Career & Education

Gillespie's growth

Ramone Gillespie is reaping from Red Stripe's Project Grow

Sunday, April 08, 2018



Growing up in the sunshine city of Portmore, St Catherine, Ramone Gillespie spent most of his free time on street corners with friends where minor misdemeanours occasionally got him into trouble. This, along with his failure to fully maximise his high school years left him feeling unfulfilled.

“It was not until I enrolled in Learning for Life that things changed,” said Gillespie, referencing the skills training programme administered in Jamaica by brewing giant, Red Stripe.

“Just a few years ago things were not looking up,” he said, recalling a construction job on the north coast that he was forced to take in 2015, and the impact it had on his family.

“My daughter would beg me to come home. I did not realise how much she missed me until her teachers called to find out the reason for her change in mood and unusually low performance in class,” Gillespie noted.

It was then that he made the decision to bring about change in his life, so he returned home and went on an aggressive job hunt which led him to the Project Grow cohort of the programme.

Despite an early reluctance to pursue farming, Gillespie copped the award for Most Outstanding Student at the graduation last month.

He had to readjust to a formal classroom setting, complete with late night study sessions and making presentations in front of a sea of faces. But he was determined to excel.

“I saw Project Grow as an opportunity to steer my life in the right direction,” he said. “I was used to being home all day or just chilling on the corner with friends, which would often get me in trouble. I now had something positive to look forward to and a new sense of productivity and added value to my life. I especially want to be a good role model for my daughter and make life better for her.”

As a farmer currently employed on Red Stripe's Bernard Lodge cassava farm in St Catherine, Gillespie is one of 128 students who have been similarly placed under Project Grow, the company's local, raw material sourcing initiative. And he is counted among the over 15,000 young people who have benefited from Learning for Life since its inception in 2008.

He contends that Project Grow has propelled him towards opportunities for a sustainable career.

“I appreciate that the programme took a practical and hands-on approach to teaching farming practices. I also learnt mathematics, research and entrepreneurial skills. Now I feel more confident and rounded as an individual,” the young man asserted.

“The Project Grow programme taught me invaluable lessons, gave me experiences and allowed me to meet people that I now work with and value. My job makes me happy and with the expertise that I am now equipped with, I am excited to see what the future holds,” he added.

Learning for Life is funded by the Desnoes & Geddes Foundation, with a view to providing skills training to young Jamaicans so they have a genuine opportunity to gain employment and become active, respected contributors to their communities.

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