COJO pledges to continue helping children

Monday, January 15, 2018

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SINCE 1994 Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO), a charity registered in the United States, has been working to transform the lives of some of Jamaica's most underserved children.

The Jamaica Observer spoke with COJO Founder and Chairman Gary Williams following the group's most recent event, the annual scholarship gala and awards at the Hilton JFK in New York on December 2, 2017.

Q: How did COJO come about?

A: I left Jamaica for New York in 1989 but would visit often and would always try to bring products and gifts for persons in my community. After a period of years doing this it occurred to me that I could achieve much more by establishing an organisation and joining with others. In discussions with my sister (now deceased) she named the organisation Children of Jamaica Outreach.

Q: What is the mission of COJO?

A: Simply put, improving the lives of Jamaica's children, in particular the underserved. Since 1997 we have had a special relationship with the children's homes in Jamaica and it is here that we are having the greatest impact. Money raised through our fund-raising events, including a gala dinner, summer fashion show and raffle, go to providing scholarships to tertiary institutions for former wards of the children's homes. This year, for instance, we presented over US$20,000 in scholarships to six students.

Q: How do you sustain COJO's work?

A: COJO has been privileged to have a number of organisations and individuals as sponsors of our events and because of them we are able to finance our work and earn money to help young Jamaicans. Companies like JetBlue for instance, provide us with airline tickets to bring speakers from Jamaica for our gala and for raffling, with accommodation from hotels like Half Moon, Round Hill, Sandals Resorts, Hilton Resort and Spa, Jewel Resorts, Tower Isle. Caribbean Food Delights, Iberia foods, The Estee Lauder Companies, J Wray & Nephew, Coffee Roasters of Jamaica, GraceKennedy, Golden Krust, The Door Restaurant, Finn Partners, Marcia Erskine & Associates, The Jamaica Pegasus, and others are also among individual sponsors.

At our annual scholarship gala, we have acknowledged the contributions of several persons and companies who have helped COJO achieve our vision. This year we honoured: GraceKennedy & Company Limited with the Corporate Service Award; Community Service awards were presented to Kaye Chong, Dennis Sherwood and Dr Fitzclaud Grant, MD; and the Visionary Award went to Marcia Erskine.

Q: What next for COJO?

A: We will continue to help former wards of the State in Jamaica. We have seen where a university degree has raised the bar for these young men and women and given them the tools to a better life for themselves and their families.

We're very proud of the BSc, BA and other qualifications already earned by COJO scholarship awardees and look forward to the MSc, MAs and PhDs that are sure to come.

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