Okay, so, I’ve wanted to do a summer writing project for young people for a while. It seemed like a natural extension of what I do with the Wadadli Youth Pen Project – i.e. the annual Challenge to young writers in Antigua and Barbuda. So much talent and potential comes through that programme but simply rewarding that talent and potential with a prize and not doing something to help develop it doesn’t do it justice. If I could receive a salary to do this kind of thing, for longer stretches, or at all, that’d be really cool. But that’s not my life. So I do what I can voluntarily. But this type of initiative would require more than voluntary service. I had come to a point where I needed to consider a business (or semi-business) approach to the project. Funny thing is that while I will and have endured the indignity of solicitation for the Wadadli Pen project, because I believe in the project, to say to businesses give me your money in my personal capacity so that I have the room and resources to work with young writers was something with which I struggled. More than that I knew that it would be a risk on my part (supposed it doesn’t come off) and an act of faith on the part of the businesses (suppose I took their money and didn’t deliver). I know my experience with people not delivering what they owe me (yes, I’ve been burned), but I also know my resolve (I burn myself out to do what I say I’m going to do), and I know that the talent God gave me and my name are all I own in this world (and no amount of money is going to make me dishonor either). But the businesses I was approaching had no reason to believe that, did they? So my approach was to ask them to agree to sponsor a young person. This wasn’t just a gimmick. The JSYWP would be open to all young people who wished to apply. But I especially wanted those who most needed it to do so. See, I know that there are economic and class disparities in Antigua and Barbuda (I’ve lived in the shadow of them as a youth coming of age in Ottos, Antigua and see and experience them still). And I know that these disparities can affect access to quality education, technology, and opportunity. I wanted young people who might not normally have the resources but who had the potential (like the child I was once, like the children I see when I visit schools or read at the Cushion Club or do the Wadadli Pen programme) to have this opportunity and I hoped that the businesses I approached could be convinced not just to pay me but to invest in that potential. Even so put, it was still an act of faith on their part to say yes, and I will do my best to live up to my obligations; in fact, I’m excited as I have been about few things in recent times about the opportunity to try. And I want to publicly thank those who’re making it possible for me to do so. I hope others will join them and I hope lots of young people will apply. Listed below (and updated with each receipt) are the ones who’ve already delivered on part or all of their pledge to sponsor the participation of a young person in the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project which will be held August 12th to 16th at the Silston Library:
Not every patron could agree to cover a participants’ tuition but they kicked in support in other ways. I’ve collected from the latest of these, Koren Norton, the kind of patron who doesn’t need to be approached but who contacts you to say, what can I do. Much appreciated.
Shirley Heights Lookout is an iconic historical and touristic site. They are also the latest patron to deliver on their pledge to the Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project. I appreciate their support. And, as every gift counts, I appreciate the gift of writing material (pencil cases, pens, pencils, a couple of legal sized writing pads) from St. John’s Cooperative Credit Union.
Anonymous came through today. He’s easily my favourite donor and not just because he asks nothing, not even recognition; but because he understands and appreciates what I’m trying to do and is always ready with words of encouragement.
Sanhall said: “Your proposed programme sounds quite interesting and I am sure will be of great benefit to our young people.” Like several other patrons of this project, they didn’t just hand off a cheque, they showed interest, they asked questions, they offered encouragement and support.
The same can be said of Paperclips. Thanks to them both for that and for delivering on their promised sum.
Townhouse Mega Store which when they agreed to support this pilot initiative said they were doing so because it has “great potential”. Their lips to God’s ears.
Brenda Lee Browne who is herself a worker on behalf of young people and the literary arts, notably through her work in the prison under the banner of Gender Affairs and through her own Just Write Writers Retreat.
Dr. Jillia Bird who like Browne was not directly solicited but who stepped up and proposed ways she could support the project. Dr. Bird is a tireless advocate for Glaucoma Awareness who routinely volunteers her services for eye screenings, advocacy and other activities. So, clearly, her sense of social purpose is highly evolved.
Caribbean Water Treatment and specifically Mario Bento who I knew through my work on the national recycling campaign. Also someone who gives time to give back as evidenced by that programme, he was the first to respond positively to my letter. As I walked along Dickenson Bay street where his business is located, having collected half of his contribution, it occurred to me that it would be kismet if a young person from that community – the Villa/Point area – could be the beneficiary of his gift. But, of course, they first have to apply.