Sandals Foundation Funds GARD Center’s Hospitality Programme to Support More Students

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More students will now be able to enroll in the Hospitality programme at the Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development (GARD) Center following sponsorship provided by the Sandals Foundation.

As part of efforts to support skills training for at-risk youth, the Sandals Foundation has invested some US $30,000 to sponsor the programme which provides a second chance to some of Antigua’s most vulnerable and promising young people. The donation covers the cost of the programme’s operations, kitchen equipment and supplies, training material, administrative expenses, fees associated with trainers and coordinators, as well as transportation cost for participants.

June Jackson, Executive Director at the GARD Center says, “In comparison with previous semesters where only 15 persons could be trained, now we will be able to train over 70 at-risk youth and women, and offer both day and evening courses.”

GARD Center provides continued learning opportunities for vulnerable young people and women between the ages 17 to 35 years old who struggle with low self-esteem, literacy and academic qualifications, as well as lack technical or work-related skills and experience.

Hospitality courses include Basic Baking, Decorating, Food and Beverage, Customer Service, Food Processing Courses and the latest addition – Soap Making.

In additional to the technical instruction, students also receive training in life skills, Mathematics, English and Information and Communication Technology. This holistic programme, Jackson says, “produces a well-rounded person, who is able to go out in their preferred field of work more confident and prepared.”

Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation, says its longstanding support of the GARD Center, forms part of its sustainable investment in the region’s education and community development programme.

“GARD Center provides a second chance to some of our communities most vulnerable groups – young people who need positive guidance and someone to believe in their potential, as well as women, who are often marginalized. We at the Sandals Foundation are honoured to support the enhancement of their training programmes which have, in the past, included climate-smart agricultural courses. Together, we’re helping GARD Center provide much needed psychosocial intervention for the vulnerable, as well as create linkages to the island’s largest employment industry – tourism.”

Sandals Resorts has been a key beneficiary of graduates of GARD Center who have all exemplified the highest levels of professionalism. “We really have a good relationship with Sandals because after the training sessions these students are able to go to the resort on a 10 week work experience programme. Based on the performance of students, the hotel sometimes emails GARDC requesting students for full time hire,” said Jackson.  

Twenty-one year old Kimisha Joseph, a past hospitality student says transitioning into the workforce proved surprisingly seamless after graduating the programme. “I expected it to be difficult and for us to have a hard time, especially when we were about to finish and transition into the work world itself, but the programme was quite simplified which made it easy for us to push through and persevere. GARD Center actually made it easy for us to transition into the work world.”

Persons interested in enrolling into the 2021/2022 academic year may apply through the CARD Center’s website www.gardc.org  or through their Facebook page. Applications will be accepted up to the second week of the programme.

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