Festival Queen eyes 'Eco Money'
Within a week of being crowned Jamaica's Festival Queen for 2018, Ackera Gowie is optimistic about launching her national project recycling plastic bottles.
According to the 23-year-old young woman from St Mary, it has been heartbreaking for her to see drains clogged, and rivers, sea and shorelines polluted with plastic and other wastes.
In keeping with this, she wants to tackle the issue, while creating an initiative that benefits youth who are unemployed.
"My major project this year will be 'Eco Money'. What it does? It provides entrepreneurial opportunities for young people, while preserving and protecting the environment, because it encourages them to use non-biodegradable items within their community, within their surroundings and recycle [to create] reusable items," Gowie said.
She conducted a test run before she was crowned to see how successful her idea would be and how responsive children in the parish of St Mary would be to a project of this nature.
"We had a soft launch recently, and I used 50 children from various communities within St Mary, and the first thing that we did, we went out and we got some plastic bottles and we made some pencil cases from plastic bottles. So, all of them are going back to school with custom-made pencil cases, made from plastic bottles," Gowie said.
"They understand that plastic can be valuable. They know that it is detrimental to the environment. They know of the harmful effects of plastic to the environment, and now they know that they are able to use their hands and use their creativity to transform the plastic into something that is great," she added.
In addition to this, Gowie, who has a bachelor of science degree in international relations from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, said she wants to use her history of overcoming obstacles at the tertiary level to motivate other youth in similar situations, during her one-year reign.
She said that after being accepted to pursue law at the tertiary level, she was withdrawn from the programme because of financial challenges in the first year, but she never gave up her hope of acquiring a degree.
After losing her space at law school, she applied for the Governor-General's Summer of Service Scholarship. After receiving it, she enrolled in the Faculty of Social Sciences and started a new programme and, ultimately, graduated in 2017.
Now, she wants to use her story to inspire others.
"I am going to be running my own personal development and youth consultation organisation, working with the schools St Mary High, Marymount, St Mary Technical [and] Port Maria High," she said.