Tuesday, April 25, 2017

WELCOME TO AMERICA - A CARIBBEAN MUSICAL, HELD OVER BY POPULAR DEMAND!

Message from my awesome friend David Heron:


The new Caribbean musical Welcome to America is a TRIUMPH, and is held over in its limited run for TWO SHOWS ONLY this weekend  in Jamaica Queens!


-Saturday April 29 at 8pm 

-Sunday April 30 at 6pm


Can we ask for your  support by coming out or by spreading the word?


Hope to see you there and one love!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Launch of Kingston 145 Celebrations

Excerpt from Observer Column - 17 April 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Kington Mayor Senator Delroy Williams hosted a colourful launch of the 145th Anniversary celebration as Kingston as the Capital City of Jamaica. The launch which took place at South Parade, featured the talented Lannaman’s and Tivoli Dance Troupes, the Mico University Choir and a smart march-past by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. JIS reporter Chad Bryan noted, “It included the reading of the history of Kingston by Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica, Vivian Crawford, and the symbolic lowering of the Spanish Town flag and the breaking of the Kingston flag, signifying the change in the seat of power as Jamaica’s capital on April 4, 1872.”

In an interview with blogger Emma Lewis, Mayor Williams spoke passionately about his plans for Kingston. “I want to make Kingston the number one city in the Caribbean – the capital city of the Caribbean – and a truly global city,” her told her.

Digicel Chairman Denis O’Brien shares this vision, establishing his impressive Digicel Regional Headquarters on the Kingston waterfront and funding the extensive renovation of the Coronation Market. GraceKennedy’s new headquarters now under construction, is testimony to that 95-year-old company’s faith in the city.


When questioned about his plans to tackle solid waste and create more green spaces, the Mayor gave Emma a refreshing response: “It’s not just a question of funds. It’s a question of using the funds efficiently and without waste.” 

Congratulations to the Mayor, Town Clerk Robert Hill and the KSAC Team on their bold steps. 

‘Won’t you help to sing … Redemption Song!’

Observer column published MON 17 April 2017
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Her last Facebook post was of an animated cat, wishing everyone a friendly “‘Goog’ Morning!”  However, Dawn Nugent did not live to see last Wednesday morning.  She had driven to her home in Golden Spring, St. Andrew after a church meeting last Tuesday evening, and was murdered.  Members of the Immaculate Conception Church in Stony Hill and the Tom’s River Mission are grieving her loss. They posted: “Dawn was a woman of prayer …We have been blessed by her ministry and passion for the faith.”

And so this Holy Week, as I pondered the tragic death of a giving, Christian woman and too many others, I had to turn to the words of Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr: “Undeserved suffering is redemptive.”  During our Good Friday meditation on the agony and death of Christ, I wondered if Jamaica was getting the strongest of messages: this undeserved suffering of Jamaica’s innocents could indeed be redemptive, but only if we become agents of that redemption.

We must discern the illogic of one set of headlines preening about big plans, while another is screaming crime.  Redemption will come when the two political parties, whose members eat and drink together, release from their bosoms the thugs who prevent poor people in garrisons from crossing a street to visit a relative. As we contemplate the triumph of the resurrection, no doubt celebrated by our leaders and their family at various church services, we appeal to them to raise  their standard of leadership. 

Vision 2030 will only be a facile slogan if they cannot protect their people. Political brinkmanship has brought us to this sorry pass, and only political will can take us out of it. Newcomers to politics have a great opportunity to make a stand for justice.  It is more difficult for those who have been long in the system to drop the tribalist baggage, but what a great day it would be if they decide to do so.  Jamaica, blessed with great people, great climate, great natural resources could rise to dizzying heights, if only she could get the chance. With every corrupt act, every bureaucratic obstacle, every crime, we are driving away Jamaica’s promising young professionals. 

You would think that our political representatives would see this situation as a national emergency and be arriving early at the House of Parliament to set to work on sound governance.  Not so, testified a photograph posted on social media by a journalist at the starting time for Parliament last Tuesday. Only two MPs were present.


