Saturday, January 14, 2017

Jamaica can rise in 2017

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
published in Jamaica Observer column 9 Jan 2017

It is only January 9, and already the headlines here and abroad are challenging our resolutions for a peaceful and happy New Year.  Let us not be distracted from the work we must do, the part each and every Jamaican is called upon to play. 

The issue of crime is occupying our minds.  Betty Ann Blaine has pointed out that the monument to remember slain children has run out of space for the names! We keep saying that Jamaica is 99 percent good people, so here’s a reminder from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “When good men remain silent, evil flourishes.”

We know there are credible representatives on both sides of the House.  Would they be courageous enough to join forces and be of one voice in promoting zero-tolerance for any association of their respective parties with so-called ‘dons’?

Would our JLP and PNP leaders have a different approach to crime if they were not surrounded by security officers who drive them everywhere in the cocoon of their high-end vehicles? Government Ministers in countries similar to ours walk, drive themselves around and go shopping with no security detail.  Why should the tax payers of Jamaica to pay so dearly for politicians’ safety when ours is compromised?

Our police officers are understandably under the microscope of oversight agencies, the media and the public, and several have been sanctioned for corrupt or unprofessional behaviour. However, we should commend Dr Carl Williams, who has retired as Commissioner of Police after thirty-three years of impeccable service, and welcome the appointment of the widely respected Novelette Grant as Acting Commissioner. We cannot expect her to work miracles if our leaders are not committed to building a more peaceful society.  Most of the 1350 murders committed last year were gang-related and many others resulted from domestic violence.  Clearly, programmes for unattached youth and wholesome family life require urgent attention.

As we continue to bombard the police with criticism, let us be reminded that the Police Youth Club, started over 90 years ago by a humble police officer, is the largest youth club in Jamaica. Let us also remember that the Torch Run for Special Olympics is a decades-old JCF initiative. Let us hear more about similar initiatives from our MPs and Councillors.

Last week, I called the ever-courteous Supt Daley at Kingston West for assistance to visit my parents’ graves at the Calvary Cemetery in downtown Kingston. When Constables McPherson and Stewart arrived, I was so struck by their youthfulness that I became protective of them, remembering how one of their colleagues was ambushed and killed just a few weeks before in the same neighbourhood. 
“Please stay in your vehicle and keep an eye on us,” I suggested, but they insisted on walking through the very challenging terrain, staying with us as we prayed. (Our mother had insisted on being beside our father who had passed away in 1977, when Calvary cemetery was a much better place.)  The young constables were on a 12-hour shift, and said that depending on the demands, this can stretch to 14 hours.  While we sit in our comfortable couches raining accusations on police, let us spare a thought for these young officers who are creating a courageous barrier between us and the gunmen. Respect is due.

Some gripe, others grow
The happenings of 2016 challenge us to step up.  The brilliant scientist, English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author Professor Stephen Hawking, wrote an article published in the UK Guardian, headlined “This is the most dangerous time for our planet”.  

“Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president,” he wrote, “there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders.”

He described these disaffected voters as “the forgotten … a reminder that we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.” He called on world leaders “to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many.”

“With not only jobs but entire industries disappearing, we must help people to retrain for a new world and support them financially while they do so,” he urged. “If communities and economies cannot cope with current levels of migration, we must do more to encourage global development, as that is the only way that the migratory millions will be persuaded to seek their future at home.”

This brings to mind Jamaica’s nurses who must migrate in order to earn a decent living.  We have been bandying about the phrase, “health tourism” for years, but doing little to make this a reality, one that could provide higher salaries for Jamaica’s internationally respected nurses. 

Professor Hawking believes we can create this better outcome: “We can do this, I am an enormous optimist for my species; but it will require the elites, from London to Harvard, from Cambridge to Hollywood, to learn the lessons of the past year. To learn above all a measure of humility.”

