Young Stewards of the Environment

Program Advisor at the United Nations Development Program Jamaica, Dr. Margaret Jones-Williams, shared her enthusiasm for the project.
Program Advisor at the United Nations Development Program Jamaica, Dr. Margaret Jones-Williams, shared her enthusiasm for the project.

It was World Environment Day at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and the lecture hall was filled. Student activists, members of several Kingston communities, schoolgirls and boys, educators – and various hangers-on like me who would probably fit into the “uncategorized” section. It was a great mix.

The ever-present smile of Edward Dixon, Project Manager/YCWJ, as colleagues prepare for the launch.
The ever-present smile of Edward Dixon, Project Manager/YCWJ, as colleagues prepare for the launch.

It didn’t matter who was who, anyway. The important part was the air of enthusiasm and getting things done. It is something I have grown accustomed to with Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica (YCWJ) – an organization whose birth I assisted at back in 2004. YCWJ is an affiliate of a Miami-based non-governmental organization which now has many overseas branches; it was founded in that year under the auspices of U.S. Ambassador Sue Cobb‘s far-reaching “Building Bridges” program.

Teens participating in the Youth Crime Watch summer camp at the University of the West Indies last summer.
Teens participating in the Youth Crime Watch summer camp at the University of the West Indies last summer.

As soon as I saw the smiling face of YCWJ’s Project Manager Edward Dixon I felt that glow of satisfaction. Edward smiles a lot. He is hands-on and his presence is both reassuring and inspiring. I was also greeted by the bright and impressive display from the United Nations Environment Programme’s Caribbean Environment Programme office. You can see what great work they are doing regionally if you take a look at their website: http://www.cep.unep.org.

The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) which is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) globally. The GEF SGP has had an active presence in Jamaica since 2005.

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The UWI is also a partner in the YCWJ’s Biodiesel Initiative, which we were all there to see happily launched. It has funded over US$2 million worth of grants to over sixty non-governmental, faith-based and community-based organizations  – such as YCWJ. UWI has also provided tremendous support – in particular, the Departments of Physics and Chemistry. National Bakery has also helped, as well as the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica which shared important information for the program.

OK, so what’s biodiesel? Well, in the case of the YCWJ initiative – which is an eighteen-month pilot project – it is fuel derived from waste vegetable oil. It’s a great source of alternative energy that can be used to fuel generators. In fact, the project has already been going since last September; during this time, YCWJ has collected approximately 1,500 liters of waste vegetable oil. Laboratory tests show that more than 80% of the oil collected so far is good enough quality to be converted into biodiesel.

Ms. Hyacinth Douglas, National Coordinator of the Global Environment Facility's Small Grants Program (GEF SGP) in Jamaica, unveils the project, while Senior Energy Engineer at the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining Mr. Gerald Lindo (left) looks on. (Photo: Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica)
Ms. Hyacinth Douglas, National Coordinator of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program (GEF SGP) in Jamaica, unveils the project. Senior Energy Engineer at the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy & Mining Mr. Gerald Lindo (left) enjoys the moment. (Photo: Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica)
German engineer and inventor Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) loved designing engines. He actually talked about the future of biofuels. (Note: I discovered that Mr. Diesel  died mysteriously on a steamboat crossing the English Channel from France to England. No one knows if it was murder or suicide...)
German engineer and inventor Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) loved designing engines. He actually talked about the future of biofuels. (Note: I discovered that Mr. Diesel died mysteriously on a steamboat crossing the English Channel from France to England. No one knows if it was murder or suicide…)

A little scientific nugget here, that I must share with you: Mr. Rudolf Diesel (yes, the name sounds familiar) actually discussed the use of peanut oil for fuel on August 10, 1893 – the day on which he fired up the very first diesel engine in Augsburg, Germany. August 10 is now International Biodiesel Day. Prophetically, Mr. Diesel said more than a hundred years ago, “The diesel engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the development of agriculture of the countries which use it…The use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in course of time as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.”

YCWJ Director Latoya West-Blackwood was an able MC.
YCWJ Director Latoya West-Blackwood is a very accomplished moderator. And it’s not an easy job!

Back to Jamaica, 2013. Youth Crime Watch hopes to collect approximately 30,000 liters of oil. You can drop off your waste vegetable oil at UWI’s Department of Chemistry, and a number of the inner-city communities and schools in which YCWJ works. The group has also set up a call/text/voice message number through which people can contact them if they need waste oil to be collected: 585-1529. Of course, restaurants and hotels have a lot of waste vegetable oil from cooking, as well as households; so businesses and individuals, please don’t throw it away – have it recycled and turned into fuel! With its focus on social entrepreneurship, YCWJ hopes to turn this into an income-generating activity. There will be a collection roster for the oil, and there will be a trophy for the school that collects the most oil – to be collected in five-gallon containers and in drums for larger entities. In March, the project procured a biodiesel processor to assist with the conversion. It’s made of stainless steel and it was, according to Edward Dixon, “a tedious process” to procure it from overseas. It now processes 190 liters at a time.

