide Real Help, Not Handouts'. She liked the fact that the nonprofit did not simply focus on donations, but on providing long term help and forming strong bonds with people in local communities.

As Diana states,

“This is not the easy approach. It is slow going. However, things are happening. I am hopeful. I am committed.”

After donating to Jalawelo, Diana felt it was time to also offer her professional skills to serve her people. Through a happy accident, she got a chance to do this very thing! Diana has now been a loyal volunteer on the Jalawelo team for 4 years! She contributes at least 3-4 hours of her time each week and now takes a leadership role with Jalawelo’s Young Adult Circle (YAC) program. She also now sits on our Advisory Team. The “country girl” within allows her to get up bright and early on Wednesday mornings in California to discuss the YAC program via Skype with team members in Pennsylvania, Jamaica, and Florida. Her contribution to Jalawelo has been invaluable. She uses her clear problem solving and project management skills to boost the level at which the whole team operates.

 Diana made a new home in Sunny California

Diana made a new home in Sunny California

The Power of Every Jamaican

Again and again, Diana has refused to allow distance to prevent her from making her mark on the island. She believes that, as diasporans, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to contribute to positive change in Jamaica. In addition to offering some financial support, many can also give of their time and talents to make a change. Furthermore, people can stay connected to Jamaicans back home to offer emotional support. In other words, each Jamaican can do something!

Diana loves the idea of making a concrete contribution to the lives of marginalized people in Jamaica. By working with Jalawelo, she has been able to do that very thing. Now, as Jalawelo continues to impact lives for the long haul, Diana has the privilege of knowing that she is a important part of this change.

Thank you, Diana!

And thanks to the many diasporans who who are making a mark in Jamaica. 

In a “Me First” world, there are still people who care -

People who are critical thinkers and who are unafraid of commitment and sacrifice.

If you want to join us as we work to make a difference in Jamaica, send us an email!

You can also check out a few ways you can volunteer by clicking here.

We’d love to have you be part of our Jalawelo family!

Irrational? Common Misconceptions About Poverty in Jamaica (Part 3)

Here's Part 3 and final of our  exciting “Irrational” blog series!


Our "Irrational" series explores common questions people may have about those who suffer in poverty in Jamaica. Join us as we find out some perfectly logical reasons to a few of their so-called "irrational" behaviors!

*To be clear, the behaviors we present are not the actions  of every poor Jamaican person. Plus, the factors we discuss do not, by any means, provide a full explanation behind such behaviors. They are simply some possible answers for us to consider when confronted with conduct we do not comprehend.*

The previous “irrational” behavior we examined was this: Why Have So Many Children They Can’t Afford? Click here to read that blog.

Now, on to our final question:  Why Risk Your Life to Join a Gang?

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3. Why Risk Your Life to Join a Gang?

Gangs are extremely dangerous groups that often result in the death of its members. Why would anyone want to join them? Why not stay on the safe side? Jamaican anthropologist, Herbert Gayle, wrote on why gang life is so attractive to young men in Jamaica. Many join gangs as an escape from broken homes. Absent parents. Conflict in the home. Weak parent-child relationships. Most persons from Jamaican gangs have these tragic home lives in common. It is rare for gangs to have members coming from nurturing homes.

‘Nothing to Live for Anymore’

Many perpetrators of gang crime once started as victims. A friend may have been killed. A family member may have been raped. The house of a loved one may have been burnt. Such grief can destroy the hope in any human. Such deep cuts will naturally lead persons to want revenge. Gang life allows them to punish those who hurt them and gain some sort of justice. Also, those who undergo such trauma, often feel like they have ‘nothing to live for anymore’. So, a dangerous lifestyle in a gang no longer scares them. Death is not a deterrent. For some, it is the hope.

A Desperate Need for Provision

Thirdly, gangs provide economic help. Simple. Many people in poor communities cannot access quality education. Besides, although they attend school, boys normally drop out by age 16. This is partially because males are seen as the providers. So, if a family struggles, the girl tends to stay in school while the boy goes off to hustle as way of helping. Hustling consists of risky behaviors such as gambling, stealing and gang life. As Dr. Gayle put it “Gang life pays.”

