By Richard Alleyne, Communications Manager, WorldOrlando
This past July, WorldOrlando collaborated with national partner, MCID Washington to implement an exchange related to NGO management. The single-country virtual exchange was themed: “Public-Private Partnerships to Support Underserved Youth,” and involved International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) representatives from NGOs based in Thailand who operate to serve young people, many of whom are impacted by religious-based conflict in the country’s southern provinces.
WorldOrlando tapped a longtime local resource and city government partner Parramore Kidz Zone (PKZ) to showcase Black Bee Honey, a unique youth-run initiative launched in 2017 as a way to empower young people from Orlando’s Parramore community with employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
PKZ aims to reduce juvenile crime, teen pregnancy, and high school dropout rates in Parramore, one of Orlando’s highest poverty and highest crime neighborhoods, by investing in projects that make a difference in children’s lives.
Four years ago, PKZ youth entrepreneurs founded Black Bee Honey. Under the auspices of the Orlando Community & Youth Trust, Inc., a city-affiliated nonprofit organization, the initiative was set up to bottle and sell honey at the local farmer’s market. In partnership with the Orlando Fire Department, Black Bee Honey has also installed hives at the station to help pollinate the City of Orlando.
Revenue generated from Black Bee Honey is put back into the business to purchase more equipment and pay salaries. Any funds remaining are reinvested in PKZ for scholarships, college applications, uniforms, training programs, and crisis aversion.
“The Black Bee Honey initiative is so popular because students are immersed in real world business management and gain the entrepreneurial spirit through running a business,” said Brenda March, Children and Education Manager, City of Orlando, who advises the youth-run enterprise.
“Students learn the basics of financial literacy, sales, marketing, inventory control, and food service sanitation while earning a weekly paycheck,” explained Brenda. “In addition, students have the opportunity to interact with City employees, members of the media, and general public to practice and hone their new skills and prepare for future career opportunities.”
Joining Brenda on the virtual exchange was her colleague, Lisa Early, who serves as the City’s Director of Families, Parks and Recreation Department. The two City representatives provided historical context to the IVLP visitors, and outlined how this public-private partnership started as a mayoral mandate to revitalize an economically distressed community whose residents—particularly its young people—were being left behind in the economic growth much of the region was enjoying.
At the time PKZ launched, there were few programs, if any, to provide a safe space and adult supervision for middle school and high school aged youth. More than 30 percent of the youth living in Parramore reported having lost a loved one to death or incarceration in the previous year and over 40 percent reported having a chronic health condition with limited access to health care. In addition to limited offerings for older youth, 61 percent of children under the age of five were not enrolled in a pre-K or childcare program.
As organizational advisers to the youth-run enterprise, Brenda and Lisa offered the IVLP visitors critical insights into the inception, growth, and operations of the Black Bee Honey business, and the positive outcomes being felt by the community and young entrepreneurs who run it.
IVLP participant Shahadam “Adam” Waeyusoh appreciated the innovative entrepreneurial focus Black Bee Honey offers young people. As a training manager at an NGO that aims to empower Muslim youth, Adam develops peace, sustainable development, and economic empowerment initiatives.
“Working in the field of children and youth, these kinds of exchanges—like the IVLP project—gives me the motivation to work to help my organization be more successful,” said Adam following the virtual exchange presentation. “These kinds of exchanges keep my work interesting and add new perspectives for me to study, learn, and hopefully implement.”
“We choose to participate as a partner with WorldOrlando because this partnership provides an opportunity for our students and staff to interact with and teach IVLP professionals about our programs and local culture,” added Brenda.
“Sharing best practices in programming is important for all entities to ensure consistency across the workplace and improve performance by replicating what works not only in their region, but on a global scale.”