Paving the way for sustainability


Sunday, February 22, 2015

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AS we examined the healthy vegetables grown by students in the greenhouse at Manning's School in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, last Tuesday, as we listened to the young singers and dramatists; we saw the bright promise of Jamaica. With their fine tradition of excellence and discipline, Jamaica's first high school has produced brilliant graduates who have been making their mark on their country and beyond. These include Food for the Poor board director, attorney-at-law Debbie-Ann Gordon Crawford and Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland Dwayne Vaz, who attended the function for the handover of the greenhouse by the Digicel Foundation and Food for the Poor.

The 1,500-square-foot greenhouse is a promising social enterprise which will supply the school canteen and market products to surrounding communities. The parish of Westmoreland has a rich agricultural heritage, built by hard-working farmers of generations past, and with the guidance of their fine teachers and farming technology. The students are poised for a great future. Manning's boasts the top 2014 CSEC achiever in the entire Caribbean region for agricultural science, Taylor McKenzie. The articulate Taylor assured us that she is staying on track, now doing environmental science as one of her CAPE subjects.

If our tourism industry continues on its upwards path, folks like young Taylor will have good prospects for prosperity. In Negril, we saw packed restaurants and visitors lining up to be seated. We hope there will be strong collaboration between the ministries of agriculture and tourism to ensure that we can replace imported food with our better-tasting, locally grown produce.

On our journey across the island, we saw many tracts of idle, overgrown land and recalled the slogan of the 70s about joining idle hands with idle lands. Let us hope the authorities will show some more muscle to get smarter agricultural projects going. As the political parties move into election mode, they should be aware that nothing speaks louder than sustainable results in one's division or constituency.

This $641-billion budget, which the taxpayers of this country must shoulder, had better be spent as wisely as possible. I believe if our
long-suffering government workers are given their increase and the right leadership, they could help make our government ministries more result-oriented and help to boost national productivity. It will require a new resolve on the part of the authorities to ensure that good governance will prevail in our ministries and parish councils.

MPs and councillors from both sides of the fence must know that there is too much poverty and deprivation in our country for anyone to be expending so much time on power struggles within and between political parties. Let your arguments be on who is creating the best opportunities for citizens to advance. Media folks receive a preponderance of press releases about party meetings and fund-raising events. How wonderful it would be if these advisories were more about development and less about party matters.

Revealing 'Walk Across Jamaica'

This concern about underdevelopment was borne out by a press release we received from the organiser of the 'One Love, One Step Walk Across Jamaica', Dee Kyne. Beginning on Saturday, January, 31, the three-week walk involved people from Jamaica, United States, Ireland, Germany, United Kingdom, and Finland. About their observations on their journey from Morant Point in St Thomas to Negril in Westmoreland, Kyne noted: "On taking the pulse of interior Jamaica, the heartbeat of Jamaica is strong and kind and nothing but loving. However, hope is low, and people feel oppressed.

"The people of Jamaica are despondent and cannot see any benefit from their government, whatever its persuasion...Having worked all over the world I have never witnessed such despondency. Many see investment and people from other countries as having more interest in them; they no longer trust their own, and the theme that has been rising is a burning need for unity."

She continued: "There is total irritation in the countryside about rubbish and we were shocked by the levels of rubbish there are in every hedgerow that we passed. The worst road we actually witnessed on the walk; so far was Red Hills to Sligoville. It is a dumping ground for all who pass; nappies, bottles, food boxes, even coconuts -- hundreds of them in plastic bags, no ability to biodegrade...Many communities receive no rubbish collection at all."

Kyne said she saw "sharp differences parish to parish: Walking from St Thomas to St Andrew is a shocking indictment on development. As we crossed the line from one parish to another it was as if we walked through an invisible veil. On one side, there were roads (St Andrew) and very few board houses, and on the other there were no roads and many board houses. I could visibly see the population's frustration and I was sad to see this."

Farewell, Norma Chang

We said goodbye to a unique philanthropist last week. For over 40 years Norma Chang was recognised as one of the most ardent workers and givers for the St Vincent De Paul Society which assists the poor. Norma worked with her colleagues at Stella Maris Church to establish a homework centre at "Big Yard" in Grant's Pen and became fully involved in the community. She was constantly assisting with housing, health and education, not with a spirit of sacrifice, but with one of joy. She loved the folks in Grant's Pen and they loved her back, ever protective of her and her colleagues Shirley Chung, Anne Marie Thomas, and Peter Mais, co-founder of the Stella Maris Foundation.

In a message read at her funeral, Peter Mais said: "When I moved to Stella Maris I fell under Norma's influence and learned the true spirit of charity. In the Acts of the Apostles it is written (Acts 1: 1) that "Jesus began to do and to teach". Like Jesus, Norma taught and she did. I learned how to truly absorb myself into the lives of the families assigned to me, both spiritually and materially, and ever since then I have looked at the needs of the poor in a different light."

Peter noted: "She carried her spirit of commitment into the Grant's Pen community and the surrounding areas which, as a part of the wider Stella Maris church community, were not effectively being ministered to. Norma ministered to them long before the Foundation was born. She was a true inspiration."

Norma and her late husband, Wilfred, have been celebrated by church and family as models of altruism and active Christian faith. Our condolence to their loving niece Donna Muirhead, whom they raised as their own daughter, and other family members.

30th anniversary of Woman Inc

Chair of Woman Inc, Joyce Hewett, reminded me that this compassionate organisation is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The valiant volunteers who keep this organisation going have brought comfort to victims of rape, incest, domestic crisis, sexual harassment at the workplace, and domestic violence. They run a Crisis Centre, a Crisis Shelter, a 24-hour Hotline, and an ongoing public education programme. Congratulations, Woman Inc!




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