Civil society must strengthen itself.  We can help motivate representatives of both political parties to protect the citizens they have pledged to serve. They must now have the moral fibre to step up to the responsibility of power – the power to give their country a legacy of enlightened leadership.  Be of good courage, sisters and brothers of Gordon House. Please take up the challenge of Bob Marley: “Won’t you help to sing – Redemption Song!”  

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

World Premiere - Welcome to America!

Welcome to America - A Caribbean Musical, will have its World Premiere performance in New York on Thursday, April 20, at the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center at York College, Jamaica Queens.



The performance will begin at 8pm and will kick off a limited run of the new Caribbean musical which ends on Sunday April 23.
The show is produced by Braata Productions and features an award winning creative team with book by Karl O'Brian Williams, music by Andrew Clarke, Karl O'Brian Williams and Joel Edwards, and Lyrics by Andrew Clarke and Williams. It is directed by Dominican born Yudelka Heyer.
Described by its creators as a universal story of hope and aspiration, Welcome To America explores the assimilation of a newly arrived undocumented Caribbean immigrant in the United States, and the complex pursuit of the American dream.
It tells the story of Sabrina Barnes, a talented and ambitious ingénue from the Caribbean, who leaves her home behind with big dreams and her determination to become a star. She soon learns however, that her island naiveté and the harsh realities of her newly adopted country may put both her goals and her future in great jeopardy.
The production employs both original songs as well as established selections from throughout the Caribbean Diaspora, enhanced with contemporary musical theater styling.
Award winning Jamaican playwright Karl O'Brian Williams, who began crafting the story several years ago with collaborative input from Braata Productions' Executive Director Andrew Clarke, says that the timing of the new production could not be more appropriate.
"We had been discussing the idea for a new musical that would tackle these issues of immigration, isolation and the pursuit of the American dream from a Caribbean perspective for some years now," he says, "And then, just when we were putting the finishing touches on the script, the election happened. And the world and America as we knew it were now living in a totally different reality. So I think the production, while very entertaining, also has a hugely important message in very challenging timhe production's short run at the Milton Bassin Center will precede a longer run to be announced in due course.
Welcome To America will play for five performances only, with a special Preview on Thursday April 20 at 12 noon followed by the World Premiere performance later that day at 8pm. It continues on Friday and Saturday at 8pm with the final performance on Sunday April 23 at 6pm. The Milton Bassin Performing Arts Center is located at York College, 94-95 Guy R Brewer Blvd in Jamaica Queens, New York, 11451. See also www.yorkpac.com.


Friday, April 14, 2017

William Mahfood and Jamaica’s promise

Observer column published 10 April 2017

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
PHOTOS FROM AFJ FACEBOOK PAGE

William Mahfood receives his award from
AFJ President Wendy Hart

Former US Ambassador to Jamaica Hon Brenda LaGrange-Johnson
US Ambassador Hon Luis Moreno  and Mrs Moreno
show respect to their National Anthem
 The large audience at the Four Seasons in Miami rose to its feet on the announcement of the recipient of the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) International Humanitarian Award – William Mahfood.  As the citation noted, “Generosity comes so naturally to William Mahfood that when he is thanked he seems almost unaware of his many kindnesses that have uplifted countless Jamaicans.”

 The tribute video featured Sister Mary Benedict Chung, who noted that as Chairman of the Laws Street Trade Training Centre, William Mahfood is never too busy to assist her in the service of Jamaica’s poor in Kingston’s inner city. The legendary Shaggy explained that it was when William sat with him and his wife Rebecca to create a structured approach, that the Shaggy Foundation really took off, earning millions for the Bustamante Hospital for Children. 
Philanthropy runs in the Mahfood family.  They are founders of Food for the Poor, now serving millions in 17 Caribbean and Latin American Countries. Their company WISYNCO has grown into a multi-billion group of companies, but as a staff member commented, their Chairman still makes the time for the humblest of his employees. During his recent presidency of the PSOJ, William was known for his energetic advocacy of good governance and the promotion on inclusivity for national partnership. 

