JAYECAN, was founded on November 26, 2013 by Abrahim Simmonds and Alex Sterling. The organization is built upon the principles of Active Citizenship, Social Action and Intergenerational Exchange. Young people from different communities, races and backgrounds are drawn together in the design of short-term projects with long term impact. These projects use different elements of Jamaican culture, arts and civic pride to inspire change.
Several projects have been created over the years for young people by young people – expanding on the concept of “Youth Helping Youth”, the initial motto of the organization. Flagship projects 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. At least 20 projects have been created by JAYECAN Members, impacting close to 2000 Jamaican youth.
The Youth Empowerment Awards (YEAs) is JAYECAN’s best known program; an award scheme that highlights and encourages the work of young people in the areas of Arts and Culture. At least 40 youth leaders from across Jamaica have been recipients of this award that features a well-directed production facilitated by a nominated playwright. Each year an Honouree is selected, this person is typically a pioneer in areas of arts and culture in Jamaica. The first ever honouree is Fae Ellington OD, a Jamaican Media personality and lecturer best known for hosting “Profile”, a long-standing talk show in Jamaica. The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) has been the headline sponsor of this event.
JAYECAN has transitioned several models of youth engagement and today boasts the most interactive youth-led model ever created by an indigenous non-governmental organization.
JAYECAN has forged many partnerships with local, regional and international bodies. The Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission (JTEC) under the leadership of Mrs. Maxine Henry-Wilson, was the first to establish ties with JAYECAN. A signed memorandum of understanding (MOU), established JTEC as the temporary home of JAYECAN in 2015. Additionally, the Governor-General of Jamaica, His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, endorsed JAYECAN as a partner of the ‘I Believe Initiative’ in 2016. In 2016, the Herstory Project received the Commonwealth Youth Award and Director of Cultural Programs, Michelle Thomas, received the Commonwealth Youth Worker Award. Co-founder, Abrahim Simmonds received the Queen’s Young Leader award by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2017 and was later nominated along with Alex Sterling for the Prime Minister’s Youth Awards in 2018.