Jamaica, we can do better


Monday, March 24, 2014    

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RYAN Pilliner tried to smile, but there was pain in his eyes when we met him last Monday in Savanna-la-Mar. Yes, it was true that his family was receiving a new house, but there was little joy about the circumstances that resulted in this gesture. The 14-year-old will long hear the shots ringing out when his parents were killed that fateful Wednesday morning on January 29. He and his seven siblings --Alrick (19), Odaine (18), Shadae (16), Bryan (13), Aalyah (11), Kimona (6) and Aacon (4) -- were orphaned in those cold, cruel minutes.

Their parents were 35-year-old Rosemarie 'Wendy' Wilson and Junior 'Tyan' Pilliner,

a 44-year-old farmer, and you could see from the manners of Ryan and Bryan, who were there for the handover, that despite their humble circumstances they were well brought up.

It was a Jamaica Observer report by Horace Hines on February 6, 2014 which brought the children's plight to the attention of Food for the Poor Jamaica (FFPJ). We received one of Chairman Andrew Mahfood's early morning emails, linking us to the story and asking the team to offer urgent help. By the next day, the FFPJ contingent was in Savanna-la-Mar, bringing gifts of food and clothing and meeting with their caring aunt, Janice Pilliner.

Hines had reported also on the resolve of the noble Alrick to provide for his siblings: "Only dem alone mi worried about, but mi will push out the same effort my father push out to make them alright," vowed the eldest child, Alrick, also called Deno, who is a mason. "By the help of God mi a go take care of them, because mi a hard-working person," he told the Observer.

The family was in dire need of more secure housing and the Food for the Poor team, led by Construction Services Coordinator Lorenzo Stanton, was able to build a two-bedroom unit with sanitary facilities for the family within six weeks. A loft was created to provide comfortable sleeping areas for the children. A solar panel was also installed to give 12 hours of light each day.

This project was actually funded by the people of Westmoreland. They had been steadily placing donations in a Food for the Poor box at the cashier's counter in the Savanna-la-Mar branch of Fontana Pharmacy for nearly seven years, resulting in the most generous collection of all the boxes in various other locations throughout the island. Fontana head Kevin O'Brien Chang and Assistant Manager Pamella Grinnion Miller will be staying in touch with the family, offering school supplies.

This made me proud of my birth parish, even as I was disturbed that the very street along which we walked freely in my childhood had now become the prowl of gunmen.

As I looked around the area, I saw many tenements that were not known to us in our childhood. Yes, some homes were very humble then, but still they had a patch of land around them, a little fence, a little gate, and bright gardens of zinnias.

Between political and gang violence, those who require the most protection seem to be getting the least. The irony is that there are 63 members of Parliament, 216 parish councillors, and so many churches in every corner of Jamaica, with new tents popping up all over the landscape. Our poor people campaign, sing and pray their hearts out, mark their 'X' on election day, drop their widow's mites into collection plates, and yet, where is the comfort for them? Perhaps we should have some new criteria for these various persons who put themselves up as political and spiritual leaders, because clearly the same-old is keeping us same-old.

May we dare to scrutinise the family life and business dealings of our politicians? May we insist that every church must have

well-documented educational and outreach projects before they can go about giving feel-good sermons and collecting poor people's money, relegating those who can't pay to the back of the church? May we see politicians and clergy setting up neighbourhood watch groups and homework centres in every community?

Jamaica, we can do so much better than this. If we had decided to take the brave step as politician and pastor to ensure that no gang could flourish in our respective constituencies and communities, the Pilliner children may still have their parents, and countless other families throughout Jamaica would not be grieving over the tragic loss of tens of thousands of our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters who were so proud of that brave Independence we declared in 1962.

We see younger entrants into politics on both sides. To those young and bold ones, we are entreating you to come together and forge a different Jamaica for your people. The talent is there, so why not search yourselves, dig deep and find the will? Yes, you can.

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370

As ships and planes race towards the south of the Indian Ocean, there is news at press time for this column that the wreckage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 may have been located. We were puzzled to learn that commercial airlines had not converted from radar to GPS tracking because of the cost, and decided not to wonder too much as this would fuel our fear of flying.

The anguish of the waiting families has touched our hearts; our empathy moving beyond race and borders, as we felt the distress of a Chinese mother who broke down in that Malaysia press conference and was removed so roughly from the room. The discovery of a wreckage would be sad, but it would be much worse if the aircraft is never found.

Proud 50th anniversary for the Pelican

That Montego Bay landmark, The Pelican Restaurant, recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and we join their many faithful fans in wishing them at least 50 more in business. Founded by Stanley and Clarissa Scudamore and Jeremy Bennett, the business has maintained its delicious menu, retro charm and smart service.

It seems everyone has a Pelican favourite, and as soon as you round that MoBay bend a craving appears out of nowhere for their authentic Jamaican dishes. After Stanley's passing in 1967, Clarissa and Jeremy continued to run the restaurant and were subsequently joined in the business by the Scudamores' son Peter, his wife Elaine, and Peter's sister Elizabeth Bennett-Dalley. The grandchildren, Rachel and Laura, are now strong members of the family business.

How unique is the Pelican? One hotelier confessed that they have ordered in from the Pelican for some of their staff meetings. "When we get tired of hotel food, it's definitely the Pelican for us," I was told. Here's to you, Team Pelican, many happy returns!

Inspiring South African movie — Fanie Fourie's Lobola

The movie promo asks, "What happens when an Afrikaans guy and a Zulu girl fall in love and have to navigate their way through the complicated process of lobola? It's a recipe for disaster explored in Fanie Fourie's Lobola, a contemporary romantic comedy about love and tradition in a rapidly evolving society".

South African Ambassador Mathu Joyini was kind enough to host a viewing of this award-winning production last week, which gave us a deep and yet comedic view of the cultural diversity and its challenges in post-apartheid South Africa. We learned that 'lobola' is the Zulu word for the dowry offered to the bride's parents in exchange for her hand in marriage. The movie took us on a hilarious, heart-stopping ride and we came away inspired and impressed. Thank you.





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