Dealing With Triggers From Abuse

The trauma faced by persons experiencing the varying types of gender based violence such as domestic violence, child abuse or verbal abuse  can take a toll on the individual. Your family or friend may have been abused a year, 5 years or even 20 years ago but the pain that it caused can leave a lasting scar. This pain can be further triggered by things in the environment. This can be social media, at work, on the television or even from someone speaking.

What is a Trigger?

A trigger is an instance when you become physically and/or emotionally reactive to certain sights, sounds, or smells related in some way to the trauma you experienced. These symptoms and feelings are part of your brain’s natural response to unsafe experiences from the past. Your reaction to triggers does not define who you are. Your ability to “control” them does not put a limit your healing or growth.

What Does “Being Triggered” Actually Feel Like?

Everyone experiences triggers differently, but triggers generally produce some sort of negative physical and/or emotional response.

Physical responses to a trigger might include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Difficulty breathing and/or hyperventilating
  • Tunnel vision or an inability to focus

Ways to Handle Triggers


Writing is one of the simplest ways to address and process feelings associated with the trauma of your past. This is sometimes called expressive writing, and has quite a lot of research to back up the claim that it’s helpful for survivors. As you think and write about the triggering experience, keep the following situations and questions in mind:


Many survivors use grounding exercises to help them de-stress during moments of extreme emotions, dissociations, or flashbacks.

Survivors can try this simple, sensory-driven grounding exercise to stay calmin the present moment:

  • Name 5 things you can see.
  • Name 4 things you can feel.
  • Name 3 things you can hear.
  • Name 2 things you can smell.
  • Name 1 thing you can taste.


Breathing may sound simple but is one of the easiest and quickest ways to ground yourself. Breathing can be done anywhere, anytime and requires no supplies or equipment. Survivors can breathe their way to balanced emotions by. Intentional, mindful breathing increases the brain’s serotonin levels, which in turn helps calm the mind, balance emotions, and nourish the body.

Managing triggers does not come easy but with thoughtful self-reflection and practicing the best methods that work for you, you will learn how to recognize and cope. 

Gridlock: Covid-19 vs Violence Against Women and Girls

By Sharese Benjamin

The covid-19 pandemic has stretched and pulled all of us in many ways, from financial to mental issues, you name it. To reduce the transmission of the virus, governments around the world including Jamaica, imposed stay-at-home orders. This measure caused the shutdown of many businesses that were deemed unessential, the switch from face-to-face to online learning and for workers who can, to work-from-home.  Though these practices were meant to keep us safe it also gave way to many social issues such as the increase in Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW/G).

VAW/G was already a wide-spread issue in Jamaica but the pandemic has worsened the situation. Victims of abuse have been forced to spend longer hours during the day with their abusers. This increase of abuse during the pandemic has been termed as the Shadow Pandemic.

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Intimate Partner Violence, a form of VAW/G, is abuse that takes place within a romantic relationship.

During an extended period of lockdown in St. Catherine in 2020, an increased number of women have reported cases of abuse from their partners. This was discovered in a report done by CAPRI on the Impact of the Pandemic on Domestic and Community Violence.

While there are increased reports of abuse, there are instances too where in some areas there are women who are not able to report abuse and seek the necessary redress needed. This happens because they are around their abusers more often due to the covid-19 restrictions. There are some instances where though physical violence has lessened, verbal abuse has increased between couples.

Child abuse

There are many children in Jamaica who live in abusive households. These children often use school as a haven away from the abuse. Girls who have been abused by family members or family friends are now more than ever susceptible to abuse. There is concern that though violence may occur at home, there will be less reports made. This is attributed to teachers and guidance counsellors being less likely to detect when their students are being abused.

Report of abuse

There are some instances where women have been turned away in an attempt to report abuse to the police. Unfortunately, there are cases where measures implemented to curtail the spread of covid-19, such as curfew, were used as excuses to dismiss reports of abuse. According to a November 2020 Gleaner article, women have been turned away by police after attempting to report abuse. In one such incident, the victim was told to go home, and call 119 because the curfew was in effect at the time she went to the police station. She complied but was informed by another officer that reports can still be made during curfew hours. It is inconsiderate, that there are officers who would not consider that the victim likely took the first opportunity to get away which was perhaps only possible during curfew hours.

