The Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre (WROC) needs our support through a difficult time.
Economic conditions in Jamaica are harsh, we know; but can we allow a non-governmental organization serving needy communities, with a rich history of activism and achievement “go under”? I don’t think so. All the more reason, I would say, to support them in any way we can.
At a recent National Integrity Action training session, we had a presentation by Kinshasa Carvalho on “Maternity Leave Law: Struggles and Victory.” It inspired me. Ms. Carvalho spoke of the enormously influential Committee of Women for Progress (CWP), a group of just nine women who through careful strategy and powerful advocacy ensured that the maternity leave law was passed on December 31, 1979. If we think the patriarchy is powerful now, it was very much intact – almost impenetrable – in the 1970s. 1978 was the first year in which International Women’s Day was celebrated in Jamaica; the CWP made this happen. These women worked hard, and they got things done.
Not long after the passage of the legislation, the CWP moved into a new phase, founding WROC in 1983 and setting up programs to empower and support residents of the surrounding inner-city communities of Lyndhurst Road and Greenwich Park in Kingston. There was a strong focus on health, wellness and sustainable livelihoods in the early years; since then it has broadened its support to include programs to assist children, youth and senior citizens.
To this day, WROC continues to make important contributions to the national dialogue and actively campaigns on issues important to women and their families, making regular submissions to parliamentary committees on key issues such as the minimum wage and supporting women’s initiatives with its wealth of research capabilities. WROC was, from the start, built on a solid foundation.
These strong activist roots are an important factor in the tremendous success of WROC’s programs. Ten years, ago the NGO set up a Homework Centre, for high school students, who needed a quiet place to focus on their studies; teachers and parents volunteered their services, and the program grew from twelve students to an average of thirty to forty. In 2010, through the Universal Access Fund, 24 computers were set up in the trailer/container (refurbished by the UN Development Program and Digicel) and more support arrived from the Japanese Government, who funded the training of three teachers in life skills, an additional learning component that helped the young people to build self-esteem, confidence, respect for others and discipline alongside the academics. The academic results have, accordingly been very good, with the majority of children recently passing the GSAT exam to enter “traditional” high schools and other CAPE students entering the University of the West Indies and University of Technology courses.
The parents were not left out; the program has expanded to include parenting workshops and a support group. However, an information technology training program for adults had to be discontinued once the Japanese-funded project ended. The trailer facility is well used by residents, who would otherwise have no access to computers. It’s a valuable resource. For the past year, a skills training program has been added to the offerings. 34 young people have received training in animation and customer service (with HEART certification), remedial Maths and English, along with psycho-social empowerment sessions (that vital added ingredient, again). And – another success – most have since found employment, with WROC’s help.
How about sustainability? WROC is planning some social enterprises to raise funds; offering paid services to local small businesses and charging a small fee for computer services, for example. There is also the opportunity for those (at home and abroad) who might wish to sponsor a child at the Homework Centre.
So what does this all amount to? What is the true, human, intangible value of WROC’s work? Priceless, as that old advertising campaign for a certain credit card used to say.
I can’t emphasize this enough. The community members served by WROC are living in tenement yards and overcrowded housing. Households are often headed by single women, who struggle to make ends meet. Most of the men and women living in the area have not reached sufficient levels of education. And if the mother and father have literacy and numeracy problems, they are unable to help with their children’s education. In the inner city, frustration levels are high and conditions are harsh; domestic abuse and violence are common occurrences. There are too many “youth on the corner” – unemployed. The community desperately needs support; and it is more than willing to make its own contribution, where it can. Hope and opportunity is what is needed, as in so many similar neighborhoods blighted by poverty.
WROC helps to provide that hope, that opportunity. It is a lifeline to the community; and it is determined to keep some of its programs going, despite a severe shortage of resources. Unfortunately, it has had to temporarily discontinue the program that benefits the seniors. The Homework Centre continues its work, despite the struggle to pay utility bills and a teacher’s salary.
WROC makes Jamaicans’ lives better. WROC is needed more than ever.
Please help them continue their work. Please help WROC survive! Visit their crowd-funding and donate what you can – large or small. It will be hugely appreciated. Please note, however: The campaign ends on October 15!
So, how about contributing today? How about this weekend?