Justification ... Or Empathy?

None of the reasons listed here are meant to justify negative and harmful behaviors. They are only meant to help us better understand and increase our level of empathy for those who are less fortunate than ourselves.. They reveal a thought process which one adopts given one’s limited life choices and circumstances. Chances are, we would be behaving in a similar way if we had to walk in their shoes. Hopefully, these few explanations have shed new light on some of the decisions made by those who suffer in poverty.

A New Possibility of Change

But that is not the end of the story. We all know of stories which show that, once people grab onto hope, they can eventually change the way they think about their circumstances. Instead, they can move forward to plan a better, brighter future.

We should go out of our way to understand those around us. Once we take some time to grasp the mindset behind their behaviors, we come closer to knowing the truth. And the truth is often this: the actions of others are rooted in both logic and emotion, much like our own. By understanding this, we can now empathize with and respect them more. It is important to understand the people we try to help, as this teaches us how to help them better.

What Do You Think?

If you have any questions or think we left anything out, let us know in the comments! Also, if you can think of any other questions people may have about poverty in Jamaica, please comment below! We'd love to hear from you!

See You Soon!

Thanks for reading our series on Misconceptions About Poverty!

Check back here each month, as we post more stories about Jamaica, our outreach ... And more!

You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be notified of each article!

IRRATIONAL? Common Misconceptions about poverty in Jamaica: Part 2

We’re back with Part 2 of our “Irrational” blog series!

We started this series with the statement that it’s easy for those of us who are not poor  to make pretty big assumptions about people who live in poverty.

*To be clear, the behaviors we present are not the actions of every poor Jamaican person. Plus, the factors we discuss do not, by any means, provide a full explanation behind such behaviors. They are simply some possible answers for us to consider when confronted with conduct we may not comprehend.*

The first “irrational” behavior we examined was this: Why ‘Waste’ Their Very Limited Money? Click here to read that blog.

Now, on to our second question:  

Why Have So Many Children They Can’t Afford?

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While this is often characterized in popular culture, somewhat comically, as “having baby-father drama”, it leaves one seriously wondering: Why would a woman agree to have babies with a series of partners who may abandon her? Why, when, ultimately, she will be left alone with several children, very limited resources, and no emotional support?  

Prove Their Worth

Renown anthropologist, Edith Clarke, helps us understand why this makes perfect sense to those who get caught in this unfortunate situation. Child bearing is very important within certain segments of the Jamaican society. It proves that an individual has reached the heights of womanhood or manhood. Childless women are seen as having something wrong with them, as it is only “natural” for women to become mothers. They may be called “mules” or even be deserted by their partners if they cannot bear children. Likewise, men also feel pressure to have a “yout” since this proves their virility and value as men. We all, rich and poor, feel a need to be valued. However, poor individuals who already feel undervalued by society often feel a need to prove their self worth - and childbearing becomes one way to do this.

Once a child is born, some men, having proven ‘their worth’, may leave the newly formed family. In many cases, these men are also not able to provide financial support for their ‘baby mother’.

Need for Support

This leaves the mother alone with a child to support. One should note that Jamaican women are twice as likely to be unemployed than men. Without adequate resources to care for the child, these women sometimes choose another partner to get the financial support they need or to simply provide a father figure for her child. The new partner may only agree to support the woman and her child if she bears him a child as well. Later, now with more children, the struggling, downcast mother may again be abandoned by her partner, causing the very difficult and heart breaking cycle to continue.

Unwanted Pregnancies

Finally, many women may tragically get pregnant due to rape. Perhaps the most under-reported violent crime, rape is unfortunately a reality for hundreds of women in the island. What may even be more tragic is the fact that many women are victims of sexual violence at the hands of persons they know. It should be made clear that this issue is not limited to social class! Rape happens regardless of class, age or race. In any case, we must consider it as a possible factor before we judge women for having what may actually be an unwanted pregnancy.

