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Sagicor Sigma Run a big heart initiative

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Observer staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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THE Sagicor Group continues with its big heart initiative, naming the Diabetes Association of Jamaica, the Lupus Foundation of Jamaica and the neo-natal unit of the May Pen Hospital as the beneficiaries of this year's Sigma Corporate Run.

President and CEO of Sagicor Group Jamaica Christopher Zacca, who was speaking to reporters and editors at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, said that this year's $52-million target will go a far way in addressing the range of health issues covered by the beneficiaries.

“This year I think it is going to be the best ever. We are very privileged to have our three beneficiaries here. Our only regret is that we can't satisfy all the demands of our three beneficiaries, but the over $50 million that we will raise and donate to these organisations is going to go a far way, and give us a sense of satisfaction that we are not just working to earn money but to give back to communities,“ he said.

“The executives, directors and general team members contribute significantly, in a big way, so we do speak with our cheque books as well as our mouths. The fact is, we wanted to set a realistic target but we also want to be able to burst that target, too,” Zacca said. “So I think it is an aggressive target, even though it doesn't sound aggressive.”

The president and CEO also said that Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run has strengthened the organisation's role as a responsible corporate citizen.

“One of the things I have observed is that, when you sit in the boardroom looking at lists of potential beneficiaries and theoretically speaking about who you're going to take the five loaves and feed the 5,000, it doesn't compare to when you actually meet the people who are going to benefit. And the leverage that I see from the exposure and interacting certainly has benefited me and my team and how we perceive our roles as corporate citizens. The money is one thing, but just going viral with contributing to charity, it really is a positive thing,“ he said.

Zacca confessed that Sagicor Sigma Corporate Run “actually confirmed to me my decision to join Sagicor Jamaica”.

“Because the corporate social responsibility that I see displayed through this run really said to me that the company is an institution with a heart that really wants to give back to the communities they serve,” Zacca said.

For its 21st staging, Simone Walker, vice-president of Sagicor Jamaica group marketing and executive director of the Sagicor Foundation, told the Observer that health was identified as the focus of this year's event, as the demand for care and support in Jamaica is high.

“These causes are very dear to us. Over the last 20 years we have raised over 350 million Jamaican dollars in various sectors in health and education. This year, the big focus is on health. We know how this can impact people's lives on a daily basis. The opportunity for us as a corporate citizen to really give back, the Sigma Run allows us to do that in a big way.

“In terms of the process of identifying our beneficiaries, it took some amount of time, it took lots of effort. The demands for care and for support are many. But when we looked at who we were going to select as the beneficiaries for this year, one of the things that struck us was what would make that national impact. So for us, aligning ourselves with these beneficiaries was very strategic,” Walker said.

As far as national impact goes, chairman of the Diabetes Association of Jamaica, Lurline Less, said that their share of the funds will go a far way in providing a mobile unit that will be able to reach the one in four Jamaicans who are not aware that they have diabetes.

“Ministry of Health data shows that there are 250,000 adult diabetics living in Jamaica. In addition to that, there is one in four diabetics out there who are not aware of it, and that's a danger. These are the persons who will turn up at the hospital trying to get cure for 'sore foot' that doesn't heal, or for vision that's going blurry, and at that point are diagnosed with diabetes when it's too late. So the benefit of having this mobile unit would go to the betterment of Jamaica, to reach persons. We are taking the care to the people, so that we can identify these persons early so that we can get them on the path of proper management and treatment. So this is a big push in our direction,” she said.

The association also needs two mobile retina cameras, one eye laser machine, two kidney dialysis machines, two ECG machines, two BMI (body mass index) scales, and blood pressure, cholesterol and A1c machines.

Less also urged Jamaicans to adopt a healthy lifestyle, naming high blood pressure and heart disease as the main killers in Jamaica.

“Reducing consumption of sugars, fats and salt is our general message. Heart disease is our number one killer. High blood pressure is killing off this nation more than diabetes. We need healthy lifestyle,” she stressed.

Meanwhile, Sigma Run Race Director Alfred Francis said the fund-raising event, over the years, has had a major impact in promoting a healthy lifestyle.

“We speak about the dollars and cents, but one of the intangibles is the many persons who come to this run and then continue to practise a healthy lifestyle. That helps to saves lives. The significant contribution with the practice of a healthy lifestyle is invaluable because we can't quantify the impact it has had on people's lives who continue after. For a lot of persons, Sigma was the first race they participated in and continued,” Francis said.

Leading up to the Corporate Run, which is scheduled for February 17, people can also donate by purchasing their active wear at the Sagicor Sigma Run pop-up shop that will be going to various corporate offices, or on the ground floor of the R Danny Williams building in New Kingston.

Registration for the run closes on February 1, 2019.

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