HOW refreshing to listen to the passion of Dr Clover Baker-Brown and Horace 'Shad' Daley for their beloved Jamaica.
They are two successful Jamaican professionals living in the USA, who spend most of their spare time pounding the pavement to raise funds for children in their home country. Horace, a CPA, Baruch and Calabar graduate, founded Professional Jamaicans for Jamaica (PJFJ) in 2010, setting up a Facebook page which carries all the latest news about education in his homeland. Sometimes I get the news from the PJFJ page before I see it locally, so alert is Horace to our national issues. “Only God can take a mess and make it into a message,” declares Horace. “Only He can transform a test into a testimony!”
Horace says Clover, a Howard University PhD and Holmwood Technical graduate, was one of the first persons to respond to his call on Facebook, and together they are the most persistent fund-raisers for their beautiful aspirants to a better life. They started out raising funds for backpacks filled with school supplies. Then, on visiting Trench Town Primary School, they saw the need for a breakfast feeding programme and have been sponsoring this since 2011.
Horace and Clover decided to devise a way to select PJFJ scholars each year. They started an essay competition in 2011. Out of this Clover says she has read some of the most thoughtprovoking ideas on education and nation-building from our bright children. The PJFJ leaders were shocked that a few 'charity opportunists' tried to take an ego trip on PJFJ funds in the initial year, but were not deterred. Now they are already seeing the amazing progress of the first set of students they funded four years ago.
To honour Jamaica's 51st anniversary of Independence, they presented 51 children, from basic school to university level, with scholarships last Sunday evening at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel. Pint-sized Malik Tinker from Trench Town Basic was dressed in his Sunday best to receive his award. I sat with a poised 10-year-old Alicia Graham of Ensom City Primary who was able to engage in a lively conversation on Usain Bolt's exciting triumph in the Moscow World Championships 100M event. “Oh yes,” she said knowingly. “Justin Gatlin couldn't keep up with Usain Bolt!”
I also met the articulate Chantal Wainwright, a second-year business student at UWI who was like a big sister to the small children at her table. I was especially proud of dad Sheldon Edwards who was the picture of fatherly attention to young scholar Sheldon Jr.
It was a modest event, but this did not deter Jamaica's inspiring business leader Donna Duncan-Scott from spending the entire evening there, addressing the children in a sparkling presentation which could have wowed an Ivy League audience, hugging them and engaging with them after the formalities. Horace and Clover, who had spent long hours writing, calling, collecting funds, accounting, planning, inviting, and reminding were gratified that their programme received this level of respect.
It is the simple truth that 'people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care' and so the children were bowled over by their loving guest speaker. Donna explored the elements of happiness: “About 20 per cent of factors we control that impact our happiness are related to material possessions,” she explained. “Eighty per cent is related to how we see and care for ourselves, others; whether we feel we are making a difference in the world.”
As we become all worked up over the recent CSEC examination results, we should bear in mind Donna's observation that a holistic education consists of both the academic, as well as that which builds our spiritual and emotional competencies. This is in keeping with that Emotional Quotient (EQ) identified by Dr Kwame McKenzie as mentioned in last week's column, which is the lifeblood of a country's precious 'mental capital'.
The most eloquent testimony to Donna Duncan-Scott's belief in the power of spiritual and emotional competence comes from the breathtaking gold medal performance of Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in the Moscow women's 100-m and 200-m events and her post-race interviews. As she prepared for the events, the young athlete of strong spiritual conviction stood smiling and calm. After her blistering runs, she engaged the awed reporters in her pre-race analysis, how she should perform in a field of fast finishers, her prayers for God's guidance, her appreciation of the support from her family and sponsors.
Shelly-Ann, from the humble community of Waterhouse, carries out Donna's expressed belief that, “We are clear that when we stand in faith, we can co-create with God. We are not at the effect of the circumstances of life as opposed to relying on our own strength as our ego would have it.”
And so, as we hear the troubling news about the rising level of unemployment, let us consider if the kind of education we are offering our children will produce the world-class performers that we have been so proud to name in almost every field of endeavour. Let us require of our teachers that they show the confidence and enthusiasm needed to build a nation. Let us require of our pricey tertiary institutions that they do the research to give solid career guidance to hopeful young students so that they graduate energetic and employable.
Let all those parents and institutions who fund scholarships take our schools and colleges to task as to the quality of education they are offering our children. In every field of endeavour, we should be so proud of our work that performance assessment is not something to be feared, but to be welcomed.
PJFJ founder Horace Daley cites as his organisation's corporate values: accountability, diversity, integrity, and respect. He ensures that he accounts for every cent donated to the organisation, and donates the expenses incurred by himself, his beloved wife Sharon and Dr Baker-Brown, all of whom have sponsored scholarships from their own funds. This is the level of dedication required from those of us who declare ourselves wellthinking Jamaicans.
Food for the Poor Band Concert
Jamaican children have amazing talent and we got a glorious example of this at a band concert held at the Food for the Poor Jamaica (FFPJ) Twickenham Park headquarters. After just a two-week summer school, some 50 children performed a rollicking Rukumbine on wind and percussion instruments under the instruction of Alpha Boys' School music graduate Jeffrey Brown and fellow instructors Ian Glaves, Steve Lamey and Kemar Miller. The Music Summer Camp was the brainchild of FFPJ's Sandra Ramsey, who had the shiny new instruments donated through the Florida head office.
After their inspiring concert, the youngsters had two surprises: enrolment at a tennis camp with complimentary racquets and a surprise gift. They were told that the instruments with which they had been practising — saxaphones, trumpets, clarinets, flutes, drums — were now theirs to keep! This brought tears to their eyes. A follow-up programme is being planned — no wonder Food for the Poor is the favourite charity of so many.