The Mahfood Family with Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell
William Mahfood and friend Shaggy
Beverley Levy and Tourism Minister
Hon Edmund Bartlett

Shaggy and wife Rebecca enjoy the vibe
The elegant Hon Audrey Marks, Jamaican Ambaasador
to the US, and friends 
When the young politician Damion Crawford described his 1-2-3 plan for education in his community, William took the time to call me and bring Damion to my office, so I could write about this unique approach.  William Mahfood has a passion for education and has quietly supported and mentored many young Jamaicans.  William and his wife Frances are a philanthropic power couple – Frances (nee Feanny) is a giver in her own right and a caring nutritionist with the Heart Foundation of Jamaica. We are proud to know them.

 Other AFJ awardees were Mrs. Sheryl Gillian M. Wynter, a team member of the Consulate General of Jamaica in South Florida and Dr. Kevin Coy, a highly skilled cardiologist who has saved many lives in his capacity as a Senior Physician at the Aventura Hospital and Medical Centre of Mercy Hospital in South Florida. 

Former US Ambassador to Jamaica,
the inspiring Hon. Pamela Bridgewater presents
an award to Mrs. Sheryl Gillian M. Wynter
The pledges came in thick and fast at the Charity Gala, bolstering the US$310,000 presented to various Jamaican organisations last Monday by the AFJ. The Board of the American Friends of Jamaica comprise former US Ambassadors to Jamaica and their colleagues.  The AFJ Board is led by President Wendy Hart, Presidents Emeriti retired Ambassadors Glen Holden, Sue Cobb, and Brenda Johnson, Treasurer Barron Channer, Secretary James A. Coda, and other Directors, retired Ambassadors Pamela Bridgewater and J. Gary Cooper; other philanthropists Patricia Falkenberg, Monica Ladd, Paula Campbell Roberts, Michele Rollins, Dr. Laura Tanna, Glenn Creamer and Sydney Engel.
Dr Kevin Coy with his Award


To date, the American Friends of Jamaica have contributed over J$60M (US$470,000).  Recipients include The Alpha Institute, The Good Shepherd Foundation, Fight for Peace, The Pocket Rocket Foundation, Cornwall Regional Hospital and SOS Children’s Village. This outpouring of support shows how convinced our international friends are of our potential.  Now we need to match strides with them to show our appreciation for their faith in our country.  


JAMAICA'S RESPONSIBILITY

Why is it that so many Jamaicans are not moved to do for our own country what others do for us? Perhaps our people are disheartened about the garbage, joblessness and are immobilized out of frustration. However, it becomes very embarrassing when those outside of our country continue to give so willingly while we become closed to the neediest among us.  While our people should be getting closer attention from our Members of Parliament and Councillors, it is still our duty as citizens to reach out to others. No innocent child or helpless elderly should be allowed to suffer because “is Govament business”.

The horrendous murder of a 14-year-old by an 11-year-old in Trelawny led to the discovery by the Child Development Agency of a five-year-old in the same district being mercilessly abused.  This co-incidental discovery leads one to wonder how much child abuse is going unnoticed throughout our country.

Without early intervention, traumatized children will manifest their anger in the anti-social behaviour that is rife in the country. Again, this column repeats the call for an incentive programme to train more social workers to promote harmony in families and in communities.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Water Crisis in Negril

