OCIC Global Changemaker 2015 Youth Ambassador
Asia Clarke – Cuso International
Asia Clarke initially took up jewelry making as a self-taught hobby while she was a undergraduate at York University for Environmental Studies: International Development, Globalization and Politics. In 2011, Asia turned her hobby into Wild Moon Jewelry, and has become a business owner, youth leader, and mentor.
In 2013, Asia volunteered with Cuso International and travelled to Dominica, a Caribbean island nation of around 70,000 people. She served a six-month internship in the capital, Roseau, as Youth Entrepreneurship Advisor with the Dominica Youth Business Trust. There, she helped local young people with a wide range of entrepreneurship activities: creating business plans, performing market research, preparing financial statements, designing logos, and developing computer skills.
Her father’s family immigrated to Canada from Dominica in the 1960s. The Toronto-born artist and entrepreneur found that her background made it easier to relate to the youth she was supporting, and allowed her to create a cultural bridge between the Cuso International and the local population.
“It made it way easier to connect with people who were familiar with my heritage,” Asia explains. “They treated me as though I was family. I met people who had known my grandmother, or my great-grandfather.”
Wild Moon Jewelry is Asia’s contribution to carrying on the African and Caribbean traditional art of self-adornment. She also found that establishing Wild Moon as a business helped her define herself: “Once I decided to professionalize my art and my work, it meant I took my experience seriously; it created an identity for me in the wider community.”
Asia continues to be very much involved in recruitment and outreach activities for Cuso. In addition, she runs jewelry making workshops for universities and organizations in Toronto, teaching small groups of young people the various skills involved.
As a process, it also requires concentration, persistence, and, above all, patience—attributes which are essential for young entrepreneurs: “A young person who has a talent needs to understand that building a business is a long, slow-developing process.” She encourages young entrepreneurs to seek out opportunities to learn: “Seek out people who are doing what you want to do and have the experience, and learn from them.”
Her work as Local Economic Opportunities Specialist with The East Scarborough Storefront, a Toronto organization that works support the Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park Community, gives Asia a chance to connect entrepreneurs and businesses with resources and opportunities. Successful entrepreneurship is about building communities, diversity, and independence: “It is important for entrepreneurs to persist and flourish in order to ensure that local economies remain resilient, vibrant and unique.”
Asia also emphasizes creativity as a way to build bridges between communities, and between the past and the future. “We only have a certain amount of time to have an effect on the world,” she explains. “We need to value our experiences, and to value our art and our life learning, and to show that we value them by sharing with others. It’s important to create cultural artifacts to document life in this time for future generations, just like our ancestors did for us.”
Share Asia’s story on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #GCMASIA