A Shining Example of Development in Action

 

When 25-year-old Asia Clarke started Wild Moon Jewelry as a student at York University, she never imagined that it would bring her closer to her roots.

Asia’s passion for her craft is complemented by keen business acumen, which allows her to convert her creative efforts into tangible business results. After graduating from York, Asia started looking for opportunities. “I saw that Cuso International had a volunteer position for a Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor in Roseau, Dominica,” says Asia, whose father immigrated to Canada as a child.

In September of 2013, Asia flew from Toronto to Roseau for a six-month placement with Dominica Youth Business Trust, an organization that aims to improve the livelihoods of youth through self-employment skills, mentorship and start-up support. It is the only organization of its kind in Dominica, where there are no business incubators or innovation hubs to support entrepreneurs. With limited funding and staff, the organization relies heavily on volunteers to support locals in creating a sustainable livelihood. During her placement, Asia taught young entrepreneurs about branding, market research, business plans, and marketing collateral.

Although she had never been to Dominica, Asia says she felt at home as soon as she arrived. Her cultural connection facilitated Asia’s volunteer work. “It made it easier for me to identify with the youth and work with them on business projects,” Asia says.

Now back in Canada, Asia credits her experience as a diaspora volunteer with her own post-university development. As she continues to nurture her twin creative and entrepreneurial passions, she also works as a Local Economic Opportunity Specialist with the East Scarborough Storefront, a community building organization in Toronto.

Recently recognized as a Global Changemaker Youth Ambassador by the Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC), Asia hopes to return to Dominica as a volunteer.  “Doing that work made me really appreciate my cultural heritage,” she says. “It helped me to develop as a person; it helped me to put my roots deeper in my own history.”