For 18 months, Navada Smith showed up at a construction site every morning at 8 a.m., wearing steel-toe boots, a coverall and work glasses. He engaged in all the activities one might imagine happen on such a site- shoveling, painting, repairing things. Among other things, he learned that hard labour is just that- hard. It is not suited for everyone and even for those who do this type of work, it can burn out a body pretty quickly, but Navada not only survived, but thrived.

Judging by his small frame and the fact that he had never done anything like this before, one might think that would not have been the case. “It was a lot of hard work,” the 22-year-old says. A lot of hard work and dedication and consistency. In 18 months, Navada was late only once.

For this, Navada received an award: Most Discipline. He earned this award by participating in a Ministry of National Security work/training initiative called the Citizens’ Security and Justice Programme. In addition to the recognition for his work ethic on the construction site, Navada received an award of Distinction for his output on a Web Design course he took through the same program.

(CSJP began in 2009 as an effort to combat crime and violence. It implemented programs in 39 “vulnerable and volatile” communities such as employment training, life skills and parenting workshops. Youth Opportunities Unlimited was involved in CSJP, and Navada was one of the youth who participated).

“The program helped me, taught me discipline and how to plan,” Navada says, adding that he worked alongside soldiers from the Jamaica Defence Force. At 22, Navada has been involved with YOU since 2005, when he joined another of its programs. He attended workshops where he learned life skills such as work environment etiquette, planning for the future, nutrition and organizational skills. “I learned a lot of things, like how to be organized, how to plan and how to deal with children.”

Navada is from the community of Mountain View, which as suffered from violence and shootings in the past. Growing up, he says, was not hard, but being exposed to the violence was. “It was violent around other communities. We could hear gunshots at night and we couldn’t sleep,” he says, adding that the gunmen only came out after midnight.

Navada has graduated high school and is also dedicated to his church. He hopes to learn how to play the keyboards so he can play in the band at his church. He also wants to take a course in accounting, but a lack of funds is currently prohibiting this. “I have a couple of plans but I’m praying to God that they work out,” he says. In terms of who he attributes his success to, Navada says “I want to thank God first and foremost. If it wasn’t for Him, I would not have achieved these things, if only for His love.”