Members of the board and special guests at a 2015 graduation ceremony.
Cartland Palmer had worked hard for decades as a successful contractor and enjoyed the fruit of his labour in Canada. He and his wife, Mildred, were serving faithfully as elders at Queensway Cathedral in Toronto. With retirement in full view and their children grown and on their own, a predictable course of action would have been for them to relax their pace and adjust to a new season—the beginning of their “golden years.” But they had long sensed God calling them to something more. They had an increasing burden for the young people of Jamaica, their country of origin, and knew that God wanted to use them to address the urgent need for skills training. Youth caught in a cycle of poverty would benefit from an opportunity to develop hidden talent and increase their chances for employment.
In 2005, the Palmers responded to God’s call, and in 2006 were formally appointed to Jamaica as PAOC global workers. With their own financing, they started the construction of the C. Palmer Project of Hope Skills Training Centre, a 13,000-square-foot facility, and subsequently enlisted additional financial aid from a number of Canadian churches and supporters. The school recently celebrated 10 years of operation. Hundreds of youth and young adults, many of whom also first need and receive help with a stronger foundation in English and mathematics, have been trained in areas such as information technology, welding, woodworking, cosmetology, and office administration. Courses in electrical installation, computer repairs, web page design, and beauty therapy have also now been introduced, increasing the capacity for each semester’s trainees to 140.
The unemployment rate in Jamaica is about 13.2% (April 2015, Statistical Institute of Jamaica), with youth unemployment more than twice the national rate (38%). But the Project of Hope offers youth from the communities they serve a chance they would otherwise never receive—an opportunity to experience God’s love and concern for their lives in a practical way, and an avenue for boosting their sense of purpose, self-esteem and optimism for the future. Heavy involvement of both Canadian PAOC churches and local Jamaican churches, such as Tweedside Baptist Church and Tweedside New Testament Church, has ensured that the communities and students alike are also exposed to the gospel, an important influence in the operation of the school. Nine young people from Church on the Queensway held a two-day Vacation Bible School (VBS) there last summer with over 100 children from the community.
Since its inception, the school’s success has also caught the attention of Jamaican governmental and parliamentary officials, and organizations such as HEART Trust and Universal Service Fund, all of which have since begun to make tangible financial investments in Project of Hope’s facilities and training needs. At the 2015 graduation ceremony, Brother Palmer delivered the following note of thanks:
“As we reflect on the past 10 years, I cannot express gratitude enough to God for the more than 600 young men and women whose lives have been transformed as the school grew from strength to strength. No doubt those years had been challenging, but God provided great partners and supporters in our time of need. An enormous thank you to: pastors Billy Richards, Roger Berg, Mario Natale, Tim Crooks and Church on the Queensway; pastors Bruce Martin, Jared Clarke and Calvary Temple in Winnipeg; pastors Keith Smith, Dale Tollefson and Agincourt Pentecostal Church in Toronto; pastors Bob Wright, Randy Hounsell and New Life Community Church in Brampton; pastor John Lennox and Faith Alive Christian Centre in Mississauga; and Rev. and Sister Thompson of Glad Tidings in Winnipeg. Special thanks to pastor David Hazzard and The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, and to all the other persons who supported us through prayer, donations or kindness. We look forward to reaching more milestones together.”
The Project of Hope is joyously anticipating the celebration of another graduation year this June 2016, with more than 40 proud students and their families and friends. Click here to read Mr. Palmer’s full 10th anniversary newsletter message and a previous feature testimony article on the Project of Hope Skills Training Centre.