CIBC FIRSTCARIBBEAN ASSISTS PRISON FELLOWSHIP
Opportunities for ex-offenders to work as landscapers have been made available through an initiative by the National HIV/AIDS Commission and Prison Fellowship Barbados.
This was announced recently by executive director of Prison Fellowship Barbados, Neil Dowden who launched an appeal to Barbadians in need of landscaping service to contact the organisation. Dowden said that the project would be managed and overseen by the Fellowship, which would ensure that all jobs were adequately and properly supervised and completed. He added that other employment areas were being explored.
Dowden was addressing a press briefing during which Manager, Business Development, Wealth Management at CIBC FirstCaribbean, Raymond Ward presented weed whackers for use in the project to the National HIV/AIDS Commission’s Behavioural Change Specialist, Cecilia Neblett-Murray and Jennifer Dowden, who accepted on the Prison Fellowship’s behalf.
Neblett-Murray who played an integral role in helping the Fellowship to acquire the equipment, thanked CIBC FirstCaribbean. She explained that the commission conducted programmes at the prisons and the Fellowship’s headquarters, which included behaviour modification and acquiring skills, such as information technology, marketing and budgeting. She said that in addition to behavioural changes, it was also important to provide access to work; and entrepreneurship was an appropriate avenue for achieving this. It was against this background that the landscaping project was created.
In reply, Ward said that the bank was honoured to have been given an opportunity to help ex-offenders in their transition. He added that such projects were in keeping with the bank’s on-going outreach to its communities.
The bank’s generosity was also noted by Mr. Dowden who explained that due to the stigma associated with their incarceration, those leaving prison often found it very difficult to secure jobs. He said that in the current climate where COVID-19 had led to higher unemployment, competition among job seekers was expected to become stiffer. He added that consequently it could be expected to be even more challenging for young men, who had left prison, to gain employment yet having a job and the ability to finance their livelihood and that of their families was necessary for their proper re-entry into society.
Dowden said that about 70 percent of them were under 30 years old and had left school with no skills, therefore skill acquisition as well as job opportunities, were necessary. He said that the fellowship was trying to create a kind of community centre at its Carrington Village, St. Michael offices, where not only them but their children could gain skills. Children, he said, should not have to suffer because of their parents’ actions but, unfortunately, they were often stigmatised. He added that this stigmatisation should not happen in modern day Barbados.