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Faith Innerarity was not sidetracked by power and achievement

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, October 15, 2012    

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LOUISE Wilmoth sat in the front row at Olson Hall, Ardenne High School, on Saturday watching as mourners settled into the auditorium ready to pay tribute to her distinguished child, Faith Donnaree Innerarity.

Her expression remained blank as she listened to Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, along with a number of Government officials, laud the woman who worked in the public service for more than 30 years.

The more than four-hour-long thanksgiving service brought to the fore the fact that Innerarity held strong to her Christian faith and was not daunted or sidetracked by power and prestige.

"The passing of Faith Donnaree Innerarity has left a blanket of grief over the entire Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and a feeling of denial over staff members," Derrick Kellier, minister of labour and social security, said in his tribute. "The profound sadness which pervaded the ministry is testimony of the love, admiration and respect that we all had for this model civil servant who paid no ordinary service to the organisation, its clients and its stakeholders."

Innerarity joined the labour ministry 15 years ago as the director of social security. She also served as chief technical director. After leaving to serve as permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth, and Sports, she returned to the labour ministry in 2011. There she worked as director general up until the time of her passing on September 27 in Florida, where she was being treated for cancer.

Kellier said Innerarity was instrumental in building the necessary capacities of the ministry to deliver efficient and effective services. She contributed significantly to the development of social policies and programmes, particularly in the field of social protection focusing on issues affecting the rights of senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and the expansion of coverage for the poor and other vulnerable groups.

Innerarity represented Jamaica on the United Nations Commission for Social Development, serving as chair in 2001 and 2002, the first woman to do so.

Shortly before her passing, Innerarity achieved her PhD in gender and social protection from the University of the West Indies. She was posthumously congratulated for this achievement.

Parliamentary representative Olivia 'Babsy' Grange described Innerarity as a righteous woman who served the country with distinction.

"She was a flawless professional who was totally committed to excellent work ethics, high standard of performance and the highest level of Christian values. What a mix," Grange said. "You don't find that in many people."

She described Innerarity as a gender analysis specialist who made a significant contribution to social policy as well as an expert in international relations who was selected as a member of the special team of international experts which advised the South African Government on reshaping the social protection committee after the Apartheid era.

But while Innerarity was lauded for her contribution to the nation, it was the woman behind the hats, long skirts and natural hair, and who was recently ordained a reverend, who drew intermittent laughter, sporadic tears and wide smiles to otherwise sombre faces.

She was described as a woman with a soft heart and great sense of humour -- though rather subtle. She did not believe in women wearing pants, valued natural hair, would never pray without her head covered and therefore became renowned as the woman of many hats.

She was also a warm and caring person with a beautiful smile who, while at work, played the role of guidance counsellor, mother, preacher, and teacher.

Stories were told of the woman who lived by 'faith', who would pray for those who went to visit her while she was in hospital, and of her converting female 'pants wearers' into 'skirt wearers'.

Rev Garnet Brown, from the pastoral fraternity, said despite her brilliance, Innerarity never lost the common touch and helped many up the ladder of success.

"No one could get her to compromise her moral principles of rectitude and discipline," he said. "She has been a lady throughout her life." Though he did not to venture inside the auditorium, her only child Stephen Innerarity wrote a letter to his mom in which he described her as a virtuous woman who was a living example to him.

Innerarity is also survived by her husband Joseph. She was a leading member of the Church Dayton Diamond Ridge in Kingston.

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