SHE was heading out to open a home for young mothers when 80-year-old Evelyn Mahfood was crippled by a gunman's attack in 1992. This did not deter the matriarch of the Mahfood family from continuing her service to the poor; a way of life that she and her late husband, Saleem Sr, had instilled in their four sons, Ferdie, Sam (Saleem Jr), Robin, and Joe.
With her blessing, Ferdie had started Food for the Poor in 1983 as a feeding programme for the indigent in Kingston. As she encouraged the organisation's growth, it blossomed into an international entity by the time of her passing in 2004.
Food For The Poor (FFP) Jamaica is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month as the largest charity organisation in Jamaica, while Food For The Poor Inc, located in Florida, is the largest international relief and development organisation in the US, serving the poor in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Evelyn and Saleem Sr would be proud to know that, on Ferdie's retirement, their third son Robin is now at the helm of the international organisation, while their grandson Andrew, son of former PSOJ President the late Sam Mahfood is now chairman of Food for the Poor Jamaica.
The achievements of Food for the Poor Jamaica is a litany of hope for our indigent:
* 33,862 housing units
* 16 fishing villages with gifts of boats, fishing and safety equipment, and furnished bases
* Some 60,000 farmers have received farming equipment, seedlings and training and, more recently with EU assistance, former banana farmers have been able to initiate other agricultural projects.
* Hundreds of non-violent prisoners have been released and reunited with their families under the FFP Prison Release Project headed by Sandra Ramsay.
* Thousands of tonnes of food have been delivered to distribution centres all over Jamaica on a monthly basis
* The FFP Education Programme has helped hundreds of students in studies at all levels.
For 2012, FFPJ distributed health care supplies valued at $3.1 billion to public health facilities, non-governmental organisations, infirmaries, and schools. In February alone this year, the charity provided the Ministry of Health with 200 wheelchairs, 40 hospital beds, several operating theatre lights, stretchers, and sofas.
Last year, Food for the Poor launched the Jamaica 50-50 Basic School campaign; a commitment to build 50 basic schools in 50 months. The promise is being kept as the organisation's high-energy team, led by Susan James Casserly, has already provided new buildings with modern sanitary facilities for: St. Margaret's Real Success Basic School in Kingston; George's Valley Basic School, Manchester; Esher Full Gospel Basic School, Hanover; King's Infant School (formerly known as Long Hill Basic School) in Westmoreland; Greenvale Basic School, Manchester; High House Early Childhood Institution, St Catherine; Fern, United, and Accompong basic schools in St Elizabeth; as well as Steerfield Basic School in St Ann.
In this big 30th anniversary month there are four basic school openings. Last Wednesday, the Garden Wood Basic School was opened in Clarendon, and tomorrow FFPJ will journey to Seaforth, St Thomas for the opening of Agape Basic School. They will then be in St Ann on Thursday for the opening of Grant's Mountain Basic and in St Elizabeth on June 26 to open new buildings for the Christian Methodist Basic School.
The dynamic local Food for the Poor team has a strong board chaired by Andrew Mahfood and supported by Vice-Chair Chris Bicknell, former Chairman Sister Benedict Chung, legendary philanthropist Pokar Chandiram, William Mahfood, Jerry Mahfood, Professor Michael Lee, Monsignor Michael Lewis, attorney-at-law Debbie-Ann Gordon, and yours truly. The executive includes Jacqueline Johnson, Deacon Ron Burgess, Jennifer Tomlinson, and Susan Moore. We are fired with the words of Matthew 25:40: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it unto me".
My friend Jane Buchanan of Reuters in New York is now a monthly donor to Food for the Poor after I introduced her to their website. "I was so impressed with what I saw there," said Jane. "I know that my money is going directly to the poor." She said she appreciates the fact that only 5 per cent of donations goes to administration. Food for the Poor runs a tight, no-frills ship. Please visit their website at www.foodforthepoorja.com to see the islandwide locations at which you can donate.
A powerful parent
Single mother Althea Beverley stepped up to the microphone at the launch of the GraceKennedy Education Run last Wednesday to thank the company's two foundations for their assistance in helping to educate her eight children. She said they were able to use the homework centre at Tower Street and that she ensured they worked hard at their respective schools: Westwood High, Holy Childhood High, Dunoon Technical, St Andrew Technical, and Convent of Mercy Academy Alpha.
"One is now at Miami Dade," said Althea, "and the other has just finished her BSc degree in tourism. I told all of them that they should push to college. I stay behind them, get their breakfast, put them on the bus, and sometimes I follow them to prayers so I can hear what is going on at the school."
Althea, who lives on Gold Street with her family, says that she ensures her children go to school "six days per week — yes, they go to Saturday class," and says she wants to see "more parents standing up for their children". She said that when her first child got eight CSEC subjects, she used her performance to motivate her siblings.
"Grace and staff were like my family throughout — Miss Frances Madden and Mr Sweeney were like my second mother and father," she said of their support. The fund-raising formula for Grace and staff is that the company gives double of whatever is contributed by staff members. Chairman Jimmy Moss-Solomon said the funds have been able to give thousands of children an education over the past 34 years. Well done!
How can we ever lose faith when there are so many talented and generous Jamaicans, ever loyal, ever giving to their people? The following benefactors and educators were recently honoured:
Thalia Lyn — 2013 Humanitarian Award from American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ); Kiwanis Club of New Kingston Awards: Penelope Stewart - "Because you Care" Award; Hon William Shagoury and Dr Nigel Clarke (Community Service); Glenford Chrsitian, Donald Mullings and American Women's Group (Education); Angels of Love - Phillip Liu and Dr Michelle Reece-Mills (Health); Dr Jennifer Mamby-Alexander (Health). The inaugural Phillip Sherlock Awards went to Dr Jean Small, Marjorie Whylie and Noel Dexter
Heartiest congratulations to all, you make Jamaica proud!
Beverley is back!
Beverley Manley-Duncan returned to media yesterday with her new series on CVM-TV, Breakthrough with Beverley. As only she can, Beverley is sharing survival strategies and success secrets. She plans "to step into the lives of successful women and men" so viewers can learn from their experiences. Beverley never disappoints — build your hope with this strong motivator.