Yes. We need to consider all of these factors and the context before pointing a finger at women who we see as having children they “can’t afford”.

What do You think?

Do you agree with these answers? Anything you’d like to add?

Let’s hear from you!

Leave a comment below! Or drop us a line at

You can also check out our Twitter or Facebook pages!

Want more answers to these kinds of common questions?

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series!

Part 3 will be the final blog in this series and will examine the question:  “Why Risk Your Life to Join a Gang?”


BOOKS TO SHARPEN YOUNG MINDS: Maxfield Park Primary School



Maxfield Park Primary is a Jamaican school in St. Andrew which welcomes children up to the grade 6 level. Amidst a community plagued by poverty and crime, Maxfield shines as a beacon of hope. An explosion of colour awaits students within the school walls. The rooms, benches, and walkways display brightly coloured messages about learning. While much improved over the years, Maxfield still struggles with certain academic problems.




There has been a decline among some students’ scores for English, Mathematics, and Numeracy in the last couple of years. Presumably, one contributor to this decline is the inability of some parents to afford required books for their children. Books are mostly needed to help grades 4-6 pupils prepare for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP). This exam will determine the quality of high school into which they will enter. This, in turn, can ultimately affect their chances of entering university or getting well-paid jobs.



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The need to buy expensive textbooks must weigh heavily on the minds of parents. Financial burdens are a major cause of stress in many persons. Jamaican parents, especially, suffer from a high degree of stress; much higher than parents in the United States. Children of parents with stress like this often struggle more academically, cognitively, and behaviourally. Furthermore, high stress levels can negatively affect one’s interaction with one’s children. Studies show that stress can be reduced through parenting training, such as what is offered by our I Can Parent program. Jalawelo was happy help reduce the stress which may be facing parents via our Maxfield Park Primary book donation.



 The principal addressing her hopeful students.

The principal addressing her hopeful students.

New, crisp books were donated to 20 students whose bright faces showed curiosity and pleasure as they were handed their very own books. Likewise, Principal Beverley Gallimore-Vernon, brimmed with joy once she saw the books. She has a genuinely deep connection with her children, which was clear from the way she spoke about and to them. Her positive view of their future is what drives her to work with various sources of aid such as Jalawelo. She will unleash the potential of each child by combining outside help from others in Jamaica with hard work by both children and staff.




The school understands that they have a long road ahead. While there has been great improvement in the school, it is not perfect.

The principal briefly informed us that some shooters have terrorized the surrounding community. She noted that, if not guided, this new generation of children will grow up to be criminals as well. This motivates them to embrace the school’s motto: “Academic Success Under Construction.” It reflects the reality that, although a long process, success can be possible.

Thank you for taking them one step further on the road to achievement through your support!

Photo Credit: Jessica Brown


Maxfield Park Primary’s commitment to excellence has led to the founding of it’s own “Centre of Excellence” in 2018. This Centre will be geared towards the fostering of student's’ creative talents in drama, music, and poetry! Learn more about this exciting, new initiative here!

Jalawelo Spotlight: Our New Intern!



Joelle is our new intern who helps with program development! Here’s a bit about her:

Quick Facts

  • Name: Joelle Rattray
  • Age: 22
  • Faith: Christianity
  • Country: Jamaica
  • Studied: Anthropology 
  • Dream career field: International development


 Helping out at the Miracle Learning Centre's Christmas Fun Day.

Helping out at the Miracle Learning Centre's Christmas Fun Day.

I grew up in a very safe, sheltered environment. During high school, however, I had an experience that changed things. The incident allowed me to see firsthand the crime that I had so often heard about in the news. I’m grateful to God for letting me escape that scenario mostly unhurt, but it left me wondering about the countless others who hadn’t.

For the first time, I started becoming more interested in the news; watching to see any stories about people who faced similar situations. This woke me up to the realities around me and stirred in me a desire to help those in need. This included not just those hurt by crime, but also those who are suffering from poverty, mental illness, desertion.. the list keeps growing.


The desire to help others in a very direct way, along with my love of cultures, is what spurred me into the field of international human development.


