April 5, 2019

Youth Empowerment Ministry Draws Young People into Service in Jamaica

Damian Chambers, Jamaica Union Conference, and Inter-American Division News

Twenty students received grants as part of the volunteer medical and manual work undertaken during the annual Operation Save-a-Youth (OSAY) project held on March 17, 2019, in Manchester, Jamaica. OSAY is a youth empowerment ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Central Jamaica Conference region.

The main feature of this year’s OSAY was the community outreach projects, in which the youth assisted in the construction and beautification of homes in area communities.

One group of young people helped with major repairs to the one-bedroom home that Carl Siddon shares with his wife and three children. Another notable project was refurbishing a one-bedroom home for a family of five in Porus, Manchester.

“I am very grateful for the help we have received,” Siddon said. “I am giving thanks because, on my own, I would not be able to accomplish what was done for me by OSAY.”

OSAY is not only about service to the community, but since 2016 it has brought empowerment through educational grants, organizers said.

According to Kevan Barnaby, youth ministries director of the church’s Central Jamaica region, the 20 young people, ages 13 to 25, who attend university, college, or high school, received educational grants of approximately JM$50,000 (about US$400) each. To qualify for a grant, each young person wrote a short essay of 300 words, expressing why they deserved the educational assistance as well as providing proof that they are attending school.

Central Jamaica Conference president Levi Johnson said that OSAY is a critical ministry for youth outreach.

“If we do not empower our young people through education, the gangs will pick them up,” Johnson said. He explained that more than 30 percent of young boys in the region are out of school through expulsion or other reasons. Johnson promised that next year’s OSAY would see grants totaling JM$1.5 million (about US$12,000). “Our church is committed to doing whatever it can to save our youths,” he said.

Free Health Services

While most of the young people were participating in community service projects in various communities, others assisted in the Free Community Health Clinic and Expo at the Cecil Charlton Park in the parish capital, Mandeville.

Three mobile clinics, the Three Angels Pharmacy, Braeton Adventist church mobile medical and dental clinic, and the recently launched Jamaica Union HYPE (Help Young People Engage) mobile clinic partnered with the church’s Central Jamaica health ministries department and the Manchester Health Department to offer free health services to approximately 200 persons.

Another critical effort of the day was a blood drive that took place on the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) main campus in Mandeville. Dozens donated blood amounting to 49 units on that day.

HEART NTA Assessment

Late in the evening, when most activities for OSAY 2019 were concluded, a long line of people remained at the Human Employment and Resource Training (HEART) TRUST NTA booth, waiting to be assessed. Organizers report that 187 persons were assessed and certified in areas such as hairdressing, barbering, and other related skills.

Since 2015, approximately 5,000 young church people have been recruited and organized into groups to carry out community service projects in one of the three parishes of the region. The organization seeks out young people from throughout the community to get involved in making a difference where they are.

The original version of this story was posted on the Inter-American Division news site.