Wednesday, 13 July 2016

TAKE ME HOME: Four college kids earn GraceKennedy 'birthright' internships

FACE TO FACE: Senator Kamina Johnson Smith and Grace CEO Don Wehby have a meet-and-greet with 2016 'birthright' interns Natasha Allen and Casey Daley. (Photo: JIS)

They are four university-educated and well-rounded youngsters who all have one thing in common: a feverish desire to connect deeply with their Jamaican roots. Kimberly Ann Stephenson (United States), Natasha Allen (Canada), Karis Edwards (United Kingdom) and Casey Daley (United States) make up the cohort of interns who have been selected for this year’s GraceKennedy Jamaican Birthright Programme, an ovation-worthy initiative designed to connect second and third generation Jamaicans, 18-25 years (who have never lived in Jamaica for more than six months), to their island heritage.

According to Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, the birthright programme (started in 2004) is “not only unique in its focus but is also innovative and well-timed” and serves to “introduce the students intimately to the dynamism of our Jamaican culture in all its facets.”

The 2016 instalment of the programme was launched on Monday at Grace headquarters (Harbour Street, Downtown Kingston), where Caroline Mahfood, Executive Director of the GraceKennedy Foundation, spoke at length about the programme’s cultural and professional opportunities. These cream-of-the-crop candidates, she said, will get a well-rounded Jamaican experience, over the course of five weeks, while furthering their career goals.

“We have chosen four exceptional interns this year who we believe will be remarkable ambassadors for not only GraceKennedy but for Jamaica on a whole,” said Mahfood. “Most of the candidates this year have not been fully exposed to their rich Jamaican heritage, and we look forward to anchoring their roots in our rich Jamaican heritage.”

Collaborating with sponsors ranging from the Jamaica Tourist Board and Flow to J. Wray & Nephew and the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Grace will provide transportation, accommodation and stipend for the visitors to enjoy a series of cultural tours called Heritage Pathways, which will immerse them in the food, historic sites, music, sport and dance of the island – from Kingston to Treasure Beach, Montego Bay to Ocho Rios.

“I applied for the [internship] because I wanted to get the chance to live in my dad’s country of birth. I have never had the opportunity and wanted to make it a reality,” shares Daley, a second-year finance-and-economics major at Florida State University. While Stephenson (who is pursuing a Masters in global affairs at New York University) hopes to “feel connected with my familial roots,” University of Toronto grad Allen is simply grateful for “the opportunity to learn more about my culture and heritage.”

Says Edwards, a literature buff currently in her final year at London’s Brunel University, “I think [the internship] is an amazing opportunity to grow both personally and professionally. I have never visited Jamaica despite both sides of my family originating here. [It] will help me further identify with the culture that has already shaped me so much as a person.”

> To learn more about the initiative (and to apply) visit

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