A Mountain of Opportunity in Jamaica

Residents of the Jamaican community of Mountain View are working hard to make a change. Where once the gunshots of rival gangs rang out, there are now the joyful sounds of community gatherings and sports games.

The Mountain View Community Development Council (CDC) is a grassroots organization that has played a key role in the change.  In a country where nearly half of youth between the ages of 14 – 24 are unemployed, the Mountain View CDC delivers programming to increase youth employment in partnership with the Jamaica Diaspora Institute and Cuso International.

In June 2014, Donna Gabbadon joined the Mountain View CDC as a youth entrepreneurship advisor. Born in Jamaica, Donna was 31 when she moved to the United States. Twenty-five years later, she is a successful business owner as well as the founder of Jamaica Land We Love, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting community development across Jamaica.

Donna believes that the Jamaican diaspora can make a big difference by contributing their experience, skills and resources. “Such a contribution may, indeed, be absolutely essential to the nation’s development efforts as it seeks to survive in an extremely competitive global market,” she says.

As a Cuso International diaspora volunteer with Mountain View CDC, Donna worked in community development and she mentored young entrepreneurs. “Trying to motivate youth is very, very challenging,” says Donna. “The students had a lot going on and were so busy surviving.”

Donna’s Jamaican upbringing helped her persevere through the hard times. “I understood the culture and politics,” says Donna. “I think the ability to quickly understand what was happening made a difference.”

When Donna’s volunteer placement ended in October 2014, she continued her efforts to build community and teach business skills. Currently, she is mentoring two students via e-volunteering.

For Donna, it’s the relationships she built during her volunteer experience that really stand out. “This whole ability to build trust and build relationships, these are the two takeaways,” she says. “It opens up doors to create and face the future.”

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