Sandals Foundation invests in Vetiver craft project
From left: Hand2Earth social media manager, Olivia Stephens; Hand2Earth manager/ project designer, Vonnie Roudette; Sandals Foundation executive director, Heidi Clarke; and SVG Conservation Fund CEO, Vanburn Harry
May 24, 2024

Sandals Foundation invests in Vetiver craft project

The Sandals Foundation has joined local NGOs Hand2Earth and Grow In Time’s Vetiver Craft Project, making a US $10,000 investment into the Vetiver livelihood prisoner rehabilitation and re-socializing training programmes.

The investment, which will support the first of a two-phase project, will see the development of a Vetiver Heritage Craft and Design Centre to create an experiential space designed to educate the public about the use of vetiver grass in livelihood creation and land conservation, a Sandals release states.

It will also showcase vetiver products made by prisoners and ex-prisoners of His Majesty’s Prisons in Kingstown and Belle Isle. Income generated from products is channelled to support prisoners and their families, as well as rehabilitate prisoners through skills and entrepreneurship training, including through a vetiver farm project at the Belle Isle prison.

Craftsman, Garfield Nero displays products made from vetiver grass

Project designer and manager at Hand2Earth, Vonnie Roudette, is quoted as saying, “Through the creation of this educational gallery, we hope to increase the potential for ex-prisoners to earn a living through the sale of products and train between five to ten at-risk youth in vetiver craft production.”

She added, “The support from Sandals Foundation is enabling us to set up a craft production team of ex-prisoners to support the prison team production. It will also provide a physical space to interface with customers, host eco or environmental workshops, film screenings, skills training and product development workshops for artisans”.

The vetiver prisoner rehabilitation programme which started in 2015, has trained over 160 prisoners in craft skills, sustainable farming, land conservation and eco- entrepreneurship.

It offers prisoners an alternative life view through improved communication skills and self-esteem, and has seen a very low rate of reoffending of three percent, the release adds. Hand2Earth also has introduced a mentorship literacy programme for prisoners.

The programme has the ongoing support of Superintendent of Prisons, Dwayne Bailey and officer, Kevly Gould through the Ministry of National Security.

Executive director at the Sandals Foundation, Heidi Clarke said its partnership with the Hand2Earth’s rehabilitation programme is a core part of its community development efforts in islands in which it operates.

“Our primary goal at the Sandals Foundation is to invest in sustainable projects and programmes that empower lives, and in this case, provide second chances. We were very inspired by the work being done by Hand2Earth and the wide reach of its tentacles to support not only livelihood development, but agricultural output and by extension food security,” the release quotes Clarke as saying.

“Together, we will help some of our most marginalized members of society find purpose and engage some of our at-risk young people to channel their energies into meaningful activities.”

The Sandals Foundation support will also help to strengthen the livelihood capacity of farmers who use vetiver grass as a natural land conservation resource, and a key element of St. Vincent’s agri-heritage.

“Vetiver is a low maintenance grass that offers a wide range [of] benefits to the island’s agricultural output,” Roudette is quoted as saying.

“It effectively prevents soil erosion when planted along the contours of sloping farmlands. St. Vincent has a tradition of using vetiver in farming that dates back 100 years, but the knowledge was lost and we are intent on reinstating it to conserve and regenerate healthy soil and improve crop yields.”

Since the inception of the project, eight vetiver nurseries have been established, and a total of 55 farmers in north leeward communities, have received training in vetiver systems technology.