Behind the Scenes with Alicia Glasgow Gentles

Speeches Shim

Monday, December 7, 2020
Alicia Glasgow Gentles (center) and her team are the driving force behind The MultiCare Youth Foundation’s successful initiatives for investing in youth and community development.
MYF Jamaica

As part of USAID’s Neighbors, Partners, Friends campaign, we are celebrating young leaders, civil society, and the private and public sector actors who are helping raise the standards of Jamaican youth within their communities and broader society. Recently, we chatted with Alicia Glasgow Gentles, executive director of the MultiCare Youth Foundation (MYF), the corporate social responsibility arm of the ICD Group, one of the most diverse private sector companies in Jamaica, to learn more about MYF’s YUTE for Tomorrow project This year, USAID began a partnership with MYF under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to provide high-risk youth ages 15–29 from three disadvantaged communities with a series of social interventions to reduce their risk of involvement in crime and violence and increase positive participation in educational, social, and work environments.

What do you believe is needed to encourage at-risk youth in Jamaica to lead more meaningful lives and make a positive contribution to their country?

Many of Jamaica’s youth face daunting challenges in an increasingly complex, competitive, and often threatening economy. Demographic data for young people in Jamaica indicate a high probability for unemployment, low self-esteem, and problematic social behavior, particularly among marginalized groups.

Essentially, at-risk youth need strengthened technical and soft skills to better their lives and build their communities, but they need to be provided with the opportunities to do so. As our governor general once said, “What is wrong with Jamaica can be fixed with what is right with Jamaica.” Once we help our youth, they will, in turn, help others, and the cycle goes on.

What is the core mission of MYF?

The MultiCare Youth Foundation’s mission statement is: “In the business of changing lives… creating opportunities for vulnerable children and youth.” The foundation has consistently demonstrated its passion for investing in youth and community development through the creation of, and involvement in, successful initiatives. These efforts have resulted in positive transformation in the lives of at-risk children and youth across almost 70 marginalized communities throughout Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine, and St. James over some 27 years.

MYF is now focused on expanding its impact on the national level in Jamaica. Our goal is to improve the vocational, employability, and social skills of youth aged 15–29 who are at risk of involvement in crime and violence, or are in conflict with the law. This will include providing one-on-one guidance through mentorship and specialized interventions of behavioral therapy for those in need.

What role can the private sector play in development? How does MYF work with the private sector?

We understand that in order to be truly successful, we must work closely with the private sector, which is why we have private sector donor representatives serve on our Board of Directors. This way, they can offer strategic guidance and networking opportunities across sectors. For example, the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica holds a permanent seat on MYF’s Board and is instrumental in leveraging its position as an umbrella organization to negotiate employment and other opportunities for youth who participate in our programs.

We are also fortunate to have the ICD Group as our parent company and primary donor. Not only does ICD Group provide significant cash resources, but we are able to receive valuable in-kind support through shared services in accounting, administration, human resources, and information technology, as well as operational overheads such as rent, maintenance, and utilities.

This in-kind support from the private sector helps us reach more youth through our work. Many other private sector partners are able to offer subsidized services in line with their business. For example, through our partnership with the Jamaica Urban Transit Company, our youth beneficiaries receive bus cards for their transportation needs while enrolled in the program.

Other private sector partners mobilize their employees to volunteer as mentors or offer technical support to youth participating in our programs.

This year, MYF began partnering with USAID to tackle youth crime and violence while providing economic opportunities. What does this partnership entail?

Under this partnership, we will provide life skills training and mentorship opportunities to youth and leverage our private-sector connections for internship opportunities. We will also provide psychological and behavioral therapy to high-risk youth.

We will work with students from 10 high schools and juvenile offenders in four juvenile facilities across four parishes. MYF and USAID will also work with teachers, school administrators, civil society organizations, and correctional and probation officers.

By using a whole-of-society approach, our goal is to help these young people get on the right track by giving them opportunities in the private sector to succeed.

On a personal note, why are you so passionate about youth development?

My work has long been guided by a personal desire to empower and make a difference in the lives of young people. It is the period that often determines the trajectory of adult life — whether a young person becomes a happy and productive citizen, or falls into negative patterns. Having been a recipient of a life-changing “second chance,” it is an honor and privilege for me to pay it forward while doing work that I love — facilitating opportunities for young people, especially those at-risk.

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USAID engages with organizations like the MultiCare Youth Foundation as part of its overall crime and violence prevention strategy, linking private sector entities with vulnerable youth and local communities to improve access to employment, financial resources, and other opportunities to at-risk youth. For example, USAID is collaborating with the May Pen Chamber of Commerce and Industry to empower 15 high-risk youth to become entrepreneurs. The Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce is also a key member of the steering committee of a USAID-sponsored project to increase the resilience of 80 at-risk youth in two volatile communities in Montego Bay city.

 

About the Author

Kimberley Weller is the Development Outreach and Communications Specialist for USAID’s Mission in Jamaica.

Last updated: February 09, 2021

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