I was drawn to Jalawelo primarily because they checked all the right boxes for me. I was most impressed that they:

 Meeting with 2 former members of our Young Adults Circle program.

Meeting with 2 former members of our Young Adults Circle program.

  • Don’t Have a "Saviour complex"

Jalawelo shies away from taking all the credit for transforming lives. Instead, they believe that much of the power to change a life lies within the person themself. They encourage people to contribute their own ideas and energy towards bettering their own lives. Jalawelo is simply there to help them along.

  • Offer Real, Sustainable Help

I was impressed by their “real help, not handouts” stance. They want to encourage a mentality in others which supports hard work and personal drive, as opposed to expecting things to be handed to them. So, although they offer help, Jalawelo expects individuals to work hard towards meeting their own needs.

  • Have Passion for God

Jalawelo doesn't just offer practical help, but also spiritual help. They understand that people need the life-giving message of the Bible even more than physical necessities. Their faith is what drives everything they do.


 Sharing her own childhood experiences at an I Can Parent meet up.

Sharing her own childhood experiences at an I Can Parent meet up.

It has honestly been an amazing experience!

I love that I’m given diverse, interesting tasks to do each day which I genuinely enjoy doing. It allows me to become more comfortable in areas I didn’t have much practice in before, like public speaking.

Working with Jalawelo, also helps me to work on my people skills. This job is extremely collaborative, so it encourages me to share my ideas as well as be more willing to listen to the ideas of my team members.


 Unpacking books to be donated to the Maxfield Park Primary School

Unpacking books to be donated to the Maxfield Park Primary School

Volunteering is still a fairly recent thing for me. It has opened my eyes to many of the positives that come with helping people. Volunteering helps me to:

  • Think Outside of Myself

To be frank, I’ve been quite self-centered and lazy for most of my life. So, the idea of willingly spending my time and energy on someone else was faaar from my mind. Volunteering is a great cure for that. It causes you to momentarily focus on someone else’s feelings and needs instead of your own.

  • Make a Direct Impact on a Life

I know that if I help someone, it might have a lasting effect on them. Plus, if a change occurs in someone’s life, it could create a ripple effect. More lives could be touched than you could even begin to imagine.

  • Form Relationships

You get to make connections with persons from all different backgrounds. Humans are humans. You can find a connection with anyone. This might even be the person you help.

Photo credit: Jessica Brown


We'd love to have you on our team!

Fill out our volunteer form here!

Or send us an email at !

Excited to hear from you!

IRRATIONAL? Common Misconceptions about poverty in Jamaica (Part 1)

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It’s easy for those of us who are not poor  to make pretty big assumptions about people who live in poverty. We question the life choices these individuals make based on how we believe we would respond to their situation. Fair enough. This is human nature - we copy and paste our realities onto those of others despite coming from completely different backgrounds. When we do that, chances are we’ll get it wrong. Sometimes, when we genuinely cannot explain the actions of the poor in a satisfying way, we simply label them as being irrational. But is it wise for us to believe certain behaviors don’t make sense . . . simply because we can’t understand them?

Let us dig deeper.

Focusing on the Jamaican context, let’s explore some potential causes to 3 common behaviors of the poor which others often find baffling.

To be clear, these are not the actions  of every poor Jamaican person. Nor, by any means, an exhaustive explanation of the reasons behind each of these behaviors. They are simply some factors for us to consider when we observe behaviors that we have hard time understanding.  


1. Why ‘Waste’ Their Very Limited Money?

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Expensive Funerals, Weaves, Nails, Dances . . . when we see people with very limited resources spend (or “waste”) their money on these items we often scratch our heads. The common thinking is this: If they don’t have enough money to cover their everyday expenses, why not spend the little they have to pay their children’s school fees, for more groceries, or just to save for a rainy day?

Sound argument. Or is it?