Efforts made to lend support

In February 2020, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) established a COVID 19 hotline. This inspired the Pan American Health Organisation to collaborate with the MOHW to get volunteers on board to be trained in Gender-Based Violence sensitisation and prevention. To received assistance using this hotline, persons can call 1-888-ONE-LOVE (1 888 663 5683).

More can be done

The availability of hotlines and safe spaces for victims of VAW/G are great initiatives but more must be done to nip the problem in the bud. To fix the issue requires destabilizing abusive behaviour as a norm in society. This can be done through focusing more on conflict resolutions in schools and the proper enforcement of sexual offences laws to name a few.

Violence Against Women and Girls is prevalent in Jamaica. As a society we need to make a collective effort to get rid of it.

Sharese Benjamin is a blogger and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree at the University of the West Indies. She is the General Secretary of the Mona Law Society and one of the outgoing programme coordinators for the UWI Mona Guild Intergenerational Women’s Mentorship Programme. She may be contacted at

Gender-Based Violence & Period Poverty

Founder, What Women Want

By far the most startling revelation around gender based violence (GBV) in Jamaica is the complete lack of national rage, frustration, pain and anger smoldered into large scale protest; a lack of the collective voice demanding value to be placed on the life of the woman and girl child. For a country with rebellion and revolution etched in the blood of its people, a country with just over half the population coming from the fairer sex, a country that is built on the backs and spines of multiple generations of women, the collective responses from the powers that be as well as the collective voice that pressures such powers are woefully and cripplingly embarrassing.

Jamaican women live in a state that was listed by the UN as having the second highest femicide rate in the world in 2019, in a state where 1 in 4 women will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime, where the law continues to beat them whilst down by handing out candy like sentences to perpetrators, where true justice is but an illusion and the best way of living is no way to live at all; keeping your head down and surviving one day at a time. With everything Jamaica is perceived to be globally, it is nothing without its women, yet the same women that hold it up are the ones whose spines are worn, shoulders heavy with burden, tongues thick with unspoken words and spirits that have no room to breathe.

But perhaps the reason why there is no national disruptions to this level of state led violence is because the very people who are needed to champion the cause are so bogged down with domestic and child care responsibilities, driving and fueling much of the formal and informal economy, spearheading civil society efforts, maneuvering ingrained sexism and misogyny, pouring their souls into higher educational pursuits, and all whilst surviving some of the most heinous acts of violence usually perpetuated in their homes. The level of challenges stacked against the Jamaican woman are immense and overwhelming, overwhelming to the point where it systematically snuffs out their voices even though they are screaming from beneath the wheels of oppression everyday.

Some of these challenges that flow into the big, murky pot of GBV readily come to our minds; family violence, socio-cultural norms, lack of resources for survivors, lack of legislative protection etc. But equally important to this conversation is economics and how economic disenfranchisement and the female participation rate in the labour market trickles down into a myriad of factors that keep women economically tied to men. On the matter of economics, it runs so deep that it flows into sexual and reproductive health conversations and notably conversations around period poverty. On average, the link between period poverty and GBV can be drawn in two ways; economically as mentioned previously and from a socio-cultural perspective which purports that women and girls are unclean whilst menstruating.

Relating to economics, period poverty refers to the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints and not only is this an immediate financial need that makes women and girls vulnerable monthly but an issue that leads to long term effects such as reduced educational attainment as school attendance is inhibited. This then leads to further reductions in the possibilities of upward social mobility for women, which of course leaves them dependent on men and more susceptible to violence as they do not have the means to leave the abusers. And so the cycle continues.
The level of work needed to combat GBV in Jamaica is massive and complex and multilayered but the one thing we need to understand as a society is that the weight and expectations we place on our women to not only survive violence but to dismantle it is entirely inhumane and heartless. The state and the men that receive the warmth of and benefit from the strength of women must step up and speak up for them. And until then, socially, culturally and economically we are doomed…

The Mental Scars of Violence Against Women and Girls

by Sharese Benjamin

Very often when we turn on the television or check social media we hear of tragic murders of women at the hands of their partners or people who they trust. These frequent occurrences may be classified as Gender-Based Violence (GBV). Jamaicans For Justice defined GBV as ‘violence against someone based on gender-related factors or violence which disproportionately affects a particular gender – such as sexual violence. While GBV can affect anyone, it disproportionately affects women and girls.’

