Top Prize Winner of the I Believe Initiative’s 2017 Summer of Service Competition and Ambassador of the I Believe Initiative

My SOS Journey

By Leneka Rhoden

Attending University, as for most Jamaicans, was a mere dream as the economic hardship faced by a single parent household easily made taking a year off the easier option. A quote by Adrianne Locke, author of “Sacrifice”, states that “The best things in life don’t come easy, but those things are the ones worth the sacrifice.” Scholarships are not few in number but many remain inaccessible to the youths.

His Excellency The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, Governor-General, Captured Here With Top Winner Of The 2017 SOS Competition & Uwi Student, Miss Leneka Rhoden

The Summer of Service (SOS) Competition is an opportunity provided by the I Believe Initiative under its Pillar of Education. The competition has provided a number of students over the years, since 2013, with full scholarships to start their university journey. The main objective of the SOS is to increase volunteerism among the Jamaican youth. The opportunity of a scholarship is a possible reward.

Her Excellency The Most Honourable Lady Allen Congratulates Leneka For Being Awarded Top Winner Of The 2017 SOS Competition.

The Summer of Service Competition required sacrifice, as participants give at least 4-hours of service for 4 days of the week during a period of 8 weeks until a minimum of 200 hours have been completed.

“For it is in giving, that we receive.”

The concept of the SOS is very innovative and the lessons learned on the journey will transform your life. I started my SOS journey in June 2017, and it ended in August 2017. The competition requires that you align yourself with a charity or an institution that you are able to give service to during the course of the competition. It also allows participants to develop their own projects, but it is important to bear in mind the fact that you will still be required to have a supervisor to give account for the work done. I started iAspire which was geared towards supporting the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, goals number four and number ten, which speaks to the improvement of education and the access to opportunities for all. Using this as my mandate, I served schools in the inner-city and rural areas. Be aware that there are many schools in Jamaica that are both underdeveloped and under resourced.  The dilemma here is that the students lack not only the drive but the resources to succeed. As an empowered youth I used the Governor-General’s I Believe Initiative Summer Of Service (SOS) Competition platform to enhance their social environment with positive mentorship and coaching and also to acknowledge and show appreciation for their varying strengths. As individuals, students want to know they matter!

Iaspire’s Volunteer, Chadwayne Rowe (Left), Representative From The Annie Dawson Children’S Home (Centre) & 2017 SOS Competition Top Winner, Leneka Rhoden (Left). Occasion Was The Handing Over Of Book Donations To The Annie Dawson Children’s Home. Leneka is Founder Of IAspire.

iAspire managed to gain great recognition videos and photos of the work that I carried out on a day to day basis. These pictures and videos were compiled for the report which was submitted in August 2017. The report took me through a period of reflection and as a result, the journey that inspired the creation of iAspire, actually inspired the creation of a non-profit, with over 50 volunteers, committed to continue using what is RIGHT with Jamaica to fix what is WRONG with Jamaica. 

This year, the competition promises to offer even more opportunities. I urge all students matriculating to university this fall and those already in their first year, to not simply apply, but to have the experience of a lifetime inspiring and energizing a community while helping to build Jamaica four hours at a time – the minimum volunteer time per day while on your SOS Journey!

Her Excellency The Most Honourable Lady Allen Presents Leneka With Her 2018 Summer Of Service Competition Certificate Of Participation. Inside The Ballroom, King’s House.

It is a fairly easy process that involves settling in quickly within your organization or the community you wish to give service. Think innovation and creative ways to enhance the organization as you make your mark.

Keep a journal to capture the memories and to help you complete your report.

Take lots of pictures and record short videos – even with your phone – if you can. These will help make your experience ‘come alive’ through the report. SUBMIT YOUR REPORT ON TIME!!!

Finally, my advice to students entering the competition is that you will inevitably be a winner in the end, no matter what. There are scholarships up for grabs, but the values and lessons that you take away from the experience will make an indelible mark on your life.  It is transforming. You have nothing to lose, but much to gain.

Their Excellencies Sir Patrick Allen And Lady Allen (Centre) With Winners Of The 2017 SOS Competition. See Leneka At 2nd Left.

Having put all of that out there – I know this is a competition – and yes, you want to win!  There are book grants as well as full and part time scholarships to be won. You will be evaluated based on the work that you do and the impact that you were able to make within that community or organization. The experience will inspire growth, so be open-minded and as Major (Ret’d) Effiom B. Whyte, OD, former National Coordinator of the Governor General’s Programme for Excellence (GGPE) always says: “Keep your eyes on the prize!”

It would be remising of me not to express heartfelt thanks to all the sponsors who support the I Believe Initiative and the Summer Of Service Competition.

Leneka Receives A Special Prize Of A $100,000 Book Grant From Sandals Foundation Representative, Mr. Sydney Henry

You are at the conduit for life-changing experiences, not just for Jamaica’s youth who you support through the I Believe Initiative Summer Of Service Competition, but for MANY, MANY families.

Your Excellency Sir Patrick Allen, thank you wholeheartedly for being the root of this Initiative and for giving us the youth of Jamaica, the platform of the highest office, to make DREAMS COME TRUE. We salute you, Sir…and I believe!