It does not take into consideration the psyche of one who is constantly deprived of economic resources. Research has shown that poverty affects the brain in quite a peculiar way. It causes humans to think in a much more short-term manner. There are a number of reasons why this happens. For one, persons who have little are brought up to treasure the present more than the future.  If you really think about it, this makes sense.  Linda Tirado, a woman who has experienced a life of poverty said the following:

“I will never not be poor […] It is not worth it to me to live a bleak life devoid of small pleasures so that one day I can make a single large purchase. I will never have large pleasures to hold on to […] because no matter how responsible you are you will be broke in three days anyway. When you never have enough money it ceases to have meaning.”
— - Linda Tirado

According to this study, wealthier individuals are only slightly more likely to delay gratification that those who are poor. They are possibly able to hold off on certain pleasures in life because, in the meantime, they still enjoy other privileges that keep them comfortable. The truth is, even if more poor people  became future-focused and ready to delay their immediate desires for the sake of reaching their long-term goals, they still have “more pressing short-term needs” which pull at their “limited resources”. So, they are unable to properly save or invest  for the future.

To clarify, this behavior is not unique to Jamaicans; it is also evident in other economically challenged population groups.

What Do You Think?

What do you make of this explanation? And how do you think Jamaicans can help curb this way of thinking? We’d love to hear your feedback! Drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook or leave a comment below!

Want more answers to these kinds of common questions?

Stay tuned for our next blog in this series!

Part 2 tackles the question: “Why Have So Many Children They Can’t Afford?”



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Understanding the Plight of Parents

The mother who used a machete to beat her “frantic”preteen daughter seemed frustrated as she repeatedly swung the blade unto her terrified child. This occurred last year, although it has only recently gone public as a video of the incident was posted online. In response, the police arrested the mother temporarily  and placed the child with family.  


Such severe discipline is not the norm in Jamaica. And so, the video not only shocked, but disturbed, many Jamaicans. It is true that controlled corporal punishment has been a part of the Jamaican culture. Most individuals, especially from previous generations, can attest to being spanked at some point during their childhood. This type of punishment, however, can easily spiral out of control when a parent is angry or under stress due to daily challenges they face.


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This may well have been the case with the mother on video. According to sources, she normally does not act like this and is typically seen as the “mother for the community.” Sources suggest that her daughter had behavioural problems, which may have caused the mother to reach a point of exasperation. Parents with high amount of stress often release their anger by beating their offspring. While this does not excuse the response of the mother, it may allow us to understand her more. She, and many others, may not have been equipped to properly deal with the challenges and strains which parenting presents. These issues can affect different types of parents such as those who are  young, single, and/or male in the Jamaican context.


Younger parents are often in need of parenting advice and and a way to support themselves financially. Almost 1/4 of all Jamaican girls have at least one child before age 18. Their young age may indicate a greater lack of emotional financial maturity to adequately support a child. In fact, most Jamaican youth work in low-paying and low-skilled jobs. This is likely to put extra strain on young parents across the island.


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Large numbers of children in Jamaica are being raised mainly by one parent. Single parents struggle to carry most of the responsibility of parenting on their shoulders. Mothers, in particular, face challenges since Jamaican women are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as men. Moreover, female headed households are usually larger, which puts greater pressure on already limited resources. Both single men and women are challenged, however, and sometimes do not receive support from their families or communities.



There is a trend towards a lack of father involvement in Jamaica. Most children aged 3 to 5 years old do not live with their biological fathers. For some fathers who do cohabit with their children, their emotional or psychological involvement with the child is kept at a minimum. This may stem from the cultural expectation of fathers to be mainly the providers, giving them license to neglect their roles as caregivers also. Furthermore, they may even struggle to provide financially as they may not have high levels education. This is because, in Jamaica, more males tend to discontinue school after age 16 than females.


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These are simply a handful of the issues which confront parents daily in Jamaica. While we must protect the rights of a child, we must not ignore the cries of a parent. Parents may need formal parenting advice  to break away from their own harmful behaviors. It is in meeting the needs of parents, that we can positively impact their children.

Healthier homes create a healthier future generation.


Want to Contribute to Healthier Homes?

Support Jalawelo's  I Can Parent Program