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The key to a better life

NCB Foundation, Island Grill, FFP join hands to give single father a new home

Tuesday, May 13, 2014    

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HOWARD Johnson hardly breaks a sweat in the scorching sun as he sets about diligently clearing the brush from the yard in the district called Cemetery, just outside of May Pen, Clarendon, on Saturday.

This is easy for the 60-year-old to do because, as the caretaker at the Bustamante High School, he is used to such hard labour. His task is also easier because he is doing it with the knowledge that he is clearing the land to make way for the construction of his new house courtesy of a collaboration among NCB Foundation, Island Grill, and charity group Food for the Poor (FFP).

The single father of three children — two boys and a girl ages 17, 15 and nine -- has lived in terrible conditions in the nearby district of 'Common'. It was a one-bedroom board structure where sanitation was almost as nonexistent as the roof over their heads. They had no furniture and the walls and floors were rotting.

"Every time I leave the house, I have to tie up the bed and take it off the ground so it don't get wet when rain fall and the water come in," said Johnson.

But thanks to the Clarendon Parish Council which donated the land, funding from the three entities, and the work of their volunteers, Johnson's life has changed for the better.

A chorus of hammers rang out from the site on Saturday as the volunteers set about helping the destitute family, turning a wooden frame on a concrete base into a four-room dwelling with a working indoor bathroom and solar power. The home was constructed in a matter of hours under the skilled instruction of the FFP's construction team as part of the charity's Build a Home project.

Thalia Lyn, who joined the dozens of volunteers on the construction site, wore two hats -- one as chairman of the NCB Foundation and the other as CEO of Island Grill. She said this effort was just one way the staff at both entities can give of their time and energy to support a project that has lasting impact on needy families.

"The NCB Foundation respects and embraces charitable causes that are relevant to the betterment of Jamaica and leads in corporate social responsibility through strategic partnerships focused on the development of our nation's people. What better way to involve Bank staff and my team at Island Grill in charitable giving? The power of this gesture is reflected in the enthusiasm and energy of our volunteers as they work today to give Mr Johnson a new lease on life by giving him a new home. I am proud that we are able to demonstrate the positive impact we can have on society and our own sense of well-being through projects like this one by the Food for the Poor," said Lyn.

Johnson, meanwhile, said he was overwhelmed by the gesture and repeatedly thanked the volunteers and FFP for their generosity as he received the keys to his new home from Lyn and FFP Executive Director Jacqueline Johnson (no relation).

"I am so happy to receive the keys to this new place where me and my kids, especially my young daughter, can feel safe and secure and be more comfortable. I will not forget what everyone here has done for me this day and I am so grateful," said Johnson.

The NCB Foundation Volunteer Corps not only assisted with labour to construct the home, but also donated a brand new refrigerator and stove, among other items, for the family's new dwelling.

The NCB Foundation seeks to provide or harness opportunities for meaningful change/improvement in Jamaican society by focusing on education and community development.

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