Push for better parenting

COJO awards over US$40,000 in scholarships to 10 wards of the state

By CANDIECE KNIGHT
Observer writer
knightk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 13, 2019

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BETTER parenting is being heralded as the panacea for many of Jamaica's social ills. This was the main takeaway from the messages shared by representatives from financial and government institutions, who spoke at the annual Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) scholarship awards ceremony in Kingston on Wednesday.

The event saw tertiary education scholarships valued at over US$40,000 being handed over to 10 wards of the state enrolled in tertiary institutions, as COJO celebrates 25 years of giving back to Jamaica.

Guest speaker Mariame McIntosh Robinson, president and CEO of First Global Bank, lamented that not all Jamaica's youth live in safe environments and feel protected.

“It's not just about the resources. It's not about whether you come from a rich family or a poor family. It's really about how you were supported, how well-loved, and how you were treated as a child,” she said to the group at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

“I think we need to spend more actual physical time with our kids,” the mother of two told the Jamaica Observer.

“A lot of us outsource our children to activities, or to teachers at school, to parent for us. We also need to create a sense of confidence in our kids. Too often when our kids upset us we might lash out at them, but we need to make sure that we are balanced in our approach so that when they are doing things, we push them, but we don't push them in a cold way. We should push them in a very supportive manner.”

Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, agreed with Robinson.

“We want to say, especially to our young people, that the decision to parent a child is a serious one, and it shouldn't be taken lightly, and you should plan for it,” she pointed out.

She urged parents who are having challenges with providing emotional and educational support to their children not to suffer in silence.

“Don't stay with the problems until they get worse; come to us,” she invited. “We have been finding that a number of the children have psychosocial disorders and learning disorders that, if treated early, the children can live normal lives. But sometimes the parents wait too long before they seek help.”

COJO is a not-for-profit organisation, whose mission is to help improve the health, education and general well-being of underserved children in Jamaica as well as the United States. Founded in 1994 by Gary Williams as an engine for community development, COJO was established on the principle of creating opportunities through wide-ranging social development programmes.

“I never forget where I'm coming from,” Williams, who in the absence of his father was brought up with the assistance of his grandmother and her church family, told the Observer. “When I got to America I never forgot that, and I decided that the best way to give back was through helping children.”

Since the organisation was birthed 25 years ago, it has been increasing the number of students to whom scholarships are awarded annually, thanks to sponsorships from local corporations and Jamaicans in the Diaspora.

“We have some sponsors like GraceKennedy, who have been with us,” he said gratefully. “[There's also] the Jamaica Tourist Board, Sandals Resorts, and we have JetBlue, who has been on board since 2001.”

Funds are also raised from the organisation's annual benefit raffle, held during the gala event at the end of the year in New York.


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