Spare a thought for children and the less fortunate

Friday, December 29, 2017

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In the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, this newspaper made a deliberate attempt to tell the stories of organisations that are helping the less fortunate.

Our decision was grounded in the belief that highlighting these tremendous acts of benevolence would result in additional help flowing to these organisations that are, in most instances, overwhelmed with requests for their services.

While our stories focused on the work being done by the Association of Business Persons, the Open Arms Centre, the Salvation Army, Breakthrough Ministries, and the Good Samaritan Inn, we are well aware that there are many more such non-profit organisations, churches, service clubs, and indeed individuals, et al that cater to the needs of poor and homeless Jamaicans.

In fact, it is our firm belief that had it not been for the generosity of these groups and individuals this country would have long ago experienced some amount of social implosion as the State has limited resources to respond to the obvious needs of the less fortunate.

The Jamaica Observer commends these angels of mercy among us and hopes that the additional assistance they seek in helping others will be realised.

It is against this background that we also draw attention to the philanthropic gestures of Mr Orville Burrell, better known to Jamaicans and people across the world as “Shaggy”.

Mr Burrell, a platinum-selling reggae artiste, could easily have sat by enjoying the comforts that his successful music career has given him and his family. Instead, Mr Burrell has, through his Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation, committed himself to helping improve conditions at the Bustamante Hospital for Children after hearing staffers relate heartbreaking stories about the shortages of vital equipment that could save lives at the hospital.

Since 2009 he has staged a fund-raising concert in January every two years that has so far generated more than $255 million, all of which has been donated to the hospital.

In March 2016 when Mr Burrell presented the hospital with the $55 million garnered from that year's concert, Mr Kenneth Benjamin, chairman of the hospital, who is also known for his philanthropy, pointed out that annually more than 77,000 children are treated at Bustamante, which is the only children's hospital in the Caribbean.

“Shaggy and his team have proven that they are all about making a change and not just another avenue for talk,” Mr Benjamin said.

While the hospital and, we are sure, most Jamaicans appreciate the effort of the foundation, we were left a bit disappointed with the reality of Mr Burrell's experience in relation to the funds raised for this worthy venture. For, as Mr Burrell told guests at the March 2016 presentation ceremony, “The figure that we make is nothing compared to what we spend. What we make is a drop in the bucket from what we really need; however, we are grateful for all the support.”

The next Shaggy and Friends fund-raising concert is scheduled for January 6, 2018 at Jamaica House. It is our hope that Jamaicans will support this venture, just as we expect that charities like the organisations we named earlier will benefit from the spirit of caring and sharing for which Jamaicans are well known.




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