Executive Director of Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica Dr. Deon Edwards-Kerr.
Executive Director of Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica Dr. Deon Edwards-Kerr.

At the moment, those schools that YCWJ works with in its Saturday Program on the UWI campus are actively involved in the project. These include Rennock Lodge All Age, Melrose Primary and Junior High, Maverley Primary and Junior High, Cockburn Gardens Primary and Junior High, Norman Gardens Primary and Junior High and Calabar Primary and Junior High, all in Kingston. The communities of Trench Town, Arnett Gardens, Nannyville Gardens, August Town and McIntyre Villa are also very much engaged.

Next month, YCWJ will embark on an important stage of the project, and one that it hopes will ensure its sustainability. Over six weeks, it will train thirty students and thirty community members in principles of environmental stewardship and sustainable entrepreneurship, as well as aspects of alternative energy solutions. There will be training in soap-making (using glycerol) and in business plan development. The training will include the production of a Standard Operating Procedures manual.

One community member, Kemar Garrison from Trench Town, arrived fresh from his graduation as an Environmental Warden (“about two hours ago”) and entertained us with his fresh, upbeat dub poetry. His humor and optimism was contagious. He ended up surrounded by a large group of schoolchildren from the audience, who joined him in an impromptu performance of a well-known poem in Jamaican schools about environmental protection. They garnered huge applause. Many Jamaicans learnt this poem at school and still love it. Please find the full text below, courtesy of my dear Twitter friends @MizDurie, @jcankash and @anhavana.

Deputy Dean of UWI's Faculty of Science and Technology Professor Ralph Robinson.
Deputy Dean of UWI’s Faculty of Science and Technology Professor Ralph Robinson.

In 2011, Jamaica spent US$2.4 billion on fossil fuel importation; and let’s not forget the emission of greenhouse gases. Deputy Dean of UWI’s Science and Technology Faculty Professor Ralph Robinson pointed out that biofuels form part of the solution to greenhouse emissions,

And we must all continue seeking solutions, creative ones. We must shake off our continued, dogged devotion to fossil fuels, and look to the future. This tremendously collaborative, focused, people-based initiative is another step in the right direction. As Mr. Diesel said so many years ago, it may seem small, but…

Trench Town resident Christine Whitely told us how much her son, a slow learner, had benefited from YCWJ's empowering educational programs: "He's doing very well.'
Trench Town resident Christine Whitely told us how much her son, a slow learner, had benefited from YCWJ’s empowering educational programs: “He’s doing very well.’

Christine Whitely, a resident of Trench Town noted, “Youth Crime Watch has taught us the importance of partnership.” She “gets it” now. And as Edward Dixon observed, the communities and the schools “are the real reason we are here.”

A note on YCWJ’s Saturday Program, supported by UWI’s Department of Management Studies. Since its inception in 2008 hundreds of young people have benefited from a special program, which brings them up to speed in the all-important English and Math skills for the Grade Nine Achievement Test. YCWJ’s Executive Director Dr. Deon Edwards-Kerr expressed her enthusiasm for this program that empowers vulnerable youth. Congratulations to all who support and sustain this initiative.

Environmental warden Kemar Garrison invited all the schoolchildren present who knew the poem to recite it with him...
Environmental warden Kemar Garrison invited all the schoolchildren present who knew the poem to recite it with him…and the audience joined in.

I wonder why the grass is green

And why the wind is never seen?

Who taught the birds to built a nest

And told the trees to take a rest?

O, when the moon is not quite round

Where can the missing bit be found?

Who lights the stars, when they blow out

And makes the lighting flash about?

Who paints the rainbow in the sky

And hangs the fluffy clouds so high?

Why is it now, do you suppose

That dad won’t tell me if he knows?

A quiet evening at my yard...
A quiet evening at my yard… with fluffy clouds.
 Related articles
(left to right): Mr Gerald Lindo, Ms. Hyacinth Douglas and
Enjoying the moment of cutting the ribbon for the biodiesel processor are (left to right): Mr Gerald Lindo, Senior Energy Engineer at the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining; Ms. Hyacinth Douglas, National Coordinator, GEF SGP Jamaica; Edward Dixon, Project Manager, Youth Crime Watch of Jamaica; Dr. Margaret Jones-Williams, Program Advisor, United Nations Development Program/Jamaica; and Professor Ralph Robinson, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Science & Technology, University of the West Indies.

2 thoughts on “Young Stewards of the Environment

  1. So refreshing to read indeed. I love the positive vibes in your blog. You really enlighten people with all aspects of Jamaican life – the good, bad, evil, wicked, the lazy ones, the producers, the indecisions of the government and just about everything.
    Have you ever thought of getting into politics and changing things around with some of your brilliant ideas ?!!

    Like

    1. Thanks a million for your comments! Well, like most everywhere else Jamaica is made up of the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between, I suppose! I don’t think my ideas are all that brilliant and I am too old and tired for politics. Don’t have the energy! But the “indecisions of government” really does get to me, sometimes! Keep reading and I am glad you enjoy reading my blog…

      Like

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