After several months of planning and training, Government today broke ground for the first set of structures to be erected for the highly-touted Building Blocks Project.
The $3 million scheme, which seeks to give young men and women “on the blocks” an opportunity to become entrepreneurs, has already started with the training of some 169 individuals who were recently presented with certificates.
The young people, described by Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde as “blockpreneurs”, went through six weeks of training in life skills and entrepreneurship.
On Thursday, ministry officials, stakeholders and community representatives gathered in Silver Hill, Christ Church where Forde broke ground for the building of six kiosks.
Forde explained that skilled individuals on the blocks would help to build the structures, which will start “early in the new year” and last about six months.
Once completed, they will become home to a range of enterprises, depending on the needs of the community.
Kiosks will also be erected at Bonnetts in Britton’s Hill, Parkinson Field in the Pine and also in the Ivy, St Michael, where the Minister also broke ground on Thursday.
Other communities are to be identified as the programme expands and more potential beneficiaries are trained.
Thanking members of the community for their patience, Forde said for too long young persons in Barbados have been crying out for help “like a voice in the wilderness”, but now they would be able to offer various products and services from the locations, giving them an opportunity to earn an income.
Insisting that every young people should be given an opportunity to be gainfully employed, Forde said “if we miss one I think we miss one too many”.
“It is our way of reaching out to those on the block to tell them that they are a part of the society and they have a tangible stake and they can make a difference in their lives once they put their hands to the plough and their efforts behind what we are doing as a Government,” he said.
Forde said he was very happy to keep a promise he made to implement the “blockpreneurship” programme, adding that it was about breaking down barriers and allowing young people to take part in what they were good at while earning.
“It is not the doctors and the lawyers that will carry this country forward, but it is the creative imagination of our young people. So they will create their own destinies and that is where we as a Government will operate as a conduit to connect those young people so that their ideas and dreams will be realized,” said Forde.
He explained that Government would continue to give support to the individuals once they start to operate a viable business.
Forde said they would also be encouraged to access funding through the various Government agencies and invest in their operations to “ensure they live”.
“We are not going to cut off the umbilical chord prematurely. We are going to have a monitoring and evaluation exercise where those young people will be monitored by our youth commissioners and the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES) and then they will give that support after the structures are built out so the businesses will not fail. We are removing the words ‘impossible’ and ‘I can’t’ out of the dictionary of young people,” said Forde.
The Minister also announced that his ministry would be launching a “block garden project”, which would help the island achieve its goal of planting one million trees over the next decade.
Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Community Empowerment Yolande Howard said she was pleased that a number of Government departments, ambassadors of Cuba, Venezuela and Argentina and private sector officials have partnered with the ministry to help with the programme, but called on more private sector support.
During the ground breaking exercise Randy Went of Green Hill Close, Silver Hill and Danesha Williams of Green Hill Drive, Silver Hill, were presented with a copy of Corey Worrell’s book Letters to the Nation, for “being the voice of the Building Blocks project” in their community.
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