As most of you may know, ACE is very much involved in the Micro-Enterprise business in Jamaica. The program came out of meeting parents and caretakers of our sponsored children who were willing to work but didn’t really have a plan or practical skills.
Many years ago, ACE thought the best way to help would be to offer loans of $200 to $300US for items like weed eaters (Whippers in Jamaica), chicken business items, tuck shop merchandise, etc. What we found out very quickly was that once the machines broke down or the chicks died or the food was purchased, the business fell by the wayside because of the lack of knowledge of investment and sustainability. ACE brought in some of the best business men and women from the States to offer one-on-one coaching. Unfortunately, we all had to realize that all the know-how in America doesn’t necessarily relate to the day-to-day survival of individuals who are struggling just to feed their child or get them a taxi to go to school.
Those years were real learning curves for us as well as lessons on middle-class mind-filtering. We in America have been so fortunate to think on a critical-skills level. We think all people in all countries have the same advantage – until we begin to move in the circles of poverty. Poverty is where the majority of people in the world live. There isn’t a welfare program, a Social Security plan, soup houses, or free taxis. There is just a community trying to pull together to make it through the everyday challenges we call “living”.
We have said that Jamaicans seem to give us middle-class Americans more than we give them. While we have the knowledge and generosity to give our time and expertise for career guidance, it is indeed the Jamaicans who teach us what real life and self-sacrifice is all about. Getting that latest TV or smart phone isn’t as important as having someone to communicate with, someone who cares, even if all you have is a “banger” phone (a cheap phone that Jamaicans use to communicate). Knowledge is key, and so many want to learn and be successful in their businesses – not for the fancy things they can buy but to provide for their families and have peace of mind.
Today, with ACE turning 30 years old this year, we all feel that our focus has changed from the earlier days to having a better understanding of who we serve and the why behind it. We’d like to highlight a few businesses that are doing well and changing lives for these individuals, and their families and friends, and in the process, offer change for us in our well-established world.