For most 19 year olds, life consists of studying, partying, preparing for adulthood and basically just enjoying life to the max. But for young Jelissa Edwards, her focus was set on opening doors and creating opportunities for other young people like herself.
Jelissa is the founder of the Soar with Eagles Foundation. The charity, which was formed in September 2015, facilitates various activities geared towards the physical, emotional, educational and spiritual development of the youth.
Noting that there were very little opportunities afforded to her and other children in her community when she was growing up, Jelissa’s aim is to help children realise that they can make a difference and become successful in their individual lives.
“Most of the children I grew up with are now finished school and… they were never guided in any particular field. I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a friend of my mother’s at the time, who stepped in and assisted me… Through him showing me the many options I had available to me, I was then able to make an informed decision regarding what I would study when that time came and eventually in making the decision to secure a future career. After I finished BCC [Barbados Community College], with so many different options for a career path, I looked around me and saw the need for persons like him not only in my community but in communities all over the island,” the Soar With Eagles Director explained.
It was on this basis that the Foundation was established. Participants have since been exposed to after-school lessons, skills training, sports, music classes and counselling.
“Our first year was focused on a Common Entrance Program. Within the time we had from September 2015 to May 2016, our participants were able to meet every Saturday morning for two hours. Not only were they able to receive all the information they needed for successful completion of the examination, but they were also able to get assistance with any homework issues they had, and they had a listening ear to discuss any issues which they were having at home or at school. At the end of the program, there were five successful graduates with results for The Combermere School, The Springer Memorial School, Princess Margaret Secondary School, The Coleridge & Parry School and Ellerslie Secondary,” she pointed out.
While the opportunity to offer these classes to children free of cost has received high praises and gratitude from parents, Jelissa states that it has come with some challenges, but is quick to note that she approaches every situation with God leading the way and eventually finds a solution.
“In the beginning it was really hard because we had no proof of any work we’d done or any proof that we had the potential to do any work, so approaching companies or even individuals for assistance was always a huge challenge for us… I didn’t have a source of income at this point and any money I would’ve gotten at that time I spent right back into the Foundation…We were blessed, though, to receive several donations over the past few months which were able to offer our participants a full experience and keep the Foundation up and running effectively.
“When I started, at some points, even I thought I was crazy for making that step, but by leaving it all in God’s hands and allowing Him to lead the way, I have been able to sit back and watch Him forge relationships with persons who continue to push to see this work come to pass,” she stated.
Jelissa also shares the glory of her work with the other board members: Technical Director and Trustee, Dwane Goddard; Musical & Performing Arts Director and Trustee Anderson Toppin; Treasurer, Nikita Estwick and Secretary, Karon Desrivieres. She notes that several volunteers have also come on board to assist in any events or the general day to day running of the Foundation.
“A work like ours is very dependent on a great number of volunteers to ensure its smooth running and consistency; so while I am very thankful for the numbers we presently have I am extending an invitation for persons to come on board.”
by Sharifa Medford