From the comfort of their hotel rooms to the beauty of the North Coast Highway, and the sometimes hilly terrains and winding country roads, 10 specially intrepid guests, delegates at the recently held Sixth Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, participated in an exclusive one-day tour of three social enterprises in western Jamaica.
The tour, organised and hosted by the JN Foundation’s flagship project, the Social Enterprise Boost Initiative, assisted visitors to glean information and interact with operators of small social enterprises in the parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover. It was a unique opportunity for them to see some aspects of what was articulated at the conference.
With an appointed JN tour guide, the first stop was at a small sorrel farm and the Bethel Town Sorrel Factory in Westmoreland, with its primary product: the sorrel bag drink. Under the guidance of Ian Hill, chairman of the Bethel Town Agricultural Co-operative Society, visitors were shown the methodologies involved in processing sorrel to brew and package the drink.
Hill outlined the structure of the co-operative, which includes 15 members; emphasised the need for the product to be of the highest standard; and noted that standards were imperative for the expansion of the business, which he anticipates will tap into the export market one day.
“We currently supply a local market that is mainly educational institutions; providing students with a healthy drink, which is scientifically proven to have health benefits,” he explained, as the visitors were served samples of the product. The instant rave reviews created a buzz throughout the factory, as the guests got their taste buds awakened by the sorrel drink,
Hill further indicated that there were opportunities for the co-operative society’s sorrel-based product, and it was his hope that members of the diaspora would support the entity to explore overseas markets, as the factory developed products to meet the required standards for export.
The visitors expressed optimism for the expansion of the business; information was exchanged for further dialogue; and, then it was ‘all aboard’ for the next leg of the tour.
On arrival at the Source Centre, Savanna-la-Mar, the tourists were greeted by the pulsating musical sounds of the Mighty Beeston Mento Band, which set the mood for an engaging tour of the facility.
The Source, Savanna-la-Mar is the main resource centre for the communities of Russia, Seaton Crescent, Barracks and Grotto. The largest of five Source Centres across the island, it is a safe haven and the ‘go to’ place for students and adults, who use the services to develop academically and acquire business skills.
Julian Pringle of the Source Centre explained that community support was tremendous, as residents valued the role that the centre plays in for their lives.
“One of our recent achieve-ments was the opening of the creche,” he explained, noting that, “We listen to the needs of residents, and tailor our services, accordingly. Often times, we hear mothers say that they can’t go to classes, or to get involved in activities that will aid in their development because they have nowhere to leave the children. And, therefore, by opening
the creche, we eliminated that problem. Now, they can come here and gain a skill to change their lives, knowing that their children are safe.”
The group also toured the apiary of the Hanover Bee Farmers’ Co-operative.
For Andrea Bryan, a commu-nity development worker in Toronto, her interest in lending support services to social-enterprise businesses in Jamaica has been piqued.
“I love what the Source in Savanna-la-Mar is doing, based on my community-development work in Canada. I see synergies and similarities across both platforms, and I plan to seek assistance for the sustainability of these businesses. I took notes about the kind of technical support they need and will connect some of them with relevant entities in Toronto.”