Close to 700 children from State care got an opportunity to interact with several service providers and mentors through the second staging of the Child Development Agency’s National Exiting Care Expo, held on Wednesday, March 9, at the Jamaica Conference Centre themed ‘Waves of Change…Oceans of Opportunities’.
The event saw children between ages 16-18 years from across the Agency’s four regions (Western, Southern, South East and North East) being engaged in sessions on financial literacy, safety and security, marketing yourself and career planning in preparation for independent living.
Exhibitors from various government service agencies namely Passport, Immigration & Citizenship Agency (PICA), National Insurance Scheme (NIS), Tax Administration of Jamaica (TAJ) were on hand processing applications for NIS and TRN cards as well as Passports; important documents needed as they transition to independent living.
Other agencies include Vector Technology Institute (VTI); Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS); National Council on Drug Abuse; Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation; Jamaica Defense Force (JDF); HEART Trust/NTA.
Giving an overview of the Agency’s Transitional Living Programme, CDA’s Director of Children and Family Programmes, Audrey Budhi, welcomed youngsters and encouraged them to make good use of the opportunity being afforded them by garnering as much information as possible and capitalizing on the services available.
She mentioned that “Transformational changes are happening, because the Agency is keen on strengthening its capacity with key stakeholders to cater to your overall development so that you can reach your fullest potential. Hence the reason for
hosting this event, so that we can prepare you for the waves of change to come,” she said.
“Visit all the booths; participate in the sessions and learn all that you can, because this event is for you, our future leaders. No matter who you are or what you have been through, you can be future leaders, but the change begins with you, so start right now,” she urged.
Emphasizing the theme, Miss Budhi reiterated that the expo is a step in the right direction, carefully planned to expose the youngsters to the services and information needed while they prepare them for life outside of State care.
“We have redoubled our efforts to stage this event for our children, because we want to promote their growth and development. We firmly believe in the concept of transitional support for our young people preparing to exit the care system,” she said.
Giving the Keynote address at the opening ceremony, Executive Vice President for Individual Life at Sagicor Life Jamaica Limited, Mark Chisholm in his remarks, encouraged the youngsters to rise above their situations and break the inter-generational cycle of poverty by getting an education to be able to fit into the society.
“As you begin to grow yourselves, look on the person you see in the mirror everyday and write down your dreams and start working towards achieving them, step by step. Start making plans for your lives, because soon you will no longer be the responsibility of the government, so take charge of your destiny, and be the change for tomorrow,” he said.
Recounting his life experience, Mr. Chisholm told the youngsters that life is not an easy road, because in order to be successful, one has to work tirelessly today to reap future benefits.
“Create your own path, set goals, focus on the positives and forget the negatives. Things will change, life will change and may seem hard at times, but the best is yet to come, if you are willing to make positive changes for your life. The home might be broken, but you are not broken, so be encouraged today. Dream big, and live the dream in order to be successful men and women of tomorrow,” she said.
Meanwhile, Public Relations Officer for Children’s Advisory Panel (CAP), Kemario Davis in his remarks, implored the wards to appreciate the value of the expo, which is a means of equipping them for the real world.
“The CDA is preparing you to make a smooth transition from State care to independent living which is much different from what you are accustom to. Soon most you will be adults at age 18, and some of you are already at that age, but still need guidance. Enjoy the day’s proceeding, get as much information as possible, utilize the services available, set your goals and work towards them, because there are oceans of opportunities out there for you to make the most of,” he told the youngsters.
CEO of CDA, Rosalee Gage-Grey in her closing remarks, thanked the supporters, participants and all who made the event possible.
She also used the opportunity to encourage the participants to make good use of the information provided from the various sessions and exhibits which will become useful as they prepare to exit State care.
“Remain positive, think big, set goals, and work towards achieving your goals, because you were all brought on the face of this earth for a purpose, but you have to decide what your purpose in life is. If you haven’t decided yet, today is a good day to start planning for your future,” the CEO said.
Participant from the Western Region said she benefitted from all the sessions attended but was most fascinated by the training conducted by HEART Trust/NTA.
“I learned a lot of techniques about how to care for the hair and skin, and I also got a manicure and facial which I was appreciative of. The session on career planning was good as well, because I also learnt about budgeting,” she said.
Another participant said it was a great event, because it shows that Agency is committed to assisting wards of the Sate with the tools needed for the outside world.
“I like the idea of the expo, because I saw where many of us, including myself got our passport applications, identification cards and Tax Registration Numbers (TRN) processed. The sessions were great, but I benefitted from the money management one, and I also got information on how to become an army officer which is my dream,” he said.
The event was capped off with performances from Stella Maris Dance Ensemble Productions; Gospel Artiste, Lubert Levy and his Heritage. The opening prayer was done by Team Leader for CDA’s South East Region, Mrs. Morvieta Hunter, while the Masters of Ceremonies were radio personalities, Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley and Jennifer ‘Jenny Jenny‘ Small
Contact: CDA PR Unit