Susan Downing Seeks Donations To Help Jamaican Education Project

SUSAN: No.

STEWART: Tell a little bit about the kind of things that you’re going to be working with. What motivates you to work with these kind of children?

SUSAN: Well, I’ve worked with at-risk youth for a really long time, but I thought that it would be good to go somewhere in the world where you’re standing between that person. You could possibly make the difference between that person in abject poverty waiting around for someone to give them a job and give them the mentality that they could do what they love and be able to make money while doing it, so they don’t have to rely on others to get them a job.

It’s not that it’s a different kind of youth that I’m working with, but it’s a different area and there’s no safety net like there is in Canada. There’s no welfare that they could fall back on if they don’t make it. It is standing between the person in abject poverty or waiting around or possibly going the wrong way in order to make money.

What brought me to this particular area was a connection with me and the vice principal of Waterford Primary, and when she heard the type of thing I was interested in doing, she introduced me to the staff at the school and basically all of a sudden I had a space and I had 14 possible students to work with, and from running an idea by them, it all of a sudden became when can you start, I could start May and June.

STEWART: Awesome, awesome. For anybody out there listening or reading with you, how could they possibly help? They’re listening and they think, oh, this sounds interesting. How could they … what kind of help, what kind of support are you looking for?

SUSAN: Well, what I’m looking for initially for May and June is material, and there’s a number of projects that we will be working on in terms of crafts that I’m going to require and also I need to be able to ship them here and get them here by May so that I’ll be able to come here and make sure that we have all the materials and all the supplies.

STEWART: Could you just explain a little bit, when you say materials, what kind of materials?

SUSAN: For example, t-shirts. One of the projects would be that a person would come up with their own design or photograph, and they would manipulate it on the computer, and then they would print it off onto paper that would allow them to transfer it onto t-shirts, so I would require, for example, the transfer paper, perhaps a couple of printers and a couple of computers in order to manipulate the designs to do that.

Another thing that I’m doing is I’m going to do dreamcatchers which is a North American theme that aboriginal people have but I know how to make those, and I wanted to adapt them into a Caribbean theme so those are very simple, but they require particular threads and they also require feathers that are going to be local but they require some metal rings, circular rings. Other parts are simple.

There are flour and water projects. They’re projects that require citric acid and baking soda and essential oils. Anyone that could contribute to those projects, it would be really helpful because I’m just looking really for the materials in order to start the program.

STEWART: Excellent. In terms of the actual kids themselves, when you have a quiet moment and you actually think about the actual outcome of what you’re trying to achieve, what do you actually see? What’s the end goal for yourself? What’s your dream?

SUSAN: Well, initially the kids themselves are the ones that they identify, initially the 14, were students that they are pretty sure are not going to make it, not going to pass the exams to make it into high school and perhaps other challenges involved that they really don’t feel that they would succeed if they even into a private high school.

Instead of those students falling through the cracks and having nothing left, no avenues to pursue at the age of 13 years old, I’m looking to give them the skills necessary to help them make their own business and to get some support in terms of how to market whatever it is that they make and how to ensure that those … that the monies that they generate are going right back to the student involved.
STEWART: Excellent, excellent. Your work with the teachers, how is that going to look briefly?

SUSAN: The teachers that are there?

STEWART: Yes, yes.

SUSAN: The teachers that are there have been discussing it in December, and have come up with a similar idea, and last year, last summer they put together an enrichment program for these type of students that was actually going to be returning.

They found that that enrichment, they had many, many, many volunteers from the community that worked with those students and when the students went back to school, they really had improved greatly because it does help whenever you have a smaller group and you get an intense amount of attention that you give to those kids and nurturing to those kids so they have given me the space and they have given me the students, and they are really, really enthusiastic about the project.

Basically they’ve told me whatever I need they’ll make sure that it’s in place, but they’re going to be busy with their own classes at the same time that I’m running mine, so my understanding is that they will just bring their students to me when it’s the time for me to be teaching.

STEWART: Right. Right. You’re … I mean, you’re only here for a certain amount of time, right, that limited amount of time?

SUSAN: I’m going to be … yeah. I’m going to be delivering this program from May to June, and we’re going to see how it works because it’s just an initial program and perhaps, you know, there will be glitches to work out.

Stewart Andrew Alexander

Stewart Andrew Alexander, the Find, Trust & Choose Guy is a Best Selling Author, host of Impact Makers Radio, and contributing writer for Small Business Trendsetters covering Innovators, and Trendsetters in Business, Health, Finance, and Personal Development.