Helping disenfranchised realise potential
Dare2Be might just be Carol Smith's last hope.
She is one of 13 women the charity is helping prepare for the job market.
Those involved benefit from months of academic and technical training however the programme needs continual funding.
A massive fundraiser the charity organised for New Year's Eve was cancelled due to lack of support. Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban funk band PALO was to perform.
Ms Smith, an unemployed mother of five, is counting on Bermuda's future support.
“This fundraiser was very important,” she said. “[The charity] helps a lot of young ladies to better themselves and their skills in life. Since I've been here a lot of me has changed. I'm in a better space.”
The employment scheme started in 2013 as Community Driven Development, under the Department of Human Affairs. It was rebranded as Dare2Be this year, when it left the Bermuda Government to stand on its own. Women between the ages of 22 and 45 are eligible to join. Dare2Be works with the Government and local charities to help disenfranchised people “realise their economic potential”.
Thirty-four women have seen success since the charity was launched.
“The main criteria is that? they are able to sustain themselves for the duration of our year-long programme,” said executive director, Deborah Blakeney. “Most of our participants are therefore on financial assistance. We especially need them to be able to concentrate on our daily training/empowerment/skills upgrades and most importantly to participate in the work-shadow phase, ie volunteer for a three-month period where both the work shadow/employer and the charity can evaluate the participant in an actual employment environment.
“We look for more mature applicants who are committed to moving forward in life for themselves and for their families. Our main partners in the recruitment process are the Department of Financial Assistance and the Department of Workforce Development, who make referrals. We currently have 24 persons on our waiting list ... who have made contact with us because of word of mouth and without any referrals from either department.”
Ms Smith, who has been unemployed “for a long time”, said an e-mail inviting her to join came from out of the blue.
“It asked if I was between a certain age and said if I was looking for a job then they could help,” she said. “I started coming to the programme and they said I had to [commit] to being involved for a year. They said they would help get me ready for a job — help with my clothes, prepare me for interviews. I started in June and have been in it ever since.”
Her driving ambition is to be able to care for her children, whose ages range from 28 to 11.
“I just want to be a good role model for them,” she said. “I want to make sure they never get in this type of space.
“In the past I worked as an administrative assistant, a messenger; I'm very good with customer service. I'm very mature. I'm a good worker and go beyond whatever is asked of me and I'm a happy person. But I'm now on financial assistance and have been on it for a while.”
Her advice to anyone in need of help is to sign up with Dare2Be, no matter how reluctant they are.
“I thank everybody at Dare2Be for where I am today,” she said. “They can help you. It's a good programme. It has helped me a lot [even though] I'm still unemployed. That's the number one thing I want to do — work. My hope is that in the New Year I will have a job.”
Charity Dare2Be has helped 34 women find their way. Executive director Deborah Blakeney explains why it is so important for people to lend their support:
Q: Why are your fundraisers so important?
A: Each year we will need to hold at least two major events in order to raise the funding necessary to keep the programme going.
Q: Why should people help?
A: Dare2Be is doing great work for our community. Not just for the participants, but for their children and extended families. It also benefits employers who can employ retooled Bermudians. Our goal is to empower participants with the necessary life skills, employability skills, academic and technical education to secure entry-level jobs and no longer require financial assistance. There are well over 1,000 disenfranchised men and women on financial assistance in Bermuda and, given Bermuda’s current, extremely difficult economic environment, it would otherwise be highly unlikely that they would be able to secure a job on their own volition.
Q: How many women have you helped since you started (as Dare2Be)?
A: Two groups of women, 34 in total, have progressed through the Dare 2Be programme as cohorts one and two. Cohort three, of 13 women, is currently progressing through the programme. This is achieved by providing individualised career development plans, along with heavy doses of empowerment at the beginning, during and after the year-long programme. It is cohort-based which promotes trust and support amongst the participants and provides for better case management.