According to the Jamaica First National Survey on Gender-Based Violence, more than 1 in every 4 (27.8%) women has experienced intimate partner physical and sexual violence in their lifetime. Additionally, 1 in 4 women (25.2 per cent) has experienced physical violence alone at the hands of a male partner.

GBV takes place in the home in the form of rape and sexual abuse; in communities through trafficking, forced prosecution and kidnapping; and in the workplace as sexual harassment, as well as in educational institutions, health facilities or any other place.

Our focus will be on a form of GBV, known as Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW/G). VAW/G not only physically harms survivors but it also leaves scars that tend to last much longer – emotional and mental scars. Putting a woman’s mental health in danger is a violation of women’s rights.

According to the Health Cluster, these scars may result in post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, substance misuse, self-harm and suicidal behaviour, and sleep disturbances. Let’s look closely at some of the long-term mental health effects such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • Depression– is generally described as feelings of sadness, loss, or anger that interfere with one’s everyday life.
  • Anxiety – this is a fearful response to stress but anxiety becomes an issue when this reaction affects your daily life.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – this can come as a result of the scary experience of sexual abuse, rape or kidnapping. Due to these experiences victims may feel tense, have difficulty sleeping or behave out of character.

Please note that it is not advised to determine one’s mental issues alone and that it is best to receive a diagnosis from a healthcare provider.

Other effects of VAW/G include not wanting to do the things that you usually enjoy, low self-esteem and not being able to trust others.

Survivors are encouraged to seek help from family members, friends and/or health professionals to escape their dangerous situation. Many victims are not able to reach out to those close to them because of limitations caused by their own personal situations. There are alternative means to seek help. Below are organisations that provide assistance to those who have suffered from VAW/G.


JFJ provides legal advice and representation, as well as connect victims to a network of support, including therapeutic, health and welfare services that can help meet their different needs.

2 Fagan Avenue
Kingston, Jamaica
Phone: +1(876) 615-5023-4 / +1(876) 755-4524


A non-profit organisation that assists victims of rape, incest, domestic violence and sexual harassment at the workplace. They operate provide counseling, shelter for abused women and have a 24-hour hotline in Kingston and one in Montego Bay between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Phone: (876) 926-9398


WROC operates a clinic and has counselling programme for women who need help dealing with various issues including abuse.

Phone: (876) 929-8873, (876) 960-9067


VSU provides free and confidential group counseling for women who have been emotionally, sexually and physically abused.

Phone Number: (876) 906-4924-31

Sharese Benjamin is a blogger and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) degree at the University of the West Indies. She is the General Secretary-elect of the Mona Law Society and one of the outgoing programme coordinators for the UWI Mona Guild Intergenerational Women’s Mentorship Programme. She may be contacted at

Nattoo’s Tattoo

Illustrator, Richard Natoo

When you hear ‘tattoo’, you immediately think ink and body art, right? But much like military tattoos, which are elaborate, dynamic displays of lively marching bands, precision drill movements and performances, so too are the widely acclaimed works of Richard Nattoo, that immediately command your attention.   

Even though he may not be manoeuvring a tattoo gun, the young paint-slinger’s creations certainly leave an indelible mark on art pundits, buyers, spectators and just about anyone who comes in contact with his collection. Suffice to say, Nattoo’s works are celebrated for vibrant palettes, flamboyant brush strokes and meticulous designs.  

Nattoo was born in 1993, Spanish Town, Jamaica, to a shopkeeper and an auto mechanic.  From a tender age, he’d developed an active interest in colours, textures, forms and shapes.  Since then – and with the need to find a positive outlet to let loose his creative expressions, Nattoo has incubated varied influences to create his own style.

Her Birth of An Echo

During his tenure at Ardenne High School, his art teachers would expose him to different, domestic and foreign art movements, which later provided him with a deeper understanding of local art luminaries. This epiphany would soon prod his career as a fine artist who creates works that wildly differ in theme, content, style and medium.

After he’d begun to experiment with his own style, Nattoo found his first outlet, designing sticker decals for flamboyant coaster busses that traverse the Portmore and Spanish Town routes. Having garnered accolades from within his hometown and among the bus owners and operators, his confidence had gotten a well needed boost, which further propelled his art and the evolution of his style.

Blackbird Featherbird

For the past eight years, Nattoo has been exhibiting his works which have been featured in several exhibitions at the National Art Gallery: Jamaica Biennial (2014), Young Talent (2015), and Digital (2016) exhibitions.

