Saving jobs while saving lives

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Saving jobs while saving lives

BY Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, May 11, 2020

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After seven weeks working remotely our office will begin its gradual reopening today. After 41 years in business we have experienced hurricanes Gilbert, Ivan, roads closed from gas strikes, and CHIKV keeping us on skeleton staff for weeks. However, never have we experienced anything like this. The word “unprecedented” is being used in reports from every corner of the world.

Employment figures have reached pre-World War II lows in the US, and lines at food banks are getting longer. While job losses are happening, other fields are opening up, so some may have to exit their comfort zones to study for jobs of the future. It will be an interesting mix — public health, plumbing, electrical engineering, and, of course, technology. With our population ageing at a rapid rate, well-trained practical nurses will be in demand. Dressmakers and shoe repair establishments will become more popular as we will have to spend less and conserve what we have.

As some teeter on the brink of poverty, private sector organisations are recommending a phased opening of the national economy with adjusted curfew hours of 9:00 pm to 5:00 am. “This measure will allow for more economic activity and workforce productivity, particularly our micro, small and medium enterprises — our most vulnerable — that represents over 70 per cent of the economy,” the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Association of Jamaica, and the MSME Alliance said in a joint release quoted in the Jamaica Observer on Saturday.

We also saw a video of a Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) bus, packed and with passengers standing, speeding through the streets of Kingston, apparently trying to beat curfew. Perhaps this supports the PSOJ call to have later curfew hours.

To save lives and to save jobs is the delicate balance faced by countries all over the world. Despite the criticisms, I believe Jamaica's public and private sectors have been doing a commendable job providing protection and relief. We see postings of long hours on social media from our front line workers, and applaud them for their sacrifices.

Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) members have been juggling security and social outreach. PSOJ President Keith Duncan said his organisation has so far raised $120 million and that the thousands of care packages are being coordinated with American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ), United Way, Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS), and Food For the Poor for distribution to the JCF and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). However, these care packages will not last long, so we must look to sustainable solutions.

Jamaicans take personal hygiene seriously, so if businesses can supply sanitisers, masks, hand-washing facilities, and arrangements to ensure social distancing we should make our move.

We may have to find new ways of doing business. Greg Christie, soon to be head of Jamaica's Integrity Commission, shared a report from The Guardian on citizens in Fiji and other South Pacific Islands who are using Facebook to promote bartering: “Two piglets for a Pre-Loved kayak, a taxi fare in exchange for fresh produce, hot cross buns for online tutoring, an old carpet for a professional photography session, vegetable seedlings for home-made pies, and offers to have backyards cleaned for prayers.” This should be a refreshing story for businessman Andrew Pairman, who has been an active advocate of bartering. Now we must look with COVID-19-opened eyes at some of the opportunities that can make life more bearable for each other.

Education matters

State minister for education, youth and information Alando Terrelonge is concerned at the rising number of young people who have tested positive for COVID-19. “I don't believe some young people are taking this situation as seriously as they should,” he said. He has started an online campaign with the theme 'Be a good soldier in the war against coronavirus' with Rondell Positive.

This pandemic is uncovering some serious gaps in our society. A voice note from a despondent parent to her daughter's teacher explained that she, the parent, could not read and needed the teacher to ensure that her child was on track with her studies. This calls for more partnerships to promote literacy for parents.

Our crime virus

Gunmen continue to add grief to our already testing times. In one week they snuffed out the lives of four children — an eight-year-old and three teenagers. We Jamaicans must get on board to mentor, counsel, and support our young men and boys so they do not become easy prey for gangs. This is an important role we can play in chipping away at their power.

Mary Seacole remembered

Hilary Nicholson shared that a new temporary community hospital in Surrey for COVID-19 rehabilitation patients will be named after the great Mary Seacole, British-Jamaican nursing pioneer. The report from a nursing services website reads, “The new unit based at Headley Court Hospital in Leatherhead is expected to be the first of a wave of new 'Seacole services' [for]… patient rehabilitation.” The naming follows a campaign led by National Health Service (NHS) England diversity lead nurse Yvonne Coghill. Great going!

In memoriam

We bade farewell to friends and Jamaican greats this week. Retired Jamaica Observer Photo Editor Michael Gordon left us suddenly, and we remember the friendly chats, the quiet nods of the professional on assignment, and the beautiful day in 2016 when he received his national honour — appointment as a member of the Order of Distinction in the rank of Officer — for his body of excellent work. He was predeceased by his lovely wife Angela last year and our prayers go out to their grieving family and friends.

In the mid-60s Millie Small took Jamaican music to new heights with her hit My Boy Lollipop, co-produced by Chris Blackwell and Ernie Ranglin, who also worked on the arrangement. What a song, coming third on the Billboard charts only to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Millie Small went on to have a quiet life with her family in the UK and passed away from a stroke at 73 years old. Thank you for the joy of your music, Millie Small!

Composer, lecturer, soldier, and patriot Major Joe Williams masterfully led the Jamaica Military Band for over 40 years. The Kingston Technical High School graduate was a top student at the Royal Military School of Music (Kneller Hall) and later at the University Extension Conservatory, Chicago, USA, and the City Literary Institute, London. The much-decorated major served as chair of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Festival Song Competition and the National Music Committee. He was an avid sportsman and a founder of the Jamaica Copyright Licensing Agency. He died on April 25 and a funeral service was held in his honour on Friday at the Garrison Church, Up Park Camp. Our sympathy to his beloved family and colleagues.

Of the passing of Renaissance man Professor Emeritus Frederick Hickling, his wife Hilary wrote, “Our family bid him farewell with our prayers and to the music of Miles Davis, Third World, Buju Banton, Harold Butler, Morgan Heritage, Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh. He lived with courage and love.” Professor Hickling served as head of The University of the West Indies, Mona, Psychiatry Department, and was also the executive director of the Caribbean Institute of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (CARIMENSA). He called on the authorities to address the serious threat of crime and indiscipline to the mental health of his fellow Jamaicans. He was a caring, brilliant, and approachable humanitarian. Our sympathy to his loving family.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com


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