Columns

From hurricanes to home town matters

Barbara
Gloudon

Friday, September 29, 2017

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The two wild hurricanes, Irma and Maria, have stepped aside, leaving the islands of the north-eastern Caribbean to put themselves together again. Some Jamaicans who were caught up in the wave of destruction and horror have been able to come back home. Thanks to the assistance of the Jamaican Government and, despite the high cost of air travel, we were able to get “our family members” back home. The Government met the bill.

Whether the people who received such assistance will be asked to contribute to the expense incurred is not yet known. Should there be repayment? There is nothing wrong in asking such a question. Meanwhile, the “Thank You” should go to the Government of Jamaica as well as members of the private sector and individuals alike, who were generous in giving a helping hand.

In Parliament, earlier this week, the prime minister delivered an information-filled account of how the Administration also took steps to reach out to assist the governments of neighbouring countries as much as they could. The island of Dominica, in particular, seemed to have been hit hardest. Some heavy bills of expenditure to assist them are now in the Jamaican ledger. The cost may be high, but common decency calls upon us to help neighbours in a time of great need. If we were in the same situation, we would certainly welcome voluntary help. Some people aren't happy about such expense spent on others, emergency or not, but we need not apologise for what is right, in the spirit of the Good Samaritan.

In the presentation to Parliament, the prime minister reminded us that Jamaica has always “leaned forward” to help our neighbours in times of need. Jamaica, he said, “takes its role in the Caribbean seriously and in that spirit, we will help as much as we are able”. Grumblers will ask, however, why bother if it costs so much? Response: Everything is costly now. Our day can come, too. We were unbelievably lucky on this occasion, that the storms did not include us. We can only hope that the exclusion remains.

We should bear in mind that the Caribbean hurricane season is not yet over; it will continue up to November. It would suit us, therefore, to be on guard. We are not out of the danger zone as yet. In the event that we will face stormy weather, let us hope that we will have friends and family to help us too, as we have done for others.

The Boy Scout motto says, “Be prepared!” Certainly we should continue to prepare and protect ourselves. For instance, what about clearing away rubbish, which in a storm would be a nuisance and danger? Similarly, clogged drains and overflowing gullies? It's not only Government's responsibility; we can take some responsibility for ourselves. We created the mess, we must can help to clear it.

For a starter, why can't we clean the surroundings where we live? How about the tree branches hanging over the neighbour's fence and his over ours? When the complaints begin and the argument starts, next thing we know, police have to come to restore order. It is full time now that we behave like civilised people.

Nutty business

On to another matter of interest. In the news there is an interesting story about demand for cashew nuts which are increasing in popularity with consumers in many places. All of a sudden the crop is bringing in good money, especially in African nations. We might be surprised to know that there was a time when cashew nuts were a valuable crop here.

Some seniors know of the time when, here at home, sizeable cashew groves were established, especially in areas of Clarendon where farmers were encouraged by the late great Norman Washington Manley to plant the crop.

Manley had many ideas for projects to encourage the nation's development. A senior, who was in farming in those days, recalls the cashew story. He said that the project went well for a while and then faded away, as so many of our efforts do.

There were times when Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, was another well-known roast cashew centre where motorists coming from the west would always stop to stock up. Mid-Clarendon was another popular cashew-growing area. A few sturdy cashew trees are still to be found here and there, but not in organised farming.

The odd cashew vendor can be seen in a few places here and there, but not as many as there used to be. What if we could be persuaded to go into the cashew business again like other entrepreneurs in some countries?

Likewise, a peanut industry was in operation not too long ago in St Elizabeth, I have been told peanut growing is still with us.

Question: How much does imported cashew cost us?

Our children at risk

Am I the only one who cannot stop hurting at the picture on the cover of the September 26 edition of this paper showing a 13 year-old boy, described as bright, ambition-filled, who told how he wanted to be a great footballer? He loved going to school and wanted to get more books, as he was determined to pass exams. But it will not happen. One day the guns went off in his neighbourhood. The promise of a boy's future was gone.

The photo showed a beautiful child with skin as smooth as polished, precious stones. His eyes looked out at the world, clear and ready to become what he was working for. He could have been 'somebody big' one day, but the gunmen came. Their bullets changed the agenda and another of our children's dreams fell short. I feel sick in my stomach, today. How long? How long will this slaughter of our children continue? Even the youngest of our children are being denied of their future. Even wild animals protect their offspring. Aren't we human beings? Have we no respect for the future?

How long will we continue the destruction of our children? What gives any of us the right to kill a child? When did we, as a nation, end up so low, to live each day in fear and tears? Will they ever stop? How will we stop it?

Barbara Gloudon is a journalist, playwright and commentator. Send comments to the Observer or gloudonb@yahoo.com.

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