During that time, he’s amassed praises for his surreal, dreamlike creations that explore human emotions and in his words – “on a raw cerebral level”. The alternate reality which he creates, are linked to existentialism and the constant search for the meaning of life. It also represents motifs that juxtapose each other such as despair and hope, fear and bravery. Nattoo brings these ideas to life through a variety of mediums including watercolour, glass, pen and ink.

If you’ve wondered where else you may go to see Nattoo’ s art, the Kingston on the Edge festival would be another great start.   Nattoo has been a contributor to this art festival since 2012, with his most notable contribution being Explorations II (2015). His most recent exhibition, Lost in the Echo (2016), heightens his exploration of the motifs he generally employs.  This creation of a sort of continuum, he says, serves to remind his viewers of how the chapters of a book gradually prepares the reader for climax. 

Blackbird Featherbird

Richard Nattoo is a graduate of the School of Architecture at the University of Technology, Jamaica. He uses his skills and competencies obtained during his academic life to bolster his work and he does so with a high degree of precision – which is uncommon in the local art landscape. 

We delved deeper into Natoo’s passion for the arts and to learn what inspires him most:

Q. What inspires you to do art and what does art mean to you?

A. Art to me is actually breathing. I do art to understand the dynamic of my personality. The I feed the brush and the pigment with data and when it marries the paper it becomes information that I then interpret. I am inspired by my own humanity.

Q. At what age did you realise you had a love for art?

A. At age 4 when I watched a program called Pappyland. The host drew a peacock and it came to life and I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Create something that comes alive. 

Q. What stories do you tell through your work?

A.  I tell stories of anxiety and I tell stories of a wanderer in a world trying to find himself with the help of his spirit animals.

Q. What has been the highlight of your career?

A.  Getting fully sponsored for a USD$4000 residency at the Vermont studio center.

Q. Tell us about your most intricate and time consuming masterpiece.

A.  Blackbird Featherbed is my masterpiece. I did it in a time when I was at my lowest. The peacock in it is the same peacock in the piece Rigor Samsa. In addition, peacocks are an ode to young Richard who was inspired by them.

Q. How has art been a form of therapy for you?

A.  Art has always been a ladder for me. When I did FRAGILITY Part 1, I produced 100 pieces to help me get out of the dark place I was in, in my personal life. So art helps me to digest my feelings externally. 

Q. Through your work, how do you encourage others in the creative industry?

A.  I encourage creatives to be true themselves and follow their true north. Be an individual.

Q. What advice do you have for upcoming artists?

A.  Keep on creating. Be consistent. 

Too see more of Nattoo’s work, follow @djsinista1 on Instagram!

JAYECAN Unveils Canadian Chapter

From Caribana in Toronto to Ottawa’s Reggae Festival, cultural influences from Jamaica have been oozing through Canadian borders for quite some time.  To add to this growing ebb of cultural reverberations, Jayecan decided to launch its first international chapter in Canada. 

With aid from one of our island’s informal cultural ambassadors, and recent graduate of the University of the West Indies, Darynel Beckford, we’ve been able to foment and intensify a global appeal for Jamaican art forms. To learn more about this new venture, we had a chat with the 23-year-old stylist and budding communication expert:

Q. What is your vision for JAYECAN’s Canadian chapter?

A. The ultimate goal is to expand JAYEYAN’s platform in order to facilitate extending our reach to the diasporic community in Canada, by providing spaces where people who aren’t directly affected by our culture can interact with it, learn and develop an appreciation.

Q. What plans do you have to coalesce the Diaspora and Jamaican culture while in Canada?

A. In Canada, we plan to, through dialogue with different creative industry stakeholders at the micro and macro level, establish connections with Jamadian organisations – which should facilitate birth country and home country interactions – while taking into consideration other Jamaican diasporic communities across the globe – where possible. Most of these initiatives may take place online, until we can facilitate booking transnational flights.

Q. What do you love most about Jamaican art and culture?

A. Jamaican culture is simply one of the most globally impactful cultures – and should be protected at all costs. Our influence is seen in a variety of media and the only issue I have with that is that it is often appropriated and stolen from us and rebranded as someone else’s creation. Too often our choreography, for example – from dancehall steps to movements at the base in popular American music videos – is taken by copycats. And when our culture is claimed by others, what then can we do but sue?

