By Lincoln DePradine
Dr Leslie Yaffa – a Vaughan, Ontario, resident – is not allowing the restrictions of the Coronavirus pandemic to stop the work that she has been doing for Jamaica.
She is determined to continue the activities of the Jahmeyka Project, a not-for-profit group working with organizations in Kingston, the Jamaican capital.
Yaffa applied to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) for a grant and recently received US$10,000 to be utilized by the Jahmeyka Project.
“We got the grant in May. What we’ll be doing is trying to curb youth violence down there in Jamaica,’’ Yaffa told The Caribbean Camera.
The Jahmeyka Project was founded in 2018 by Yaffa, a social worker, university professor and therapist, who provides counselling on issues such as stress and anxiety, depression and grief, parenting, racism, marriage and self-esteem.
The origins of the Jahmeyka Project began about 25 years ago when Yaffa went to Jamaica as a Master’s of Social Work student. While teaching at the University of New England in Maine, she also developed a program called, “International Social Work in the Caribbean’’.
“I used to bring Master’s students down to Jamaica to do their placement,’’ Yaffa said in explaining the program.
After leaving the University of New England, she decided to maintain and build on the agency connections and on her experience of the Jamaican social service culture. It was against this background that the Jahmeyka Project was launched.
The organization, which includes a board of directors of members drawn from Canada, the United States, Spain and Jamaica, works with several “community partners’’ such as Grace Kennedy, Danny Williams School for the Deaf and Mustard Seed, said Yaffa, who holds a Master’s degree in social work from Wilfrid Laurier University.
“What we do is training and we fill gaps where there are issues around social service work and the helping professions,’’ said Yaffa, who also is a member of both the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers and the Ontario Association of Social Workers.
“We deliver training and collaborative workshops, and contribute our knowledge as accredited social workers; and, in turn, we learn from the shared efforts of partnering professionals and community organizers in Jamaica.’’
The Jahmeyka Project also supports organizations in Kingston that have identified needs in their communities for items such as school supplies and hygiene products, and donate funds to agencies for their operating costs.
The “stem youth violence’’ program in Jamaica, to which the UNDP’s $10,000 grant will be applied, is titled “Art 2 Connect’’, and will be facilitated by the Kingston-based Youth in Development Network.
“We can’t go to Jamaica because of COVID, but, on September 4, there’s going to be a mural painting which is going to be live online,’’ Yaffa said.
Other aspects of the program will include online workshops for children and a “Youth Summit on Crime and Violence’’ scheduled for September 21 and 22.