A time for kindnessMonday, November 22, 2021
AS we struggle to emerge from this pandemic, there is not one of us who has not been bruised by its cruelty. Everyone knows someone who has died or has had a long, hard struggle with COVID-19, fighting for their every breath. Businesses have closed and jobs have been lost. Health-care workers have struggled night and day to keep patients alive, the majority of them now being the unvaccinated, and mental health is under assault.
Meanwhile, education has taken a terrible turn for our children. A report on the UNICEF Jamaica website states, “Since the closure of schools in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Jamaica, approximately 120,000 children, as reported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI), have been disengaged from learning. Schools have had little or no regular contact with these students. These children who have been lost to learning represent almost 25 per cent of the enrolment in public primary and secondary schools.”
Thank goodness schools have reopened! For too many of our children it is their only safe space and guidance counsellors provide the listening ear that is missing at home.
The indigent elderly who have survived are in even greater need as some family members cannot stretch their means beyond self-sustenance. Thank goodness for the kindness of good neighbours and caring organisations. Ninety-year-old Sister Benedict Chung says the lines at the Laws Street Trade Training Centre, which she still runs, have become longer. Some of the folks can barely walk, leaning heavily on sticks and walkers as they wait their turn.
Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) has partnered with Food For the Poor and the community relations arm of the Jamaica Constubulary Force (JCF) to deliver care packages to seniors islandwide for the past two years. This was inspired by Sergent Jerr Johnson-Heron who noted the extreme need in central Kingston. Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Natalie Palmer-Mair immediately responded to our call, and compassionate police officers ensured the packages were delivered.
The Digicel Foundation has gone the extra mile to assist in providing COVID-19 relief. In a message remarking on their annual report, Prime Minister Andrew Holness noted, “The Digicel Foundation did not waste time in facing up to the enormous challenges of the pandemic, which has wreaked havoc on Jamaica's social and economic fabric. You pivoted and you were proactive. The foundation's extensive Operation SAFE Mode was targeted and effective, providing support to our most vulnerable citizens when they needed it most.” He also thanked them for their donation of US$1 million to the National Health Fund (NHF) for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.
As start-ups try to find their feet after pandemic knockdowns, I believe the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro) should look at mentoring and supporting them. It is all well and good to be travelling worldwide courting overseas investors, but charity begins at home. I have heard too many horror stories of young entrepreneurs who have been disillusioned by alliances gone sour. These are brilliant young people who Jamaica cannot afford to lose. Jampro has a sizeable budget and should seek to assist the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) which are now struggling for survival.
This pandemic has hurt us, but it has also taught us some valuable lessons such as how to stretch our resources so others could live – it is a lesson that should influence every future plan we make.
Police deserve pay boost
One thing the pandemic did not stop is crime, and this monster continues to terrorise our people. Members of the JCF have been doubling and tripling up to protect us. Given their outreach activities, occupational risks and youth engagement, the members of the JCF deserve the increased salary and benefits they have requested.
I remember a police officer who was assigned as my bodyguard at Caymanas Park (that's another story). He once told me that he had just gone home and changed his clothes to come to the assignment after chasing criminals in a gully the night before, running through garbage and dirty water. You would never have guessed because of how impeccably he presented himself.
Another officer recounted an incident in which he had to confront protesters during a demonstration in an inner-city community after a don had been killed in a shoot-out with the police. He saw a decent shopkeeper in the crowd and afterwards asked her why she joined them. She explained that she knew the police were in the right, but if she did not join in they would have burnt down her shop.
These are but a few examples of what our protectors have to face while we are guarded by burglar bars and alarms. Yes, there are instances of corruption in the ranks, but this is being addressed through the work of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM). Our police deserve their pay raise, and please, get a phone for the Brown's Town Police Station.
The Ruel Reid issue
If the Education Act were well understood, the public would see that the Jamaica College Board faced a terrible dilemma as Ruel Reid's five-year special leave as principal of the school drew to a close. They were not in a position to fire Reid because the Education Act demands that this can only be done if a complaint is made against the action of an employee of a school while they are on the job. Reports are that there have been a series of discussions between the school board, the Ministry of Education and Reid's attorneys. At the time of writing, I understand that an agreement is in the making. For the sake of this great school, I hope this will be so.
Preparing for retirement
Our population is ageing fast and people are living longer. Seniors who have seen their comfortable lifestyle fraying at the edges have been warning young people that they must begin investing in their retirement as early as possible. BPM Financial's Grace McLean and Scotiabank's Lisa Stultz recently explained to a group of colleagues how they can grow their nest egg through disciplined saving and investing. It pays to postpone the luxuries until you have an assured path to a secure retirement.
We also attended an estate planning session conducted by DunnCox at which we received sound advice from Christina Brown, Helen Evelyn and Jonathan Morgan. They explained that regardless of your age, you should identify your assets, confirm agreement with your executors, decide on how your assets are to be distributed, and who you would want to be the guardian of your minor children. “Section 6 of the Jamaica Wills Act outlines the formalities of making a valid will,” Brown advised. For the sake of your loved ones, please ensure you do your estate planning.
Dough Jamaica and Porridge Shoppe
We caught young Shari Tomlinson on Smile Jamaica on Saturday. The young entrepreneur has started a pastry business called Dough Jamaica and a visit to her Instagram page shows her tempting creations.
We were also impressed with the Food Observer's feature on the Porridge Shop at Oaklands Plaza founded by Sabrina Webster, “with a daily menu of five kinds of porridge — peanut, oatmeal, hominy corn, bulgur, and corn meal”, along with fried dumplings and fritters.
Please support these hard-working ladies.