Q. How has arts and culture impacted your life?

A. Art and Culture has been my source of just letting go and being unapologetically me, in the most abstract way. I love being on a stage and feeling the energy of the audience with every time that I emote, even if it’s not in a lead role. I love being artistic in how I style myself as well – because we have a limited control of our somatic appearance, but one thing we can control is how we dress. I am so grateful for clothes, theatre, content creation and all the artistic journeys that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing during my very young life.  I think most of my present perspectives would have been absolutely ridiculous to me if I weren’t able to understand and interpret them through art and culture.

Q. In what ways have you been involved in arts and culture?

A. I’ve been involved in art and culture since high school. I guess it’s kind of a rite of passage for most Caribbean students, who will have to do things outside of their comfort zones throughout high school – in order to have an idea of what they really want to do. After leaving high school, I made the very deliberate and bold decision, to become an actor of some sort, once I got into Uni. It started from AZ Preston Hall on the UWI Mona Campus to QUILT, and from there, quite a number of opportunities opened up for me. Whether it was acting, modelling, styling or just creating content, QUILT has been the bedrock of most of those initiatives for me. Otherwise, I’m just someone who really loves the freedom that art gives and I’ll lend a hand to any creative project, once I can.

Darynel Beckford is also a growing YouTuber and content writer/creator, with his Lifestyle x Beauty x Style Vlog (and soon to be blog) Darynel Weekly. He has worked with popular Jamaican fashion and styling brands such as Tribe Nine Studios, Collection Moda and EtAl.  He has been working in the performing arts for over 5 years. While at the UWI, he was a member of several creative groups and was casted in a local theatre production, Heist, written by Maya Wilkinson.  While he loves theatre, Darynel also has a love for music with much of his high school years having been devoted to the award-winning Manchester High School Choir.  Darynel is now based in Toronto, Canada, where he works in crisis communication and aims to make his imprint as a stylist and content creator. 

Join the movement today! Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at @jayecan_

Building Bridges: Africa, The Caribbean and The Future

Abrahim Simmonds is a prolific youth leader from the parish of St. Mary in Jamaica.

He is the founding director of JAYECAN and served as the Technical Officer for the LINKAGES Project in Jamaica, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Family Health International (FHI360), the largest global project dedicated to key populations living with and affected by HIV.

You can join us in live conversation with Abraham on June 11th.

Join our Facebook event page for the latest updates.

What do you look forward to about this Webinar?

I live in the Diaspora. The majority of the Caribbean region is from within the African Diaspora. One of the growing debates is that we don’t feel as connected to Africa as we should. The region is primarily a tourism destination and most of the market is in the US. And in terms of the exchange of culture, resources and labour, most of our efforts are with the Americas. There is very little exchange with Africa, or parts of Africa, especially cultural exchange.

JAYECAN used to mean Jamaican Youth Empowerment Through Culture Arts and Nationalism. There are many reasons the name changed, but we have stuck with the title JAYECAN. Essentially what we do is create different programs and activities that empower young people to be proud of their heritage, which includes being descendants of Africans.

For most of the organisations that we collaborate with in Jamaica and in the region, that is our primary focus: to build on this identity. It is important that in building on this identity we become more aware of the appetite for a link between both regions.

I personally hold close to a vision that once we are unified and we become blended and strengthen each other, there is so much that can come from the African Diaspora in the Caribbean and in Africa. When we can work together and facilitate our own exchange of ideas, labour and south-to-south experiences, I feel like we would be able to do much better.

What is the importance of a cultural exchange between people of the Diaspora and on the continent?

The region where we are from, our culture is formed out of creolisation and is mainly influenced by globalisation. So we run into issues of identity a lot in the Caribbean.

Our culture and our cultural retention are related to our history of slavery and indentureship of Indian and Chinese people. What we consider our culture is constantly changing because we are nations built up of so many people from different parts of the world.

What’s very evident is that there is a strong Indian and Chinese influence in the Caribbean, but the African culture is the one that constantly changes. Which is good! Reggae comes from our African people in Jamaica and splits into other music forms like dancehall; influencing popular culture in the USA and UK.

Accurately understanding those parts of our culture is very important. The first step is for us to really begin to investigate why we say some of the things we say, why we do some of the things we do. What is that originally reflective of?

