Social Health, Service, Society Building
Education, Enterprise, Empowerment
RISE (St.Lucia) Inc. is a non-profit organisation founded by Dr Stephen King, Dr Jacqueline Bird and Jonathan St. Rose in 2017. RISE is dedicated to the healthy development of youth. It supports agencies and individuals through advocacy, resource mobilization and support of youth as their own community change agents.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr Stephen King, director of RISE (St. Lucia) Inc. to discuss his views on youth, his journey as a philanthropist, the development of RISE and its initiatives that provide a voice to St. Lucia’s youth.
He talks about his challenges and the successes of RISE over the last twelve years. He highlights various initiatives that RISE has undertaken including most recently, the Safe Spaces Program for youth – a program that he believes can be replicated in other Caribbean countries.
Dr King’s perspective exemplifies the passion, dedication and perseverance of a businessman and philanthropist giving back to his country for over a decade and still going strong.
What was the inspiration and motivation behind the founding of RISE?
We have a youth problem in St.Lucia which often stems from adverse childhood experiences with regards to disease, mental health issues and anti-social behaviour. So we are trying to create communities and households that minimise adverse child experiences by eliminating domestic violence, emotional, sexual and physical abuse. In addition, a lot of communities have weak safety nets.
They do not have access to resources and services so there is a lack of knowledge in areas such as how to start a business, access to finance, available jobs and skills needed. So it is no wonder that marginalized communities become more marginalized.
When youth are disengaged, hopeless and helpless, there is a problem. We wanted to address that in a pro-social way. We are actually closing a circle on what I’d call ‘holistic development’ of a particular young person you have engaged.
How has RISE evolved over the years?
RISE was the brainchild of three of us, Jonathan Andrew-Rose, Dr. Jacqueline Bird and flexibility. It is project based so we will expand to achieve the goal of the project and once completed it will shrink then move on to another project. We have had over 200 volunteers working with us.
We have achieved a lot over the years. For example, we delivered and managed the World Pediatric Program for five years. Children gained access to RISE was the brainchild of three of us, Jonathan Andrew-Rose, Dr Jacqueline Bird and o sophisticated surgical care in the United States through this project. I am happy that the government recognised its importance and have since taken it over.
We have facilitated scholarship programs for university education in the United States. Fifty youth benefited from this program over a four-year period.
We also designed a National Youth Service Program including legislation and policy with the support of the UK government. I believe that the National Youth Service will support mandatory positive productive engagement among our youth. It helps youth who are otherwise disengaged from any formal system to gain employment, education, training etc. We have not been able to convince the government to do it yet but I am hoping that through our Safe Space Program it will happen.
What is the Safe Space Program?
Peace and safety in our communities are being threatened due to an increase in crime and violence. RISE designed the Safe Space program because we wanted a more sustainable approach to improving the quality of people’s lives. Safe Space creates a coherent structure to deliver knowledge and mobilize communities. In the past year, we have implemented two areas of the Safe Space project in Ciceron, Castries which we hope to replicate in other communities and make it a national program. They are mediation skills development for students and a parenting program. Safe Space is a generic model that can work in any country and I hope people will take it onboard and copy it. We don’t mind sharing our model and improving it.
How are you using sports to help the youth?
We are using Futsal, an initiative which part of the Safe Space Program to mobilize communities. This is not just a football competition in the field in terms of goals, but every team has to develop a community action plan that they will deliver in their communities.
We are hoping to create capacity within the communities to manage their own problems and find their own solutions. On August 1, we launched the annual Futsal Competition as a football league association. This competition runs for six months of the year from August 1 (Emancipation Day) to February 22 (St. Lucia’s Independence Day). We have mobilized thirty-one football teams, seven of which are female teams.
What are the biggest challenges you face? What is the hardest part about leading a non-profit organisation such as RISE?
The biggest challenge is the emotional and spiritual frustration when you feel like giving up because it is like you are hitting your head against a brick wall. But we, at RISE, remind ourselves of our successes and draw strength through those successes.
Finding time is another challenge as those of us who are holding the organisation together are very busy running our own businesses and our personal lives.
Also, the general environment of the country and communities are another challenge. I find it distressing when I remember this country fifty years ago. Back then, it was poorer but richer. It was poorer materially but much richer from an emotional and connected point of view. The safety nets were much stronger in those days. Now, more people are left on their own, which is a far more selfish approach.
Paint for a moment a picture of the organisation's position as you would wish it to be in five years' time?
This has been a topic of discussion between Dr. Bird and myself. We would like to see RISE as a sustainable, powerful and more engaged organisation. I would love for young people , young leaders to take over RISE. I hope RISE could be a vehicle that the youth embraces. We need the youth and the youth need us!
For more articles on sustainability and social engagement in the Caribbean, read our latest issue of ApaNa Magazine.
Issue 1 provides a range of technical articles covering the environment, climate change and renewable energy, corporate giving and features nonprofit organisations including CANARI, Junior Achievement Jamaica and RISE St.Lucia Inc
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