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PM: More J'cans need to get into volunteerism

BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, January 20, 2014    

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PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller has urged more Jamaicans to get into the habit of volunteerism, arguing that each citizen has a social responsibility to contribute to the country's development and prosperity.

The prime minister said that while it is the Government's responsibility to address the needs and problems of the nation, the citizens, too, have a major role to play.

"It is not just the responsibility of a government; it is also the responsibility of all the people to get it right in this country," Simpson Miller declared at last Wednesday's 10th anniversary launch of Digicel Foundation at Stella Maris Foundation in Grants Pen, St Andrew.

"I call on all Jamaicans to give something back and to reach out to someone," she said. "Let us all unite — Government, corporate entities, and as a people — in one giant campaign to bring out the extraordinary in all of us as a people."

"It is also critical, at this stage of our nation's development, to encourage a renewed national initiative that promotes volunteerism, even as we thank thousands of volunteers who give of themselves selflessly daily across Jamaica," Simpson Miller added.

She also used the occasion to call on all Jamaicans to unite in the fight against crime. The Government, she said, has a duty to assist and to push programmes that deal with crime, but there is a need for all Jamaicans to come together.

"I call on more Jamaicans, all Jamaicans, to give more, to volunteer more, to become their brothers' and sisters' keepers," said the prime minister. "...None of us here can be happy, neither Government nor Opposition... with the level of crime."

"But it's not just about the Government and the security forces; communities must join hands together so we can destroy this monster plaguing our country," she added.

In relation to Digicel Foundation, she urged all Jamaicans and corporate entities to emulate the sterling example set by thefoundation — which over the past decade has funded 437 projects to the tune of $19 billion, impacting the lives of more than 400,000 people.

"That is no small accomplishment," said Simpson Miller, who noted that she was particularly pleased with the work being done in the areas of education and special needs.

"The enrichment [programme], in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development and the education ministry, is noteworthy as it has reached 111 schools and there are plans to reach 100 more schools in the next three years," she said.

She also commended the foundation for its plans to set up 10 special-needs centres and to provide training for special-needs teachers.

"On this, your 10th anniversary, thank you and continue to make your contribution, your benevolent approach, your exemplary corporate citizenship and the corporate social responsibility, to go a far way in assisting to build human capital and helping our nation to grow and develop," said the prime minister.

Three of the foundation's beneficiaries also expressed gratitude for the foundation's work at Wednesday's function.

Keisha Malvo-Brooks, principal of the Lakes Pen Basic School, thanked the foundation for providing the school with a home in November 2004 and for returning last year to renovate the school building.

"We are so glad to have been your first project," she said, noting that the students, teachers and parents were extremely pleased.

Omar Fritt, general manager of the Stella Maris Foundation, expressed similar sentiments for the $12-million building that now houses the foundation.

For her part, Antonica Gunter Gayle, principal of Early Stimulation Plus, described the foundation as a "pot of gold" that brought a ray of hope to the children and made a world of difference.

Meanwhile Samantha Chantrelle, executive director of the foundation, said that the foundation was extremely proud with the work that it had done over the 10 years.

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