If we eat stew peas, what in Africa, in the countries our ancestors were taken from, what elements of the culture mirror what we practice today in Caribbean culture? And in the same way, we would want to be able to share the hybridised culture that we have in the region with the African people, for the colour and creativity it brings.

What do you wish to achieve with your webinar?

I think that a webinar is a good platform to extend this conversation beyond this region. I have a lot of anecdotal evidence about people’s perceptions and feelings toward the African continent and our history. I did a quick poll about three weeks ago asking how people felt about their identity being part of the African Diaspora, getting ideas about how we could make that connection and strengthen our relationship. Some of that information I hope to share in the webinar.

I am looking forward to a future where we are more unified. Where when something happens to us that threatens our democracy or our livelihoods or trade, Africa would stand up for us and defend us as their people. That they would partner with us in different issues that affect us, like climate change or different economic factors that affect our economies, and we as a region would do the same.

I think countries have started to take steps to build bridges. In the last two years two African

presidents have visited Jamaica and set up partnerships with us, President Kenyatta being the most recent, having shared in our independence day celebrations.

In terms of social solidarity and partnerships among regular people like you and me, working

together and realising that we have an extended family in that part of the world is very important to our own progress and our own business.

JAYECAN is going to be able to push forward our agenda knowing that we have a bigger entity that is Africa Matters to join us in this discussion and push this agenda forward. Different people within our society should be able to identify with mentors and partners in that part of the world and then we will work together to build up two regions that are affected by different kinds of oppression.

Originally posted on Africa Matters.

Brittany Brown: JAYECAN’s New Executive Director

Brittany Brown is a passionate 25 year old who believes in giving hope to the hopeless. She is currently working in the tourism industry as a Digital and Public Relations Coordinator but dedicates her spare time towards finding solutions to assist persons living in vulnerable communities and solving  issues affecting Jamaica. She aims to be  “a socially responsible youth” who will help people and solve society’s injustices.

She has held numerous leadership positions and is currently serving as the Marketing Lead for another non-profit organization, Operation Help The People that focuses on educational development, social infrastructure and environmental change.

She joined JAYECAN in 2019 to further assist persons in need and contributing to Jamaica’s development. She has been a lover of the arts since her childhood and attributes some of her development as a child through the arts specifically dance and drama. It is this love and understanding of the arts that allowed her to become apart of JAYECAN.

She wants to continue enabling children who may not have the privilege or access to the arts to become empowered. Art for her is more than just expressing ones self but a safe space for many persons who are faced with personal issues.

She believes that for every child impacted through JAYECAN’s programmes another community is reborn. “I am grateful for the opportunity for JAYECAN to be apart of these children’s development and enabling them to understand who they are rather than lacking confidence or become something they’re not.”

Through her leadership she wants to further develop  JAYECAN’s major projects “ArtReach” and “HerStory” through collaboration and increased funding. Through collaboration, it will create pathways for networking opportunities that can potentially translate to new partnerships, resource sharing and lesson sharing activities. This will prove useful to the continued success of our organization. It is her hope that we can add to the value proposition of like-minded organizations and especially create and endorse a network of organisations that create opportunities for young creatives and grassroot leaders.

Community development is a vital aspect to her leadership and as such will be mobilizing a team to assist other community leaders convey JAYECAN’s vision and further implement projects within their community.

Brittany believes that every volunteer in JAYECAN will be more than just a volunteer but a cultural volunteer who will build relationships with children in varying communities and assist in individuals honing their skills.

She believes arts and culture is important to social change and cohesion and wants to play her part in helping young creatives recognize their abilities. It is with these abilities developed that JAYECAN will be able to monetize the skill sets of individuals within the programme. She wants to not only use art as a form of therapy but also contribute to Jamaica’s creative industry.

JAYECAN Executive Director Receives Queens’ Young Leader Award

Abrahim Simmonds

Jamaican Abrahim Simmonds was on Thursday presented with a Queen’s Young Leaders Award at Buckingham Palace by Queen Elizabeth herself, for his work in using the arts to help develop the skills of young people in his homeland.

Simmonds, 23, is a co-founder and the Executive Director of Jamaican Youth Empowerment through Culture, Arts and Nationalism (JAYECAN).

JAYECAN helps young people to identify a skill or talent that they can use to help their community and create programmes which use the arts to drive positive change. These include ‘ArtReach’, in which volunteers visit children’s homes and rehabilitation centres to provide music, art and drama sessions; and Herstory, which encourages young women from disadvantaged communities to use the spoken word and writing to help them to positively explore their past.

