MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Aspiring public health officers in Ebenezer and the wider Manchester area are set to benefit from a foundation named in honour of revered retired Public Health Inspector Vesta James Alexander White.
Organisers say the foundation will provide financial support to persons who either reside or attend school or church in the community and who qualify for the Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Health (Public Health Inspection) at the University of Technology (UTech).
In the absence of eligible candidates with links to Ebenezer, aspirants from other areas in Manchester will be considered, organisers say.
Paul Miller, chairman of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands' (UCJCI) Education Commission, recently officially launched the foundation which has already raised $500,000 in pledges from 50 relatives and friends of White. Fund-raising efforts are now being planned to ensure that the first disbursement can be made next year.
"It is important to this country that we do things that last beyond our time," said Miller.
White, a Justice of the Peace for Manchester and senior elder at Ebenezer United Church, used his 90th birthday celebration which took place at his church among family, friends and well-wishers, to mark the occasion.
Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites, who shared in the occasion, gave "thanks for the long life of one who has distinguished himself in our midst".
Said Thwaites: "We are celebrating partnerships of care in what Mr White is doing. It is a gesture (with which) I am happy to be associated".
White, a product of the Ebenezer community, was described in a tribute as "a university in his own right". He was said to be always encouraging young people to excel in their areas of interest.
He was hailed as a foundation member of the JAMAL Centre in Mandeville (now Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning), an active member of the Police Civic Committee, the Manchester Neighbourhood Watch Council, and chairman of the school board at Cheveley Early Childhood Institution.
White is also a recipient of the 2009 Governor General's Award.
Ninety-two-year-old Livingston Brown, a retired Royal Air Force soldier, said that Vesta White's connection with the health sector began during the Second World War when he joined the Jamaica Home Guard and was assigned to the medical office based at what was then the Palisadoes Airport. There, he looked out for the welfare of soldiers who were travelling to England and the United States of America.
Brown said the British colonial government at the time later sought to reward persons who had served as "loyal and patriotic" citizens.
As a young ex-serviceman, White received a scholarship in his chosen field of public health to enter the then West Indies School of Public Health in Kingston. He graduated with honours and became a member of the Royal Society of Public Health.
Vesta White served as a public health inspector in Manchester for 40 years.
The present chief public health inspector at the Manchester Health Department George Sloley said that White remains concerned about happenings in the organisation.
White, in response, thanked God for his 90 years, his grandparents for "guiding my life and purpose", and the various agencies that allowed him to serve.