Several young Caribbean nationals were included in the fourth and final installment of the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards programme. The awards celebrates the achievements of some of the most exciting young change-makers from across the Commonwealth.
Winners of this prestigious Award received a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during where they collected their Award from Her Majesty The Queen. With this support, Award winners will be expected to continue and develop the amazing work they are already doing in their communities.
This year’s cohort from 38 Commonwealth countries are finding solutions to global issues such as climate change, food scarcity, gender-based violence, mental health, and access to education.
Among them are these nine dedicated young men and women from the Caribbean.
Lakeyia Joseph from Bense, Dominica
Joseph received a Queen’s Young Leaders Award for the work she is doing to support young people and gender equality in Dominica.
From an early age, Lakeyia has stood up in support of young people and gender equality in Dominica. While still at school, she established a charity called Golden Opportunities which donates clothes, shoes and school supplies to children from low-income families. To date, the organisation has distributed over $10,000 worth of supplies to children and young adults. Lakeyia is now working to establish the Golden Empowerment Foundation, which seeks to motivate young people through education, sport and training, and promote greater understanding of gender equality.
In 2017, the High Commissioner of Canada in Barbados named her Dominica’s Youth Champion and Ambassador for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality.
Lakeyia Joseph, 19, said: “I am humbled. This experience has fostered so much more humility into my system as a young aspiring leader, just to know that I actually have people at my back telling me to just ‘Go’.
Jenella Edwards – Grenada
Jenella is dedicated to helping young people in Grenada achieve their full potential. Being aware of the difficulties faced by young people to further their education, Jenella founded the HEON (Help Educate Our Nation) Project in 2015 to provide disadvantaged students with full scholarships to attend either college or a recognised skills centre. The project raises funds by hosting an annual dinner, and by selling promotional items such as t-shirts, bags and stickers as well as sourcing sponsorship from local businesses.
Before establishing the HEON Project, Jenella was the President of the River Sallee Youth Alliance, which aims to foster a strong community spirit through after-school programmes, activity weeks and clean-up campaigns. Jenella is now expanding the HEON Project to attract more supporters and help even more students to receive a quality education.
Jodie Dennie, St Vincent & the Grenadines
Jodie champions the issue of mental health in her community. She is the creator of The Mind Matters SVG campaign, which aims to teach people aged 10 to 30 about the importance of good mental health. Her work, which has the support of the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Environment, has included giving presentations to young people at three summer programmes and holding art therapy and sports sessions to show how these activities can help to improve people’s mental health.
Jodie’s interviews of two local people about their experiences with depression were used by the World Health Organisation on World Health Day as part of its ‘Depression: Let’s Talk’ campaign. She created social media sites to promote the campaign at a local, regional and international level.
Dennie, 29, said: “Thank you for this award. I feel honoured to receive it from Her Majesty The Queen for the work that I am doing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I am grateful for the experience of being in the UK and meeting people who are doing amazing work to improve the lives of others. I am thankful to be a part of the Queen’s Young Leaders network.”
Marva Langevine – Guyana
Langevine received a Queen’s Young Leaders Award for the work she is doing to transform the lives of bereaved, sick and underprivileged children and families in Guyana.
Marva is transforming the lives of bereaved, sick and underprivileged children and families in Guyana. She is the founder of the Guyana Golden Lives Organization, which she has used to open up a national conversation about the loss of a loved one in childhood. The organisation provides financial and psycho-social support services for bereaved children, job opportunities for widows, and food hampers and building materials for low income families.
In the future, Marva hopes to hold ‘grief in the classroom’ workshops for teachers and community outreach initiatives on bereavement. Marva has also created Camp Golden, a camp for bereaved young people, which provides counselling, food, shelter and educational opportunities. In addition, Marva is a founding member of Den-Amstel Dynamic Network, a youth group focused on restoring the cultural art forms for which her home village of Den-Amstel was once famous.
Benedict Bryan (26) – Trinidad & Tobago
Benedict is dedicated to improving social equality in his country.
He is the founder of the Humanitarian Association of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (HARTT), which focuses on providing humanitarian assistance to refugees. Its programmes have included an initiative which taught refugees English and extra-curricular activities to help them integrate into their new culture. Benedict also sits on the committee for the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in Trinidad and Tobago.
Currently, he is working alongside other young people throughout the Caribbean to launch a Youth Peace and Security Think Tank, the aim of which is to promote peace and security for all, especially for those from minority backgrounds.
Jean-Claude Cournand – Trinidad & Tobago
Jean-Claude founded the 2 Cents Movement, which uses spoken-word poetry to raise awareness of social issues and to encourage young people to address them.
Jean-Claude and his team, which includes 12 young people and 10 poets, has led workshops and performances at more than 70 secondary schools and 30 primary schools.
In 2017, the team’s focus was on gender-based violence, so Jean-Claude partnered with the University of the West Indies Institute for Gender and Development Studies to train poets on the issues, before they took their messages into schools.
The group has also hosted two annual national spoken-word events in which 25 secondary and 17 primary schools participated. Each year more than 40,000 young people in Trinidad and Tobago engage with
Aubrey Stewart – Jamaica
Aubrey supports and motivates young people to bring about positive changes to their lives and those of others. He is the founder of the Youth Organisation for Upliftment, which provides a space where young people can come together and make a difference in their community.
Since its establishment in 2009, the organisation has run a number of campaigns, including The Crime Out Campaign, a youth-led peace movement which inspired young people to speak out against violence.
In his current role as country co-ordinator for the RuJohn Foundation in Jamaica, Aubrey helps provide underprivileged schools and students with resources such as computers, school lunches and sporting equipment. It also arranges yearly activities like celebrity sports camps and acting workshops. In addition, Aubrey serves as chairman for the Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica, which represents young people in policy making and he is a Jamaica House Fellow where he works with senior officials at the Office of the Prime Minister to contribute to national development.
Ronelle King (25), Barbados
Ronelle is committed to helping end violence against women in the Caribbean. She was the initiator of the social media movement #lifeinleggings, an online hashtag that aims to dispel the myth that only certain types of women who dress in a particular way are harassed. It soon went viral. Through it, women around the world were encouraged to speak out online about their experiences of harassment.
Following this success, Ronelle formed the grassroots organisation Life In Leggings: Caribbean Alliance Against Gender-based Violence Through Education, Empowerment and Community Outreach. She also organised the Reclaim Our Streets: Women’s Solidarity March which took place in Barbados and six other Caribbean countries, in order to raise awareness about sexual abuse and how to prevent it.