The Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) had an open day on Friday, June 3, to showcase the progress of students in the Helping Early Leavers Program (HELP)—a program which provides hands-on training for young women who want to qualify themselves in skills training programs, such as cosmetology, hospitality and sewing, which not only make them more employable, but which also put them in a position to be their own bosses, if they so choose.

Jenecia Andrewin, 16, has been in the hospitality program for two years now. She prefers making cakes and other pastries to cooking. Jenecia said that she will some day have her own business.

Unlike Jenecia, Melissa Burgess says she is enthusiastic about cooking. Her favorite dish to make is—you guessed it—rice and beans. On the program, she has also enjoyed learning to make lemon pies and tarts. Melissa looks forward to graduating in a few weeks, and she wants to use her hospitably training by working at a hospital.

Roshaan Kemp, 17, a second year student who is also looking forward to graduating in the next few weeks, said she has enjoyed learning new things. Not only has she learned cooking and baking skills, but also cosmetology, another program offered by the YWCA’s HELP program.

Roshaan shared with us the ingredients for her special oatmeal cookie recipe: brown sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, peanuts or M&M’s, baking soda and oatmeal.

Christie Coote, another hospital student, said that they have learned to make mango pie. The instructions are: blind-bake a pie crust (meaning that it is only partially baked.) The mangos are washed, peeled, diced and mixed with sugar. The mixture is beaten and cooked on a stove until it thickens. Then, it is poured into the pie shell and the top of the pie is put on before the baking is completed.

The students said that it was the first time they had even heard of a mango pie, and they enjoyed the project, indicating that the result was a tasty treat.

For their open day, the students made brownies, banana muffins, pineapple tarts, nachos, and Creole buns. They also made pineapple jam.

As for hygiene practices, Elsie McNab and Shanice Bailey explained that they must wear clean, ironed aprons. They also tie their hair when preparing food. Additionally, the students said, they also ensure that cooking items and tables are clean before use.

Keisha Lorriano, 17, a first year student, is among less than 10 students trained in sewing under the YWCA HELP program. She said that she has sown a skirt for herself. She has also learned to make a pillow case.

According to the YWCA, the Helping Early School Leavers Program (HELP) “focuses on improving literacy, Math and pre-vocational skills of at-risk young women who are school dropouts. There is also a strong emphasis on social skills, and students learn to make healthy decisions that lead to long-term self development and economic sustainability.”

The YWCA says that the two-year program was started in 1993, and it has helped 450 young women go on to secondary school or prepare themselves for gainful employment.

This year, the US Embassy is the main sponsor of the HELP program.