Since 2001, Digicel has been one of the leading telecommunications companies in the Caribbean and is the preferred mobile provider for more than 70 percent of Jamaicans. Digicel was born from a desire to both help customers in the Jamaican community as well as connect local government and businesses. Today, Digicel is doing much more than providing mobile connectivity, they are setting an example for businesses everywhere by supporting numerous charities in the Jamaican community.
Of the many charities they support, Deaf Can! Is one of their passion projects? Deaf Can! Coffee is a social enterprise managed and operated by deaf youth in the Jamaican community. The mission behind Deaf Can! is to spread a positive and simple message to members of the deaf community that their disability is a part of who they are but does not define them.
In December 2015, the Digicel Foundation partnered with a group of entrepreneurs by providing US$27,000 to upgrade their equipment and coffee appliances and install a solar energy system. The generous donation helped create college scholarships for young, deaf men in the Jamaican community.
“Any time you’re doing something good you need people to help you to get where you need to go. Digicel Foundation is that critical partner that has encouraged us and helped us to keep believing in the work we’re doing,” explained Blake Widmer co-founder of Deaf Can! HELPING OTHERS HELP THEMSELVES “Even before they provided the financial support they were clients. They truly bought into the vision.”
In addition to the support they provide Deaf Can!, the company also backs the anti-discrimination program, Respect Jamaica. Respect Jamaica was founded in 2014 on the idea of promoting inclusion and equality for all Jamaicans, regardless of social identity and status. Since the program’s inception, 36 companies have become a part of this anti-discrimination movement.
Earlier this year, the Respect Youth Ambassadors started submitting weekly articles to one of the country’s premier newspapers, The Jamaica Gleaner, which has helped raise their profile within the community. The articles outlined views of Jamaican youth on the state of education, democracy and governance. Each article presents challenges and solutions to these problems, and afterwards a meeting is scheduled with Members of Parliament on how these solutions could be implemented.
The Respect Ambassadors have participated in a number of school tours to target their peers and engage in debates and conversations on how to encourage greater respect for all Jamaicans. All in all, Respect Jamaica has helped mobilize and train over 100 youth in social advocacy to improve public understanding of discrimination and human rights.
Digicel also has given a hand to the St. Patrick’s Charity, a mission focused on empowering young people by teaching them a trade. The St. Patrick’s Foundation was founded in 1994 and operates as a training institute, focused on cosmetology, food preparation, customer service and electrical engineering.
In 2014 the Digicel Foundation provided funding support to equip the Cosmetology Lab and partially equip the Cake Baking and Decorating Department, in order to provide young people with state-of-the-art technology to help them fine tune their respective trades. These skills can help youth in communities like Seaview Gardens where 50 percent of the population under 30 are unemployed. “We serve in a number of inner city communities and we find that it is very difficult to inspire youth to excel if they can’t see examples of excellence. That’s why we needed state of the art facilities, “ explained Chairman of the St. Patrick’s Foundation Board, Mrs. Hermine Metcalf.
Since its inception in 2004, the Digicel Jamaica Foundation has invested over US$6.4 million in community development projects that have impacted over 200,000 Jamaicans around the island. By providing funds for these community-awareness programs, Digicel is helping to improve the lives of Jamaicans for generations to come.