Expansion Of Resort Town Leaves NWC Floundering

The National Water Commission (NWC) has admitted that it is losing the battle to supply the resort town of Negril with potable water.
Regional water supply and distribution manager at the NWC Dr Richard Meggoe last week warned that the expansion of its water supply system was not keeping apace with the massive housing and hotel developments taking place in the town.
According to Meggoe, Negril is going to have a carrying-capacity issue where water supply is concerned as the water source in Logwood, Hanover, which supplies the resort town, is severely stressed.
He said that there has been a significant reduction of rainfall in Hanover, which has resulted in meteorologists characterising the parish as being in a state of severe drought.
"As it is now, Negril is supplied from the Logwood Water Treatment System, which has a capacity of about five million gallons per day ... with the expansion of the tourism product in Negril, it has placed some stress on the system.
"I remember two years ago, there was a crisis situation where there had to be trucks on the Boulevard in and out, and the simple reason for this is that Logwood is served by a blue hole, and it is seasonal," added Meggoe during a Negril Chamber of Commerce meeting in the town last Thursday.
"The unique situation of Negril is that Jamaica's dry season coincides with the tourist season. We know that tourism utilises anywhere between four to 10 times the water that the locals would use, so it is really a water-intensive industry.
"As it is right now, the Logwood blue hole, the inflows to it have fallen by 80 per cent. That have translated into a reduction of output by about two million gallons per day. So you really see that it is a crisis situation. We are having expansion and we are having a reduction in supply," added Meggoe.
- Report courtesy of Little Bay Country Club


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jamaica Education Enrichment Kudos


State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green (right), in discussion with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director, Maura Barry-Boyle (left) and Chairman of the Digicel Foundation, Jean Lowrie-Chin, during the handing over of the Enrichment Initiative to the Education Ministry on March 22 at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston. The programme seeks to improve literacy in all primary schools.
- JIS photo by Melroy Sterling
Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column - 3 April 2017
The recent finale of the four-year Education Enrichment in 104 primary schools throughout Jamaica, demonstrates the power of partnership.  The Ministry of Education, Digicel Foundation and the USAID came together to create enrichment rooms in these schools, targeting the slower learners with the use of information technology and colourful visuals. 

As USAID Mission Director Maura Barry Boyle noted, “The programme has impacted over 43,000 students, 6,000 parents and more than 200 teachers and principals combined.  We are proud of this achievement.  Due to our collective effort, Jamaica’s literacy rate at the Grade 4 level now exceeds the Ministry’s national target of 85%.”

State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Information and Youth Floyd Green, remarked on the 99 Parent Places where parents are trained to assist their children’s learning.  “The Parent Places fulfil a dual role by providing a space for parents … allowing them to have a physical presence in the school.” 


At the event, we were impressed with the various learning aids on display, including the innovative BookFusion which gives free access to children’s books online.  Technology is opening new paths for our children, and it is significant that slow-learning boys have responded positively to the new methods in the enrichment centres. 

- Jean Lowrie-Chin (honoured to be Chairman of the Digicel Jamaica Foundation)

The Alan Magnus Effect

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Excerpt from Observer column - 3rd April 2017

Alan with his dear Kerry and friends at
farewell event

RJR Group CEO Gary Allen presents a cheque
to the phenomenal Alan Magnus
We waxed nostalgic at a farewell event last Friday for Jamaica’s undisputed King of Morning Radio, Alan “Teddy” Magnus.  Doraine Samuels recalled their antics on air and Paula Anne Porter registered her respect for this incomparable radio man.  RJR Group CEO Gary Allen noted the discipline of the man, a dependable early bird, and his brilliance, being the first announcer to start playing music digitally, even before his younger colleagues. 
Dorraine Samuels had fond
and funny memories of their
morning radio escapades!
Marie Garth flew in
looking as chic as ever!
We can relate to Minister Ruel Reid’s recollection that ‘Calypso Corner’ was his signal to have all in place to set out by 7am as a student, and the cheerful voice that gave him an upbeat start to each day.  It takes a generous heart to know that whatever the environment, people need to know that life does indeed have a bright side to strengthen their coping skills.  We are all in Alan Magnus’ debt for his gentle humour, a comfort zone in which we could prepare for whatever the day would bring. 

It was wonderful to get together with other radio legends Marie Garth, Radcliffe Butler, Don Topping, Norma Brown-Bell and Ralston Smith to honour Alan.  His voice remains ever young, and will still be heard.  We hope his daughter author Kellie Magnus will write his rich history.  Thank you for your over four decades of service Alan Magnus – have a wonderful retirement with your beloved wife Kerry and family!

