Our hearts hurt each time we hear of the tragic deaths or abuse of children and the elderly, the vulnerable members of the Jamaican family.
There are individuals and groups looking out for them, babysitting for their neighbours, carpooling, and hosting homework centres. However, as we have been reminded repeatedly, criminals are still being harboured, left free to visit violence on our innocents.
The majority of Jamaicans, decent law-abiding people, will now need to step up and protect our children and elderly. Those who fear speaking up against criminals in their midst can speak to their pastors or guidance counsellors who can act as intermediaries with law enforcement. Parent-teacher associations and church groups can offer transportation for schoolchildren. Father Jim Bok in Negril held a fund-raiser to purchase a bus which takes disadvantaged children to and from school every day.
We must also examine why there have been such cold-hearted crimes against children; how could we have bred such evil hearts? For over 30 years WMW Jamaica (formerly Women's Media Watch) has been warning about the extreme violence in movies and on television. We saw this becoming even more dangerous with the advent of violent video games absorbing our children, desensitising them to the harm unfolding on their screens.
We saw the rise in the number of 'barrel children', left behind by parents seeking better jobs abroad to support their families. They may have received monetary support, but in some instances lacked the parental guidance to be disciplined and responsible.
Children need to be nurtured. Throwing an iPad to them while you play on yours will result in antisocial behaviour. Conversing with children, worshipping with them, reading to them, taking them out of the house for recreational activities will make a world of difference to their socialisation. We cannot have a "kinder, gentler nation", as was envisioned by the elder former US President Bush, if our children do not have that level of care.
Those of us who were blessed to have caring parents and guardians will have to take mentorship seriously. Children who may not have guidance at home will benefit from a structured mentorship programme: weekly phone calls, monthly meetings, outings from time to time. This is how children will feel that they matter, that you have their backs, build their self-esteem and confidence. It is not by coincidence that one of our gangs call themselves the Fatherless Crew.
We welcome the news from Colette Roberts Risden, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security that salaries for social workers have more than doubled and there are 50 new vacancies to be filled. She was responding to a statement from Member of Parliament Mikael Phillips, chair of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC), calling for more social workers for the administration of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
The anger and dysfunction in our country are paraded every day on social media. Our politicians and the security forces cannot address this on their own. It is the responsibility of every decent adult to join with the voluntary bodies at school, church, or in the community to help even one suffering child.
The call for overseas workers
Richard Pandohie's recent contribution to the recruitment of overseas employees in a media interview generated more light and less heat in the current debate on the subject.
The Seprod Group CEO said that for his company such an action would be for a limited period so that his workers could be apprenticed to such an individual and be trained to take over that position
Pandohie also noted that there is a punctuality and productivity issue, primarily with male workers. He said a great deal of productive time is taken up with mediation as many were not able to settle their differences and conflicts escalate. President of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA) Sydney Thwaites called for the training of young people in the soft skills needed for them to be cooperative team players.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck believes that our tourism workers should be better paid. He recalled a conversation with a worker in the industry who said that his wage could not cover the cost of commuting so he left the job.
With so much dissonance, we believe the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) could assist with data on wages in the various industries and the reasons many jobs advertised are not being taken up.
AFJ celebrates 40 years
This year's gala held by the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) has raised nearly US$1 million, all of which will go to grantees in Jamaica who are involved in transformative programmes. It is no wonder they gained so much support, as the honorees were stars of business and philanthropy: Danny Wegman, Paula Kerr-Jarrett Wegman, Sheresse Clarke Soars, and Janice Hart.
We remember when former US ambassadors Sue and Charles Cobb, Pamela Bridgewater, Brenda Johnson, Glen Holden, and J Gary Cooper joined together to continue their support of the Jamaican people. Along their 40-year journey they were joined by AFJ board directors Wendy Hart, James Cada, Monica Ladd, Chris Ohrstrom, Paula Campbell Roberts, Barron Channer, Glenn Creamer, Pat Falkenberg, Sarah Hsia, Kathleen Newman, Radford W Klotz, and Caron Chung. Congratulations to AFJ on its milestone anniversary. It has brought hope to many lives and joy with its fantastic fund-raisers.
Applications for funding can be sent via the AFJ website, theafj.org.
Farewell, Sister Theresa Lowe-Ching
The Sisters of Mercy of Jamaica are mourning the passing of one of their most brilliant nuns, theologian Sister Theresa Lowe Ching, PhD, formerly Sister Mary Donna, who taught us Latin at Convent of Mercy Academy "Alpha".
Sister Terry, as we fondly called her, was a beloved lecturer at St Michael's College & Seminary and The University of the West Indies. She was instrumental in the formation of her fellow sisters as well as the associates of the Sisters of Mercy.
Sister was a visionary and a keen planner, who took on the amazing journey of the creation of the Alpha Mercy Museum in collaboration with Mercy Jamaica administrator Sister Susan Frazer. She requested a special wall on which all the Sisters of Mercy who had served in Jamaica would be memorialised. It was a joy that she was present at the unveiling last December.
Our associates of the Sisters of Mercy leader Marcia Thwaites shared, "I recall how she abhorred 'clericalism', a topic that the recent church synod addressed. She felt that women had a lot to contribute and felt it was unwise for the Church to operate 'with one hand tied behind its back'."
Mercy associate Sheryl Reid wrote, "Sister Terry was indeed a gentle giant of a theologian. She pioneered registering a master's degree programme in Catholic theology. It got off the ground but was discontinued a few years later when she retired. I will miss her good counsel."
Deepest sympathy to Sister Terry's family and the Mercy community. May she rest in eternal peace.
Jean Lowrie-Chin is executive chair of PROComm, PRODEV, and CCRP. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.