The Digital Jamaican Change Agents to Watch in 2020 : Varun Baker, Simone Brown, Camir Ricketts, Connek JA & Ashley Rosseau

By Kadia Francis | January 06, 2020 | 5 Min Read

Jamaicans are vocal, outspoken and unafraid people who have boldly and loudly championed personal and global causes without fear of censure.⁣

With the advent of social media and other accessible mediums we now have a ready audience of persons who share in and support our causes.⁣

These digital change agents have turned their online platforms into soap boxes where they seek to rally, advance, change or provide solutions to some very pressing local issues.⁣

Varun Baker

Information Architect, Web Developer & Founder of Farm Credibly

Varun is the genius behind Farm Credibly is an agricultural tech startup facilitating investment opportunities for under banked farmers. By leveraging Blockchain technology they provide alternative credit scoring, bringing together multiple entities within a farmers business network and using data to generate a credible profile that is more attractive to investors and financial institutions.

As an early stage startup, Farm Credibly is now running a project to validate it’s business model. So far they have received JMD$2.5M IGNITE Grant program from the Development Bank of Jamaica, they’ve also secured a €5000 from the CTA and US$12,000 in server credit from IBM that is going into running their pilot program focused on growing hot pepper.

“Essentially we provide micro investors with the opportunity to fund an acre of scotch bonnet pepper with a ROI of 20% per year. We facilitate farm/investment updates via our web application to provide a high level of transparency.”

Read more about Farm Credibly and Varun Baker here, you can also follow Varun on Twitter.

Simone Brown

CEO & Founder of 876Volunteer.org

Simone is Jamaica’s 1st Volunteer Promoter. (She functions like a party promoter and hype man, but for charities). In 2018 Simone she launched 876 Volunteer,  an Instagram based community connecting well-meaning Jamaicans locally and in the diaspora with local charitable organizations, causes, initiatives and programs.

“I believe with all my heart that most of our worries as Jamaicans would be solved by supporting each other more. I also believe more Jamaicans want to help, if they could easily find out where and when to help.”

Since then, she has also connected major local entertainment brands and businesses to non-profit agencies, strengthening their corporate social responsibility. A database (a kind of “Google” for Jamaican volunteer information) is in the works for 2020.

The vision is for the #876gramfam to continue growing, and for more good causes to feel this positive impact in real life – an increase in Jamaicans Giving Back and Giving Thanks.”

You can find and connect with 876 Volunteer or register to become a volunteer on the website.

Camir Ricketts

Founder The Minds of Initiative

Camir is the Director of the Minds of Initiative. The flagship program Minds of Jamaica is a mentorship platform which pairs professional Jamaicans with young, talented students across the island.

A proud alumnus of the Herbert Morrison Technical High School in Montego Bay and is currently a PhD candidate in Computational Biology and Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in Manhattan, New York, studying cancer genomics. Camir has used his time at Weill Cornell to start and participate in several initiatives impacting the institution’s commitment to diversity. 

In 2018, he was the recipient of the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence as well as the Ignite Caribbean 30 under 30 Change Makers Award in 2019.

You can find and connect with Camir on Instagram.

Christopher Udemezue & Chaday Emmanuel

Founders of Connekja 

Connek is a travel project & platform dedicated to connecting queer folks and allies across country borders through online media, storytelling, and events, specifically in Jamaica.

The social enterprise was co-founded by Christopher Udemezue a second generation Jamaican artist and the founder of the part platform Ragga NYC and Chaday Emmanuel an Entrepreneur. Web Designer & Promoter at Jamsterdam and Tribe876.

In April this year CONNEK will be hosting its second annual trip to Jamaica to conduct workshops and other activities and events that will foster a connection with locals, a fundamental pillar of CONNEK’s mission.

Follow Connekja on Instagram

Ashley Rosseau

Owner of Beeny Bud

Ashley Rousseau is the owner of Beenybud, a local social enterprise that works with straw artisans all over the island to design and distribute style accessories and souvenir gifts for the local and tourism markets as well home décor items for villa and hotel clients.

Most recently, Beenybud launched the Patoo Collection which marries straw with upcycled cow horn, beads and sea glass that are all locally-sourced and crafted by Jamaican artisans.

In 2020, Beenybud will be involved in a project to document straw traditions in order to preserve this endangered aspect of our culture.

Ashley is also a freelance writer for Kuya, Moda Mag and a former editor of Air Jamaica’s Skywritings magazine and the co-writer of a new children’s book with Olympian Shelly-Anne Fraser Pryce called I am a Promise.

Follow Beeny Bud on Instagram.

Kadia Francis

I am a blogger, podcaster, digital content creator and brand development strategist, telling the story of  Jamaicans in the tech and digital space.

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