Thu | Oct 1, 2020

UTech gives ‘hand up’ to inner-city empowerment

Published:Thursday | December 19, 2019 | 12:38 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Henley Morgan
Henley Morgan

Calvin Hunter was enrolled in an MBA programme around 2007-2008, with Dr Henley Morgan as his professor.

He had no idea he would eventually find inspiration in one of Morgan’s “crazy” plans, which was to shut down his New Kingston-based business operations and relocate to the volatile Trench Town community in south St Andrew.

With determination, Morgan shut down the uptown business and moved, with a big plan, to give the people of Trench Town a hand up instead of handouts. And today, with his Agency for Innercity Renewal (AIR), Morgan has helped hundreds of Trench Town residents to lead meaningful and successful lives.

Yesterday, AIR signed on to a partnership with the University of Technology Jamaica (UTech) to expand the programme to other inner-city communities across the island, giving them access to short courses at the Papine institution and training for personal and community improvement as well as wealth creation. On the other hand, UTech students will be able to fulfil mandatory community-service hours in Trench Town.

Hunter, a past governor of Optimist International, Caribbean district, told The Gleaner yesterday at the signing ceremony held at UTech that Morgan’s work – offering jobs, training and certification to hundreds of citizens in and around Trench Town – has inspired in him a desire to spearhead a similar programme in Allman Town, central Kingston, where he was born and raised.

“Having been born and raised in Allman Town and living there for 30-plus years, I saw the poverty, the crime, and the challenges. I also knew how important it was. Someday I hope to be able to replicate what he has been doing in Trench Town in my community. His story of helping people is very relatable to me,” he said.

Also born and raised in Allman Town but currently living in Canada is Paullia McCooty-Green, who said the opportunity would give wings to young people in her community whose parents weren’t able to finance them through to university.

“Back in my time, you had families who had challenges with sending youths to university. With this programme, having these youth involved and using local community resources through education will empower them to be social entrepreneurs,” she said.

Morgan told The Gleaner that he is on a mission to enlist an army of role models who can transform communities.

“One of Jamaica’s major problems is not just crime, violence, and poverty, but at the root, there are issues such as a lack of inclusiveness. Thirty-seven per cent of Jamaicans are unbanked and over one-third are squatters, so they don’t own property that they can use as collateral because they are outside the mainstream of the economy,” he said.