Giving Jamaicans the chance they deserve

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, November 19, 2018

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THIS past week took us to places of learning, rescue, enterprise, and drama.

Last Friday we watched the time-honoured play by Sistren Collective, BellyWoman Bangarang. At the end of the performance, members of the original team told us how this experimental piece came about. Writers, artists and social workers, including Lana Finiken, Joan French, Hilary Nicholson, Honor Ford-Smith and Mbala, had listened to the stories of 'Crash Programme' workers in the 70s and woven them into this powerful production.

The extreme deprivation of our rural and urban poor was made raw and real by the talented cast and director. The abuse, sexual harassment, abandonment, and pain of the women — whose true stories were dramatised — left us with a feeling of frustration. Why after 40 years have we not moved our poor out of these circumstances?

A representative of a Spanish hotel chain mentioned to a colleague that Jamaica is the first country in which they have done business that the Government had not asked them to invest in housing for hotel workers. Why is this not done? With approximately one-third of Jamaicans living on 'captured land', our National Housing Trust should make social housing a priority.


Thankfully, there are dedicated entrepreneurs who are creating opportunities for their fellow Jamaicans. Jackie and Jason Sharpe hosted an enlightening tour of the Clifton Mount Great House and Estate for members of our International Women's Federation (IWF) Jamaica Forum last Saturday. The estate was purchased by late visionary Laurie Sharpe in 1977 — a time when many Jamaicans were making their way out of the country. With foresight and diligence, the Sharpe family has moved their export market share for Blue Mountain Coffee from three per cent to 50 per cent.

The most telling factor of their success is the enthusiasm of their staff members. It was clear that the young Jamaicans who led our tour love their job. Jackie noted that 600 women from the inner city work in their factory on Marcus Garvey Drive, where the coffee beans are processed and packaged for export to Japan, the US and UK.


We journeyed to the Hazard Primary School in Mineral Heights, Clarendon, last Tuesday for the opening of their expanded special education unit sponsored by the Digicel Foundation. The school used the funds to create a convenient and colourful unit with immaculate surroundings, celebrated in a lively 'thank you' poem by students.

Dr Sharon Anderson-Morgan reminded us that of the Earth's seven billion people, one million were living with some form of disability. The assistant chief education officer for special needs in the Ministry of Education applauded the message of inclusivity in the Digicel Foundation slogan: “No Child Left Behind”.

Heather Lynn, the ministry's special education officer, is one of the finest motivators we have ever heard. No wonder the teachers in the newly updated unit have won international awards. Their students have heightened enthusiasm, better academic performance, and positive behaviour changes.

With the efforts of the Ministry of Education, sponsors, teachers, parents, and volunteers throughout Jamaica, we are seeing greater acknowledgement of the promise of every child, and more efforts to address their learning challenges. Parents should no longer feel embarrassed about having a child with intellectual disabilities; there is a place and a purpose for each and every one.


Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Mustard Seed was presented with a fifth IGT After School Advantage Centre by the company's Jamaica Manager Debbie Green and Regional Director Brendan Hames, last Wednesday, at the Matthew 25:40 residence.

“This outstanding organisation has risen to the challenge of serving some of the most vulnerable in the society,” said Hames. “It is our distinct honour to support them in providing a higher standard of educational delivery through technology.”

Residents of the facility and others from the area will now be well equipped for their studies. Matthew 25:40, located at the corner of North Street and South Camp Road, was established in 2002 and is one of three homes in Kingston serving abandoned and orphaned children living with HIV/AIDS under the umbrella of its 'Dare to Care' programme.

The homes provide shelter and support for approximately 80 children. Dare to Care's unique programme ensures that the children live their best possible lives. The children are offered medical care, education, as well as emotional and spiritual support. Mustard Seed Chairman Archbishop Kenneth Richards and Founder Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon lauded the staff for their compassionate care of the boys.


At an elegant function last Thursday, The Mico University College celebrated the contribution of retiring lecturers and other staff members who had moulded thousands of Miconians for decades. The excellence of this venerable institution shone in the presentations by Beverley Harris, who replied on behalf of the retirees; President Dr Ashburn Pinnock; vice-presidents Professor Carol Clarke and Rudolph Sewell; lecturer Alvin Lawson; and Melrose Foster, human resource manager.

As we learned about the excellence of the honorees, we acknowledged the debt this country owes our teachers who are wonderful examples of good citizenship. May they have an enjoyable retirement.


It was great to catch up with Jamaica Stock Exchange Executive Director Marlene Street-Forrest recently. We share her enthusiasm for the upcoming launch of “a self-sustaining Jamaica Social Investment Exchange (JSIX) for the 'Not for Profit' Sector”. She noted that, with upcoming legislation, she is looking forward to the establishment of the equity or impact investment-based model, the Jamaica Impact Investment Exchange (JIIX).

The JSE website states, “Globally, managers are being responsive to the fact that non-financial factors, especially socio-cultural and environmental, do affect the long-term returns of businesses, as the consuming public and investors are now requiring more people and environmental considerations in how business is pursued. This focus is forcing the triple bottom line model of people, planet, profit to business.”

May the efforts of our teachers, artists and investors inspire our leaders to create a compassionate and comprehensive plan to end the suffering of our poor.

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