Domestic helps — another side of the Jamaican story

Thursday, September 20, 2012    

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THOSE of us fortunate enough to be able to afford a domestic helper understand and appreciate their critical contribution in facilitating productivity in the highest echelons of Jamaican society, by freeing up women especially to go to work outside the home.

And yet, the full story of the contribution of domestic helpers is hardly ever told. Which is why we are touched by the work of the Caribbean Pioneer Women of Canada (CPWC) who are mentioned in today's edition (See page 7).

The first major waves of migration from Jamaica took place in the 1950s and 60s, mostly to the United Kingdom and the United States. But there were many Jamaican women who went to Canada as domestic helpers seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

We frequently hear about the farm workers and latterly the hotel workers, teachers and nurses, but very little about the domestic helpers. But the dearth of information is not to be confused with lack of progress on the part of the domestic helpers who have also been plying their trade abroad.

The trailblazing women, having improved their lives and that of their families and made their mark on Canada, formed themselves into an umbrella organisation called the CPWC in 1989. They have since been assisting their members, the sick, the elderly, and providing scholarships to deserving young people in their community, as well as showing the positive contribution they have made to Canadian society. Little is told of the odds they had to overcome.

But they refused to look inwardly, and over the years have contributed to bettering the lives of many of their Caribbean and Jamaican compatriots through charities in Canada and the Caribbean. To help celebrate the commemoration of Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, the CPWC reached back to help the New Providence Primary School in Kingston with a much-needed donation of $272,000 to purchase multimedia equipment, computers and chairs for the staffroom.

Appropriately, the presentation was made by the indefatiguable Ms Thelma Johnson, retired businesswoman, founder of CPWC and a former student of New Providence Primary School. Ms Johnson, we are proud to note, was honoured in the Houses of Parliament in Ottawa, Canada, for her contribution to Canadian Society on June 15, 2005, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Labour Market Agreement between the Government of Canada and Jamaica.

We hope that the Caribbean Pioneer Women of Canada will consider documenting the history and activities of their members because their stories, we are sure, will make riveting reading.

Theirs have been further demonstration of the heights to which Jamaicans can reach, no matter how humble their beginning.





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