Growing in courage and purpose


Growing in courage and purpose

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, July 06, 2020

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I am here tapping out this column at my father's desk, where he sat working in his wheelchair wearing periscope-type glasses because his neck was fixed by ankylosing spondylitis — an extreme form of arthritis. Brave ex-Royal Air Force man that he was, he hardly spoke of his painful condition, which dogged him as he worked and studied day after day, night after night, to become a chartered accountant. He had his four children to see through school and he would not stop until the youngest was accepted at university.

I am sharing my dad's story because, although these COVID-19 times are painful and uncomfortable, we should see them as a challenge to grow in courage and purpose. A report from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has shaken us up. It puts Jamaica at the top of the list for developing countries to suffer from tourism losses — they forecast an 11 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP). How will we prove them wrong?

Clearly, we must find ways to attract visitors while safeguarding them and our tourism workers. Indications are that flights into the Montego Bay's Donald Sangster International Airport are on the increase, with strict adherence to an arrival protocol.

Our restaurants were able to reopen last Thursday. A Jamaica Information Service (JIS) report from Alecia Smith noted, “Minister of Local Government and Community Development Desmond McKenzie emphasised that occupancy 'must not exceed 50 per cent of [the facility's] capacity at any one point in time… No more than four persons can be seated at a table. There must be at least six feet of space between tables, and no table must be joined to facilitate large groups'.”

Representatives of the entertainment industry demonstrated outside Emancipation Park last week as they demanded the reopening of their activities. Bearing in mind a study that had shown that Jamaicans spend most of their money on food and entertainment, one can imagine the COVID-19 fallout for the entertainment sector. Playwright, producer, and and actress Dahlia Harris has introduced pay-per-view of her play on Instagram. We should check it out and support.

Besides these traditional revenue earners, we must focus on agriculture. One of the sunniest spots during this pandemic are photos and videos of the activities at Michael Lee-Chin's 3,000-acre mega farm, part of the former Innswood Estates in St Catherine. There was a traffic jam in New York when Jamaica's first shipment arrived there a few weeks ago. Gifts of Jamaican coffee, whether Blue Mountain or High Mountain, are always welcome. Café Blue is now using our excellent cocoa to produce a new line of chocolate products, and Jamaican ginger is regarded as the world's finest. Canned ackee and callaloo are winners and our sauces and jellies have a depth of flavour that is unparalleled.

Hundreds of students have now graduated from high school and university full of hope and promise. Meanwhile, our front line workers are dropping down from exhaustion, working double and triple shifts. We look to management in various fields of endeavour to mainstream new graduates, giving them work opportunities while relieving front line stress.


Dr Henry Lowe's COVID-19 drug

On June 19 Vernon Davidson, executive editor - publications at the Jamaica Observer, authored a front-page story on a breakthrough drug for the treatment of COVID-19 developed by renowned Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe.

“Yesterday Dr Lowe, who was named Jamaica Observer Business Leader in 2006, explained that he and his colleague scientists had, in 2015, actually isolated the flavonoid, named Caflanone from a very rare cannabis plant strain discovered in Jamaica,” he wrote. “At the time they were conducting research to find a drug that was effective against the coronavirus family following outbreaks of Zika, chikungunya, and previous scares of the H1N1 bird flu virus as well as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory syndrome).”

That drug now has two patents and four papers written about its effectiveness. When the SARS scare subsided, Dr Lowe turned his interest to the use of Caflanone to treat pancreatic cancer. Regarded as one of the most, if not the most effective treatment for this type of cancer, this formulation of Caflanone will be going to market later this month with a listing on the Canadian Stock Exchange.

We hope the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology, and The University of the West Indies (UWI) will engage further with Dr Lowe on this amazing drug, especially with the shortage of remdesivir, the world supply of which has been bought out by the US. A COVID-19-fighting formulation of Caflanone could be a windfall for Jamaica.


Phenomenal Vilma McDonald

The word phenomenal has become a bit overused, but in the case of Vilma McDonald, national sportswoman, Jamaica netball captain and association president, Lions Club of Liguanea past president, Carifesta 76 financial controller and long-serving civil servant, founding member and board director of CCRP, wife, mother, and perennial volunteer, it is hardly adequate. Last week she celebrated her 80th birthday and continues to serve, counsel, and guide her throngs of admirers.

Her son Patrick and daughters Michelle and Tania wrote: “My mother Vilma McDonald is 80 today... Apart from being a wife and mother, she's a warm, powerful force. She's a nurturer and caregiver. Former national sportswoman and team captain. Friend and confidante to many… Perpetual motion machine, allergic to being idle. Loves entertaining. Willing volunteer for every cause under the sun. Avid church-goer… After work, she would head to the stadium courts to play netball, with her brood trailing behind her, then head home to be wife and mother. All in a day's work… That 'can-do' spirit hasn't really faded… Ma, I love you, I cherish you, and I thank you for the love and for all the life lessons you have taught me.”

I learned about accountability at Vilma's knees at Carifesta 76. I also learned about efficiency. She would arrive at work on time after doing loads of laundry and getting her children off to school. She would lead us in prayer, guide us with her wisdom, and inspire us every single day. We wish Vilma continued good health and joy.


Farewell, dear friends

To lose one's friends during this pandemic is even more difficult. Last month Hubie and I said farewell to our first godson, Jerome Wood, one of the most caring human beings who ever walked this planet. Dedicated to his wife Angie, children Gabrielle and McKenzie, sister Aloun Assamba, and other family members, Jerome was a talented interior decorator, and participated in the Wood family business in Moneague. His warm presence is dearly missed.

A woman of excellence and humour, Janet Smith, beloved wife of Ernie Smith, passed away last week. Janet was a dynamic member of the Carifesta 76 team, wise beyond her years. Later we reconnected when she was wife and manager of Ernie Smith, their togetherness a joy to experience. We pray for Ernie and other family members.

Deepest condolence to the Wood and Smith families. May the souls of Jerome and Janet rest in peace.

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