US Jamaicans on massive anti-COVID driveTuesday, September 21, 2021
BY HAROLD G BAILEY
NEW YORK, USA — A massive drive, supported by more than 14 of the main Jamaican organisations in the United States, is underway to mobilise assistance in the fight against the [novel coronavirus] pandemic in their homeland.
A range of charity organisations, political groups which have put aside ideological differences, churches and individuals are part of the effort to acquire medical supplies for health workers and hospitals overwhelmed by the COVID-19 battle.
The items being sought include personal protective equipment (PPEs), masks, gloves, sanitisers, walkers, beds and stretchers, said Dr Rupert Francis of Jamaican Men of Florida, a newly minted non-profit organisation and one of the main backers of the initiative.
Francis, a former army captain in Jamaica, said the drive was recently launched but he has, nevertheless, already seen “a tremendous response” from more than 14 organisations and counting.
The Savanna-la-Mar, Mandeville and Kingston Public hospitals will be the initial beneficiaries.
“With the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths increasing in recent days, concern has been mounting among Jamaicans here over the safety and well-being of their relatives and friends on the island,” said Dr Francis.
As a companion effort, a plan is being drafted to launch a food bank across the island to feed the neediest Jamaicans who have been displaced by the novel coronavirus, to be operated by churches and hopefully the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
The Jamaican Men of Florida is working in tandem with the Jamaica Diaspora Crime Intervention Task Force, Jamaican Women of Florida led by Dr Keisha Gayle, and the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council for the Northeast United States.
Bishop Joyce Bernard and Pastor Desmond Malcolm of Central Tabernacle Centre in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, are coordinating efforts in Jamaica.
Bishop Bernard has made a special appeal for specialised medical equipment as well as wheelchairs and oximeters on behalf of the Savanna-la-Mar hospital.
Jamaica's consul general in Miami Oliver Mair, along with Dr Rosemarie Lewis who heads the Diaspora Council for the southern US and her counterpart in the northeast Dr Karren Dunkley “are playing crucial roles in the drive” Francis told the Jamaica Observer.
Francis said talks are also being held with a Brooklyn-based, Jamaican-operated company to assist in the drive as the desire now is to ship the collected items at the end of this month or by the first week in October.
Regarding the food bank, Francis said the idea behind it was to make the equipment drive a permanent effort by setting up the facility. The plan is to ask the churches and the JDF to ensure the most needy are assisted.
In the meantime, there are reports here that some Jamaicans are expressing fear in visiting the island because of the rise in COVID-19 infections and deaths attributable to the Delta variant.
Even prominent people, like Pennsylvania-based businessman Hugh Robinson and Sadie Campbell of the 85-year-old Jamaica Progressive League (JPL), have ruled out “any visit home at this time”.
That development has sparked calls from some Diaspora leaders to Jamaicans at home to take the virus seriously and follow the protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the disease.
Dr Dunkley, who heads the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council for the Northeast US, urged Jamaicans “to look around and observe the number of deaths and suffering taking place daily” as proof of the carnage.
Dunkley said she recently returned from a visit home where she observed that the level of seriousness required regarding mask-wearing and social distancing was not evident in some members of the population.
She extended her appeal to Jamaicans in the United States who are also hesitant about being inoculated.
In a similar appeal to Jamaicans at home, Owen Eccles, president of the Paterson chapter of the Jamaica Organisation of New Jersey, said that after “18 months, thousands of infections, hundreds of hospitalisations and over 1,600 deaths, Jamaicans should now be convinced about the crisis facing the country” and recognise that they have a responsibility to help bring the virus under control.