Our people deserve better

Jamaica Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin
published  3 April 2017

The countries dubbed the happiest in the world are those which provide solid social services for their citizens.  This does not come at an easy cost but as one of my friends from Norway told me, “I pay my taxes with a smile!'  Svein says he is assured that his children will be able to grow up in a nurturing environment and that as he and his wife age, there will be health and other services to support them.  

Unfortunately, those of us in Jamaica who are called upon to pay dramatically increased property and other taxes, cannot look forward to such benefits from the State. Having made such an inspiring Budget presentation, this is a time for our Prime Minister to lead the charge for a new political will.  This would reassure the Jamaican people that their taxes are being used to run an efficient public service. It is Jamaica’s obese public service which homeowners are now being asked to finance to the detriment of the country’s financial well-being.  Most of these homeowners have mortgages to pay, and many are elderly pensioners who can barely find the funds for the upkeep of their homes.  
  
Last week this column quoted some encouraging sections from the Prime Minister’s Budget presentation in which he outlined plans for creating employment and making more young people employable. However, the Prime Minister and his colleagues in Cabinet cannot be deaf to the outcry of their people who have financial, security, health and environmental challenges. Honest, hardworking citizens have become prisoners in their own homes.  Even if wealthier folks can afford the many safety devices on the market, how will businesses continue to operate if they now resort to online shopping for fear of being robbed in public places.

From whence did these criminals spring? The decades-long alliances of both JLP and PNP politicians with unsavoury individuals developed into gangs they could no longer control. What a great day it would be if MPs and Parish Councillors took a visible, active role in being agents of peace and justice. They are a sizeable team for 2.7 million citizens – 63 Members of Parliament and 224 Parish Councillors.  What a great boost it would be for our Jamaica Constabulary Force if they knew that they could rely on every single politician in this country to help preserve the peace though fostering neighbourhood watch programmes.  The cynical “safe seat formula” continues to put fear in the hearts of residents of certain areas who still cannot safely cross a street dividing communities along party lines. 

If these leaders had to operate without personal security detail, they would probably be more sensitive to the terror that is being visited on our communities, deeply affecting our elderly. 
In the meanwhile, I have to thank the security companies who have offered our members of our Senior’s organization CCRP discounts on security systems.  They are: Guardsman, Hawkeye and King Alarm.  I am appealing to those who have elderly relatives to sit with them, examine their environment and work out a safety plan for them.  Ensure that emergency numbers are posted at strategic points and that they are entered in their mobile phones for quick response.  We have to also try to be the eyes and ears for our neighbours, as it seems that no community, rich or poor, is immune.


There are so many good citizens who have given and are still giving of their all for their country. Let them not be discouraged by so many obstacles, many of which can be removed by a new resolve for good governance in sphere of public life.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A futurist, a PM, a path for Jamaica

Jamaica Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin - published  MON 27 March 2017 

Edie Weiner - JIS photo
The address by futurist Edie Weiner last Monday gave us a thought-provoking context for the Budget Presentation by Prime Minister Andrew Holness the next day.  New Yorker Edie Weiner is the principal of Future Hunters, which for over forty years, has been using data to predict future developments, with impressive results.  At an event presented by the Jamaica Chapter of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), she challenged the roomful of leaders to rethink education, to capitalize on Jamaica’s youthful population, to respect them so that they in turn will respect our environment.

