Children who draw their pain

Children who feel they have to kill; children mourning family; and children who just want to escape… Spent some time recently with volunteer Peace Management Initiative (PMI) social workers who do art therapy for children suffering from violence and abuse. Equal parts depressing and inspiring seeing them give up their time helping children come to terms with what they’re living through.

Posted on the UNICEF Jamaica blog: Children who draw their pain


My most challenging project in life

About two years ago I was in the hospital for the birth of my son when I got a call from UNICEF asking if I would consult for them. “YES!” was the only reply.

Having donated to UNICEF in the past, and now a dad, the timing and the opportunity couldn’t have been better, not least because of the on-the-job training it provides me for my most challenging client yet. He turns two this December.

The first 1,000 days have a profound effect on the rest of our child’s life. Meanwhile as first-time parents fumbling along, that’s me, we are handed a onetime chance to sleeplessly and selflessly shape this expanding ball of pure human energy. Continue reading

NGOs, Startups

Deaf Can! Coffee: 10 ways to launch a successful social enterprise in Jamaica

Deaf Can! Coffee’s Fabian Jackson, Carlyle Gabbidon, Tashi & Blake Widmer

Maybe you’ve seen them wearing their branded t-shirts serving coffee at events around Jamaica. There are now three full-time and 25 part-time baristas working with Deaf Can! Coffee, just two years since the social enterprise launched. In that short time, founders Blake and Tashi Widmer have learned quite a lot about how to make a social enterprise work in Jamaica.

Based at the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf (CCCD) on Kingston’s Cassia Park Road, Deaf Can! has grown at a time when coffee culture is thriving on the island, as has awareness of social enterprises and their potential impact in Jamaica. Imagine if every wealthy church congregation followed their example and founded their own social enterprise employing youth? I chatted with Blake at Deaf Can’s third location, inside the Toyota Coffeehouse at the dealership on Old Hope Road…

Identify a business opportunity

“I think we are offering a product and a service that nobody else is by being able to deliver a pop-up service at an event with the equipment we have. Also, we’re tapping into an underutilised labour force which is the deaf community, there are a lot of people who don’t have a job or only work part-time and when we have an event we can send out a text and say, ‘Hey we have an opportunity to work at this event this weekend and it’s gonna be such and such hours’.” Continue reading

NGOs, Startups

SlashRoots: apps that help people – from Jamaica to Eastern Europe

slash roots jamaica mobile for development

Call centre jobs, climate change, murders and tiefing – are among Jamaica’s most pressing existential questions, jokes David Soutar of SlashRoots, the Kingston-based social impact organisation that uses technology to tackle some of those issues here and abroad.

Starting out as a still-online Caribbean developers’ community in 2010, SlashRoots’ vision is realised through what most people have in their hands: a mobile phone; and in the other hand, or not as the case may be; decent access to government services. The intersection between governance and tech is where SlashRoots has built a reputation with clients from multi-laterals like the World Bank and to design agencies like Reboot in NYC.

For when you see goats riding on the backseat

The question for every project they choose is simple: is this going to benefit the everyday citizen? My favorite is their app for the Ministry of Agriculture to help prevent predial larceny (agricultural theft). Finally, ready to be launched and available for police to use in the field, the app allows officers to verify the validity of produce and animal purchases against the Ministry’s database. Continue reading