For the third year, the Queen’s Young Leader Awards were presented to a number of young game changers across the Commonwealth who have demonstrated commitment to transform the lives of people in their communities.

The programme was established in 2014 to help talented young leaders to realise their potential and position them for greater success in the future, to the benefit of the lives of people across the Commonwealth.

Young achievers from 36 countries across the Commonwealth on Thursday celebrated their Queen’s Young Leaders Awards with a number of special guests, including Sir John Major, Sir Mo Farah, Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, Liam Payne and Anita Rani.

Simmonds spent a week in the United Kingdom meeting and exchanging ideas with the other young leaders.

JAYECAN Culture Director Receives Commonwealth Award

Twenty-five-year-old ttorney-at-law Michelle Thomas of Jamaica is a finalist in the 2017 Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work.

Thomas, who hails from Cooreville Gardens, St Andrew, is going up against 16 other young people from 13 countries across the Commonwealth, among them the founder of a youth-led organisation in Papua New Guinea that uses sport as a tool to end violence against women, and the owner of a Nigerian company which uses geo-mapping to recycle waste.

For her part, Thomas is founder of ‘No Crime Movement’ that provides a platform to build support for a society based on respect for human rights. The project targets over 3,000 young people including women who were subjected to sexual abuse, young people who are in prison, and those living with disabilities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people (LGBT) youth. Her work emphasises an increase in citizen involvement and community-level policing.

The winner — the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year — will be announced at an awards ceremony at Marlborough House in London this Wednesday, March 15.

Repeated attempts to reach Thomas last week were unsuccessful, but in an interview with our sister publication All Woman a year ago, the young woman said social involvement is almost second nature to her.

“For me, to be a lawyer and not give back to society would be the highest level of hypocrisy, because I am who I am today because of my involvement and passion to serve my country and stand out,” she said then.

She is director of Cultural Programmes at Jamaican Youth Empowerment through Culture, Arts and Nationalism, a member of the Commonwealth Youth Peace Ambassador Network, the Kingston and St Andrew Festival Queen for 2016 and third-place finisher in the national competition, a Governor General I Believe ambassador, special projects chairperson at Educatours Jamaica, a member of the Kingston Open Bible’s youth ministry, mentor for the Denham Town High School debate team, and a litany of others.

The Commonwealth Youth Awards for Excellence in Development Work celebrate outstanding adolescents and young adults aged 15-29 from Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and Americas, Africa and Europe, who are leading initiatives ranging from poverty alleviation to peace-building.

This year’s group of finalists are recognised for spearheading projects that will contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals — a set of 17 global targets that governments have committed to achieve by 2030.

“Through their own initiative, young leaders in communities across the world are delivering on the ambitious agenda set by governments on everything from eliminating hunger to protecting the environment,” said Katherine Ellis, Director of Youth at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

“All of the outstanding finalists… have demonstrated that young people are central to bringing forward positive change. Through these awards, we seek to celebrate their achievements and inspire others to follow in their footsteps, and encourage high level support for youth-led development efforts.”

The finalists were chosen by a panel of judges including representatives of Commonwealth High Commissions, Commonwealth organisations and young leaders.

One of the judges, Angelique Pouponneau, vice-chair of the Commonwealth Youth Council, commented that “each of the youth awardees’ stories has brought inspiration and faith that today and tomorrow are in good hands with young people as equal partners of development”.

In addition to The Commonwealth Young Person of the Year, regional young persons of the year for Asia, the Pacific, the Caribbean and the Americas, Africa and Europe will also be named on Wednesday. The shortlisted finalists are: Michael Sheldrick, Australia; Towfique Ahmad Khan and Ukhengching Marma, Bangladesh; Ishita Aggarwal, Canada; Tricia Teekah, Guyana; Michelle Thomas, Jamaica; Charles Lipenga, Malawi; Charles Immanuel Akhimien, Owobi Emmanuel, and Destiny Frederick, Nigeria; Hadiqa Bashir, Pakistan; Jacqueline Joseph and Raylance Mesa, Papua New Guinea; Krystle Reid, Sri Lanka; R Tamira L V Browne, Saint Vincent and The Grenadines; Charles Batte, Uganda; and Jonathan Andrews and Yentyl Williams, United Kingdom.