Ten years ago, she says her high calibre clients were so impressed by her guidance, that they wondered how she was getting it so right.  She explained that her team uses 30 different thought processes to arrive at their recommendations.  Learn more at www.thefuturehunters.com.
Most important of all, she says, is to recognize your ‘educated incapacity’, as you can “know so much about what you already know that you are not looking outside”.  She observed that educated people having acquired so much knowledge, that they hang on to it like an expensive piece of luggage.  This is backward, as she pointed out that while we are hanging on to these brand-name “bags”, someone is racing into the future with their futuristic “backpacks”.
PM Holness with business leader Richard Byles
Therefore it was encouraging that in his budget presentation (well worth the read at http://jis.gov.jm/contribution-prime-minister-andrew-holness-201718-budget-debate/)  PM Holness recognized the huge potential the global market has for outsourcing.  He noted: “The first segment to have been established and the largest in relative terms is the Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO) segment where activities are focused on providing information technology support … Currently the market for ITO services globally is US$76Billion. The second segment is the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) segment which is linked to the outsourcing of administrative services and back office tasks ...The global market for BPO services is US$38Billion.  The third segment is the Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) segment which involves knowledge-based services including research and development, innovation, design, testing, business consultancy, legal services, accounting, medical and biotechnology services among others that require highly skilled personnel and involve more value-added activities… Knowledge process outsourcing is the fasted growing segment in the industry, with an average growth rate of over 8.6% compared to the industry average of 4.1%.  Jamaica is well poised to do well in this segment.”

While these are great plans, we should heed Edie Weiner’s warnings that the rapid advance of technology is creating disruption.  She noted that what was described as a recession in the early 90s was actually a result of the new disruptive technology. “This was not a recession,” she said, “it was a fundamental global revolution”.
 
She says, when asked the question “what should children be studying now to be assured of employment?” her answer is that they should become plumbers, electricians and stone masons. Weiner urged an emphasis on critical thinking in education, stating, “In the future no one will be paying for “smart”. They will pay for the intelligence that enables you to figure out things that you have never seen before.”

Our ‘unattached youth’

Weiner’s advice should be taken on board, as the Government develops the Employment aspect of their commendable HOPE Programme.  “It is estimated that there is a pool of approximately 120,000 to 130,000 young persons between 15 and 24 years of age who are not in school, not in a programme of training, and are unemployed,” noted PM Holness. “While a considerable portion of the unattached would have other institutions, which keep them engaged and supported, such as their family, their church, community activities or sports, a significant proportion of them have no structure, order or guidance in their life.”

 “Many of them would not be in institutions long enough to develop character and good citizenship, positive attitudes and skills to assist them in negotiating the challenges of life,” said the Prime Minister. “We see them on the street corners every day when we are going to work and we see them at the same place when we are coming home.  They are at home every day becoming increasingly hopeless and frustrated … These are the most productive years in the human lifecycle and we cannot afford to lose the productive value of our human resource. This is also the age group that is most affected by crime and violence.” With so many unattached youth, we should not wonder at the mindlessness and cruelty of recent crimes; the tragedy at Monteith’s, a respected landmark on Mountain View Avenue is horrifying. I believe we should incentivise more students to become social workers.

We have seen the transformation of such communities as Grant’s Pen and Trench Town when young people have been offered training to make them employable. Being sensitive to their immediate needs, when we led the partnership of the Stella Maris Foundation with HEART/NTA, we established the Norma Chang Daycare Centre so that young women could have a safe place to leave their children while they attended classes. 

As we consider Weiner’s reminder that the fastest period for brain growth is between 0 to 3 years old, we congratulate the previous and current Boards of the Early Childhood Commission in the Ministry of education led by Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan and Trisha Williams-Singh.  Both women continue to collaborate as they have a healthy respect for what each brings to the table:  academic understanding of the issues, and sound organisational skills. Thus, the certification of early childhood institutions is being accelerated to give those precious young minds every chance for healthy development.

The Prime Minister noted that several educational bodies would be merged. “The services would be more effective, have greater reach and enroll more numbers if they were streamlined and coordinated. The government has therefore decided to merge HEART Trust/NTA, the NYS, JFLL, and the Apprenticeship Board in to a single entity,” he said. The streamlining of technology for the public sector should promote greater efficiency at less cost for this and other such mergers.
Let’s drop that expensive but burdensome baggage of old thinking – we have Bolt as our symbol of the world-beating speed we can achieve with our own homegrown talent and strategic application.