Twenty young people from the community of Sligoville, St. Catherine, are now certified tour guides, after completing a two-week training course under the Tourism Product Development Company’s (TPDCO) Team Jamaica Tour Guide Programme.
The initiative, which was piloted by the Sligoville Heritage Foundation, was the central component of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Youth Poverty Alleviation Through Tourism and Heritage (YouthPATH) project, which was implemented in the community by the Jamaica National Commission (JNC) for UNESCO.
YouthPATH, which was first undertaken in Jamaica some four years ago, aims to train young people in Caribbean communities, deemed challenged or marginalized, in developing and documenting natural and cultural heritage sites. In so doing, this will enable these sites to become the centre of local or international tourism, resulting in community development and poverty reduction, through job creation.
Jamaica is also one of four Caribbean countries in which UNESCO implemented some seven initiatives. The others were: St, Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and St. Lucia.
The Sligoville initiative, which was implemented at a cost of US$12,000, also received significant support from Minister with responsibility for Sports and Member of Parliament for North Central St. Catherine, where the community is located, Hon. Natalie Neita-Headley.
The participants were presented with their certificates during a graduation ceremony at the Courtleigh Hotel, New Kingston, on Friday (December 21). They are now able to work as tour guides at the Sligoville heritage sites, which include a great house, as well as in similar areas elsewhere in the island.
Tourism Training Officer at TPDCo’s Kingston Training Unit, O’Neil Thomas, who provided an overview of the project, told JIS News, that the entity was approached by both the JN Commission and Sligoville Foundation to undertake training of the participants.
He said this component, which ran between November 26 and December 7, saw the participants being trained in customer service as well as the history and geography of Jamaica and its heritage.
In pointing out that Team Jamaica certification is now mandatory for all tourism industry workers, Mr. Thomas, said the participants acquitted themselves well over the two-week period.
“The success rate was good. We had 19 out of the 20 persons being certified…as tour guides and we had the full 20 persons being certified under the Team Jamaica Programme. And so, for them to have had this certification is really good.
In a brief message delivered by Programme Specialist for UNESCO’s Caribbean office, Dr. Pedro Monreal, the organisation’s Director, Dr. Kwame Boafo, said YouthPATH has been implemented in the framework of the agency’s actions aimed at supporting youth development and promoting their violence prevention.
“The projects carried out in Jamaica in 2012, were geared towards providing training for improving the job prospects of young people; supporting youth entrepreneurial (enterprise) and assisting (with) the social inclusion of visually impaired youth. UNESCO is committed to collaborating with member states in (replicating) the lessons learnt from this project in order to contribute to strengthening governmental programmes in the area of youth development,” Dr. Boafo said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Monreal, in noting that Jamaica has always been at the forefront of cooperation with UNESCO in implementing various projects, announced that the agency’s Caribbean office is “already requesting (of) the Director General of UNESCO, a second tranch of funding for the continuation of the (YouthPATH) programme in Jamaica”.
In her remarks, Minister Neita-Headley said the successful implementation of the project represents the commencement of what is expected to be a heritage tourism product evolving out of Sligoville.
“We have a beautiful community, a lovely great house and lots of rich history, which we wouldn’t mind sharing with the rest of the world, in return for some economic gain for the people of Sligoville and for the advancement of the community,” she said.
Additionally, Mrs. Neita-Headley, said the training will equip the beneficiaries with the requisite skills and qualifications that will enable them to be involved in and contribute to the development of heritage-related programmes islandwide.
One of the participants, Jerron James, in his response, described the programme as a “wonderful journey”.
“The training was vigorous…but it was really fun…it was awesome. I am looking forward to phase two…because I really want to launch (my career) as a tour guide,” he said.
In an interview with JIS News, Secretary General of the JN Commission, Everton Hannam, said the agency is eagerly anticipating implementation of the YouthPATH’s second phase in 2013. This to, among other things, implement several activities which were not undertaken in the first phase, as well as engage other communities which might be interested in participating in the programme.