The Daily Herald writes that the Saba Reach Foundation (SRF) Director La-Toya Charles and Organoponics agricultural programme foreman Otto Manuel Andéres Ramos said the former Foundation Social Workplace Saba has undergone more than just a name and image change, and has professionalized its community service programme. However, SRF remained faithful to the initial goal of assisting Sabans with their integration in the labour market, they assured.
SRF took advantage of last year’s national nomination in the Orange Fund Kroonappels award to highlight their service to the community and used the awarded funds to invest in uniforms for the beneficiaries of the sheltered working environment at organoponic gardens. The uniforms “create positive self-image and pride in the initiative and the work being done,” said Charles, who explained that the programme allows participants, who lack in social and job-related skills, to integrate in the local labour force with specialized agricultural skills and a recognized diploma.
“The ultimate goal is to have them confidently step out of the sheltered-working environment with a secured position in the community,” Charles said. “The agricultural gardens are not a business, but a highly-subsidized social service that intends “not to just depend on the community, but to also give back and foster social cohesion and mitigate participants’ sense of marginalization.”
Recently, SRF issued diplomas in collaboration with Cuba-based Research Institute for Tropical Agriculture to a number of longstanding programme beneficiaries. Foreman Ramos, a Cuban agricultural engineer living on Saba, has been working with the programme for more than two years and has seen several leave while others persisted. He was pleased to recognize Angeline Wilson, Domianna Leverock and Jonas Charles with a Level 1 certificate and Alexander Hassell with a Level 2. The group will continue to gain specialized skills, said Ramos, and said several group members have moved up to assisting him, both in the theoretical teaching process and in sharing practical skills. The group visits local farmers in different areas, gaining knowledge about the various characteristics of the island’s agriculture. The programme also promotes an appreciation of locally-grown organic vegetables and balanced nutrition.
The group secured a library of local agriculture books, paid by SRF, or from donations by marine biologist Tom van’t Hof and others. This was complemented with books and resources brought from Cuba, all of which are also being available to the general public. Ramos hopes to assist participants in applying their obtained competence in jobs at hotel gardens, private cottages or any other landscaping jobs on Saba.
Participants also worked with Wageningen University interns in introducing mushroom farming and other agro-business initiatives. In terms of professionalization, Charles pointed to the expansion of the apprentice-development programme with social skills in addition to agriculture. Job coaches and a care coordinator are to provide social and job-related skills, more guidance and supervision.
Attendance levels have increased, the SRF director noted. Practical labour in the morning is now combined with social-skills classes and theoretical sessions in the afternoon. Each Wednesday, participants run Sabagro Market where they sell their produce. SRF also developed a reward system, team-building sessions and peer support.