University couple turns pain into purpose Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

When Norval Mendez took the microphone at the N.C.B. Foundation’s Youth Empowerment Summit (YES) last Saturday, no one could anticipate the powerful testimony of struggle and triumph that would follow.

“You see my standing here now, I was half this size when I attended the first YES staging in 2017,” shared Mendez. “I barely had the money to purchase lunch when I started out at University [of the West Indies, Mona Campus], and it affected my mental well-being. Thinking about how I was going to find the funds to purchase my next meal derailed my focus from my studies.”

But Mendez shared that he didn’t allow the despair he was feeling to control the outcome of his life. As an N.C.B. Foundation tertiary scholar, he was given the opportunity to participate in the inaugural YES.

“After attending the summit, it sparked so many ideas. I wanted to be the change and so I set out on a path to find sustainable solutions. In any situation in life, you have two choices; you can either succumb to the issues you are facing or be the game changer,” continued Mendez.

Mendez along with his now wife Claudine, who is also an N.C.B. Foundation Scholar, found a purpose to launch a food pantry in 2017, in response to food insecurity issues facing university students. The initiative started out by collecting food donations and distributing them to students and has since been adopted by the GraceKennedy Foundation, as the GK Campus Connect Food Bank at the Students’ Union at the UWI, Mona Campus.

Five years ago too, they also established a digital solutions agency, DigiTalawah, providing digital marketing services to start-ups, small and large businesses looking for a boost online awareness.

The couple offers software development, app development, business email set-up, social media management and website security.

However, Mendez credits his soulmate, Claudine, as a major driving force behind their innovative ventures. “I could not have done any of this without the support of my wife, who has kept me grounded and given me hope when things get tough,” he expressed.

When he invited her to the microphone, she captivated the audience with the sheer strength of her belief in their dreams and aspirations.

“I believe in him because he is the type of person that is always persistent and will work to overcome every adversity. His willpower is such an inspiration and I know as a team we will do great things,” stated Claudine.

The Mendez family is grateful for the start they received from the suite of supporting N.C.B. Foundation programmes, which included the flagship Scholarship and Grants programme and the Level Up Grant Programme.

The Mendez’s were a part of 200 participations attending the second staging of the Youth Empowered Summit (YES) held on Saturday, November 19, 2022.

The hybrid event facilitated in-person and online engagement with past beneficiaries of the suite of N.C.B. Foundation programmes including the CSEC National Bursary Programme; Scholarship & Grant Programme; Amber HEART Coding Academy Partnership; Level-Up Grant Programme and Grant A Wish Programme.

Attendees were engaged in discussions with powerhouse financial expert Kalilah Reynolds; mental health coach Krystal Tomlinson and digital mogul Alicia Lyttle on how to comprehend, manage and improve their mental health, wealth, and digital skills. The discussions were moderated by the youth ambassador and N.C.B. Foundation board director, Emprezz Golding.

N.C.B. Foundation has invested over $1 billion in education to date and now focuses on playing a critical role in enabling Jamaica’s digital transformation by expanding the pool of digital producers. The Youth Empowerment Summit is one of many initiatives through which the Foundation supports young Jamaicans in tandem with its mandate.