Businessmen pledge support for Jamaica at COJO awards ceremony

Associate editor

Sunday, December 09, 2018

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NEW YORK, USA — A long-term commitment to Jamaica's children has been given a guarantee by honorees who were recognised for their service to the country here December 1.

The commitment was cemented with a tangible donation of US$2,500 by Rockhouse Hotel and Foundation Chairman Paul Salmon, who made the presentation to Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) founder and Chairman Gary Williams at the Hilton JFK Hotel during COJO's 24th annual scholarship gala and awards.

COJO, the brainchild of Williams, has as its mission helping to improve the health, education and general well-being of less fortunate children. Since its inception in 1994, it has dedicated its resources — human and financial — to help make a difference in the lives of underserved children in Jamaica as well as the United States of America. For more than a decade, the organisation's funding has benefited such Jamaican institutions as the Alpha Boys' Home, the Glenhope Place of Safety (for girls) and the Young Men's Christian Association.

Salmon, who was presented with the 2018 Humanitarian Award by the New York-based non-profit; and Phillip Feurtado, vice-president and CEO of JA Feurtado Inc, which received the 2018 COJO Corporate Service Award, spoke to the Jamaica Observer about their work with and commitment to Jamaica's children.

Feurtado explained that his company ships to Jamaica and 99.9 per cent of its customers are Jamaican, and as such he has a special attachment to the island.

The company had its genesis in 1981 when Joslyn Feurtado, a freight forwarder and customs broker in Jamaica, and founding member of the Jamaica Customs Brokers Association, saw the need for a better service to cater to Jamaican immigrants in the New York area. A few years later Phillip, a graduate of Jamaica College, joined the company under the mentorship of his father, from whom he learned the principles of the business built on the core values of honesty, fairness, and exceeding customer expectations.

“Children's needs have to come first, so if you find an organisation like COJO that supports these, it's always good,” Feurtado said.

He explained that his company has been associated with COJO for about eight years, supporting its various initiatives, and has seen the work of the organisation, as well as Williams' passion and commitment, and as such was in it for the long haul. COJO donated more than US$20,000 in scholarships to several non-government agencies in Jamaica and New York last year, and in excess of US$500,000 in scholarships and school supplies to deserving individuals since its inception. Funds are raised throughout the year and culminate in the annual fundraising gala.

For his part, Salmon said his foundation works to impact the nation's future leaders, a position similar to COJO's mandate.

The foundation, a New York-based charity organisation, seeks to transform the places where Jamaica's children learn and support the people who teach them. It has focused its resources and energy on improving early childhood education institutions and, over the past decade, has invested more than US$4 million in projects improving education for the children in the Negril area, completely transforming and modernising six schools — Moreland Hill Primary and Infant, Negril All-Age, Negril Basic School, Little Bay All-Age and Infants, Bunch of Stars ECI, and Savanna-la-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy (SIIA) — in addition to the complete renovation and expansion of the Negril Community Library. The SIIA is a new school purposely built to service those with special needs in an inclusive environment.

“We're all focused on how to improve people's lives in the work that we do,” Salmon said. “It's all geared towards trying to change the course of the lives of children in Jamaica. And we hope that when they grow up we will see the arc in their lives.”

Also honoured at the awards ceremony was Gopal M Burgher, founder/managing partner and head of the capital markets and finance practice group of BurgherGray LLP, a corporate law firm based in New York City. He received the COJO Visionary Award for his commitment to community activism that has manifested itself in service and support to a number of charitable and philanthropic organisations and causes, including the American Foundation for The University of the West Indies and Professional Jamaicans for Jamaica, among others.

Dr Michael A Wiltshire, principal of Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in New York, rounded out the list of honorees. Under his leadership, Medgar Evers College Preparatory School has been transformed from a high school of 600 students to a premiere college preparatory secondary school with a population of over 1,260 students. He has put in place a unique secondary school model, and most of his graduates are admitted into some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the United States.

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