To bring about the kinds of changes that will help people live healthier and more productive lives, volunteer organisations listen and learn to identify pressing problems that get too little attention.
This is why community service is important. Volunteerism teaches compassion and understanding, and has emerged through a process of identifying what is needed to assist people and where the greatest impact can be achieved.
Dane Richardson, now at the helm of Digicel Foundation, an organisation that has invested $3 billion in communities islandwide, is no stranger to volunteerism. Although earlier in his life he began a trajectory in pursuit of medicine, Richardson always felt there was something missing but could not immediately identify what it was.
It was while teaching at the Portmore Community College that he began connecting the dots towards his true calling, while pushing for solutions to assist students who needed remedial work.
“There were students at that level, but they could not read. Then I realised that the school itself had broader issues, where students were matriculating but not transitioning. This is where I was thrust into programme management and administration and I started designing programmes and meeting with different key stakeholders while trying to solve these issues,” Richardson said.
Having carved out a definitive career goal, Richardson joined the Jamaica AIDS Support for Life as programme development and grants manager. The Jamaica AIDS Support for Life is one of the leading health-care agencies in Latin America and the Caribbean, addressing the socio-economic challenges facing, and advocating for, Jamaicans living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, STIs, and intimate-partner violence.
According to Richardson, his experience at Jamaica AIDS Support for Life assisted him in understanding and acknowledging the capacity each person has to develop their true potential.
“I realised there is a lot more that can be done here in Jamaica. I was thrust more deeply into dealing with social issues and working with persons dealing with other issues who are less fortunate than us,” Richardson said.
“There are persons who are facing real and significant challenges in our country, and my eyes were opened to the fact that many Jamaicans are looking for someone who can be their voice and looking out for their best interest. I was able to take stock of my own life and do things to help others, not just myself,” Richardson said.
With the Digicel Foundation built on the premise of giving back, Richardson joined the organisation in 2013 as programme manager with primary responsibility for education. In 2015, he was promoted to head of programmes and a year later, he was again promoted to director of operations.
As programme manager for education, Richardson intensified the efforts of the organisation to empower teachers to improve the literacy and numeracy levels among students in primary schools, through the use of information communications technology (ICT).
“Digicel Foundation works in three areas – education, special needs, and community development. We cannot solve all the problems, however, we can galvanise support from other partners and, most important, the Government to ensure sustainability. At the end of the day, Jamaicans are the ones that will benefit,” Richardson said.
“We have had many achievements across the island over our 12-year history. At this juncture, we intend to look back at what has worked, what has not worked and build going forward; and really look at what is relevant to make the foundation stronger,” he added.
The Digicel Jamaica Foundation is a non-profit organisation that utilises funds on a charitable basis and remains a vested partner in the social development of communities by increasing access for the special-needs community to improve their quality of lives, by expanding access to education through technology, by supporting and empowering survivors of domestic violence, and by fostering a spirit of self-reliance through sustainable enterprise within communities.
“My aspiration has always been to head an organisation and to put in the machinery to effect change. Every aspect of what will transpire is team work, and we will work together as a team to effect necessary changes in the lives of Jamaicans,” Richardson said.