Spare some joy for Independence


Monday, August 04, 2014

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I will listen to no 'grinches' today, those cynics trying to steal my joy in Emancipation and Independence. We keep talking ourselves into this ditch of despair, instead of raising our voices in thanks for our many blessings. If you think we are badly off, please check the international newscasts, where countries are at war and an airplane of ordinary passengers with everyday plans is shot out of the sky.

If you think Jamaica is badly off, think of those countries where democracy is still a shaky experiment, while our system has become so well run that the Carter Centre has said there is no need for them to monitor Jamaica's elections. Read our papers, listen to broadcast media, and check the comments on social media — we are in the top ten for press freedom in the world.

Oh yes, we have tons of issues, and a drought to boot, but still much for which to be thankful. The bougainvillea is preening itself in the hot weather and mango trees seem to have drawn extra sweetness out of this dry earth.

Thank goodness for resourceful Jamaicans, like that savvy taxi man who visits the spring at the back of the Constant Spring Golf Course almost every day. This spring gives the area its name. Several folks go there to fill large water bottles or give their cars a wash. The foliage around the spring is dark green, and yes, its waters are constant.

Such is the constancy and resilience of our generous and dignified Jamaicans, rich and poor who continue to be the strength of their communities. It was National Hero Norman Manley who said that Jamaica's poor is surviving on the generosity of the poor. I will never forget the tears of young Jermaine from Torrington Park as he wept at the funeral of our pensioner Miss Icilda Riley, who had been blind for several years. His mother explained that, in the yard where they lived, 'Miss Icy' as we called her, would watch and counsel the children, especially young Jermaine.

We remember 'Mama Joy' Baker from downtown Kingston, who scrubbed the floors of bars to pay for the education of generations of inner-city children, and opened over 300 savings accounts for them as she taught them the importance of thrift.

Those of us who live more comfortable lives should be in awe of these good people who can still find love in their hearts, despite their marginal conditions. How will we help them to achieve full emancipation and independence? Be assured, they are not looking for charity. They are willing to work, and will take the humblest jobs in order to get their children through school.

Raymond Chang's legacy

As we reflect on the goodness of our people, let us pause to consider the extraordinary contribution of the late G Raymond Chang to his country of birth, Jamaica, and his adopted Canada. This gentle billionaire, who passed away on July 27, was no armchair donor. He was an engaged participant in the activities of his beloved alma mater, St George's College, and the various organisations he supported with his time, talent and treasure. Among the many are the UWI, Mustard Seed Communities, Missionaries of the Poor, and Food for the Poor Canada of which his beloved wife Donette (Chin Loy) is co-chair.

It was only a few weeks ago that Donette emailed me the good news that Raymond, already appointed to The Order of Jamaica, received a letter from the Governor General of Canada, that he would also be appointed an officer of The Order of Canada.

A recent report on this high honour in Toronto's Caribbean Pride newspaper showed the meteoric rise of this model of entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Born in Jamaica, in 1948, to Gladstone and Maisie Chang, Ray Chang graduated with a degree in engineering from Ryerson University in Toronto, and subsequently qualified as a chartered accountant. He joined CI Financial Corporation in 1984, taking that company from a small money management firm with CDN$5 million in assets to Canada's second-largest fund company, with CDN$100 billion in fee-earning assets. He was appointed president and eventually chairman of CI.

He served as chancellor of Ryerson, spending hours in its classrooms as he was determined to be "a chancellor for students"; its School of Continuing Education is named in his honour.

Pride magazine noted: "Through his investment holding company (G Raymond Chang Ltd), Chang is active in several commercial enterprises in Manitoba, Ontario, and overseas. He started Mercatus Technologies Inc, a leading software company... Chang sits on the board of GraceKennedy...and is a major shareholder in Walkerswood Caribbean Foods as well as Corrpak Jamaica Limited. Chang has received numerous awards from various communities and organisations in Canada and the Caribbean... In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate from UWI... The Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Toronto Chapter, named G Raymond Chang its Outstanding Philanthropist for 2010 ...In 2012, in Ontario, he was recipient of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal."

Raymond Chang was also passionate about health care. He funded a chair in Family Medicine at the UWI, and was a board member of the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation and a supporter of the University Health Network (UHN). There he funded fellowships for Jamaican and Caribbean medical students to further their education and return to their respective countries to make their contribution. Additionally, he gave significant support to UHN's Dr Herbert Ho Ping Kong Centre for Excellence in Education and Practice of General Internal Medicine, and the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health's (CAMH) Foundation board.

So what foods did this billionaire enjoy, this man who could eat in five-star restaurants? He loved crackers and sardines with a nice cup of... hot water. Clearly this was a man who kept his tastes simple, while he focused on the upliftment of others. Condolence to his beloved wife, Donette, his children Andrew and Brigette, sister Thalia Lyn and the numerous family members and close friends who are in mourning the loss of this beautiful human being.

Jamaica's golden haul

How can we thank our athletes, coaches and JAAA organisers for their excellent participation in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games? Their performances refreshed our drought-ridden lives and gave us keepsake front pages. On social media, we were treated to photos of Usain Bolt enjoying a friendly conversation with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry with whom he had 'raced' in Jamaica. Their mutual admiration made us proud. Our own Mike Fennell is chair of the splendid Games, professionally presented by the hospitable Scots. Well done!

Join me at Auntie Roachy Festival'

I was delighted to accept the invitation of Tanya Batson-Savage to perform at the Auntie Roachy Festival — in memory of Hon Louise Bennett who hosted the popular radio show Auntie Roachie Seh — tomorrow at noon; one of the events being held at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, home of the Jamaica Festival Village. This will be followed by a discussion on contemporary Caribbean writing. Do hope you'll be able to attend.




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