Humility.  The ‘know-it-alls’ know little if the world is in such a terrible state.  How was that Fort Lauderdale shooter bearing arms legally, after his troubling confession to the authorities a few weeks before, that he was hearing the voice of Isis in his head? And here in Jamaica … why are we still selling so many foreign made souvenirs to tourists when talented lives are going to waste?  Why is solar energy still so expensive when tax incentives could ease our need for oil?  Why does the justice system seem to ‘remember’ certain criminals and ‘forget’ others?  We all need to humble ourselves to learn from the best practices of others.

 How will our little country weather the vagaries of world politics? A letter from our newspaper Chairman, Hon. Butch Stewart, speaks of his warm relationship with US President Elect Donald Trump and his expectation that Jamaica will continue to enjoy the friendship of the new US Administration.  This is encouraging, but we should not be over-expectant of anyone’s munificence when we are indeed very blessed in our own natural assets.

It is encouraging that there are three organizations focused on Jamaica’s economic recovery, which benefit from the voluntary work of exceptional business, union and civic leaders. They are the Economic Growth Council (EGC) chaired by Michael Lee-Chin, the Public Sector Transformation Oversight Committee (PSTOC) chaired by Danny Roberts and The Economic Policy Oversight Committee (EPOC) co-chaired by Keith Duncan.  Duncan succeeds Richard Byles to whom we are indebted for his dedicated co-chairmanship with BOJ Governor Brian Wynter, for oversight of the four-year IMF economic support programme which came to an end in November.
Jamaica can rise, not because of any single political entity, but because of the collective resolve of our dedicated patriots.  Join them by being resolute about your own personal commitments – together we can make this our best year ever.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Food For The Poor Frees 313 Nonviolent Offenders in Time for Christmas

The following release is posted in FFP's newsroom.

Link to release:http://www.foodforthepoor.org/newsroom/news/food-for-the-poor-frees-nonviolent-offenders-before-christmas-122116.html

Bitly link: http://bit.ly/2hHN42

 COCONUT CREEK, Fla.   Just in time for Christmas, 313 former inmates were home with their families to celebrate, thanks to generous donors of the international relief and development organization Food For The Poor. For 18 years, the charity has secured the release of nonviolent offenders in Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Jamaica by paying their accumulated fines at Christmas and at Easter.

Hundreds of the poor, including women, in the Caribbean and Latin America are imprisoned for minor offenses because of their inability to pay their jail fines, even though the amounts are minimal.

"These prisons can quickly become a black hole of despair, especially for someone locked up with murderers because they do not have the money to pay a fine for a minor offense," said Robin Mahfood, President/CEO of Food For The Poor. "Every year, we look forward to paying the fines of nonviolent offenders for Christmas. We are reminded in the Holy Scriptures to be merciful. We are truly humbled by the privilege of providing that mercy as a gift of a second chance."

From the prisons in Cap-Haitien, Fort-Liberté, Grande Rivière, Hinche, and Port-de-Paix, Haiti, a total of 195 people were liberated, including 18-year-old Malaica.

The young woman who works as a domestic worker is the mother of a 7-month-old baby. With money extremely tight, Malaica needed to buy food for her child and borrowed 15 Haitian Gordes (22 cents USD) from a friend. When Malaica could not repay the loan, that friend and a group of young women confronted her at her home demanding repayment. Malaica was arrested and imprisoned because she didn't have the money to repay her loan or the jail fine.

Malaica said she's extremely thankful to Fr. Jean Fils Chery who insisted on her release, because she didn't have anyone to care for her baby. Food For The Poor paid her fine and also provided her with a 100-pound bag of rice and other items.

"It's hard to comprehend anyone going to jail, let alone to prison with hard-core inmates, over 22 cents. The Food For The Poor-Haiti staff hears stories like Malaica's all the time. The majority of the people in the prisons are there because of the theft of an animal for food or for things of little value. Sadly, if that person cannot come up with the money, a night's stay in jail can quickly turn into months or even years," said Mahfood.

Also, for the second time in Food For The Poor's 18-year history of its Prison Ministry Program, Haiti has allowed nonviolent offenders locked up in the Prison Civile de Port-au-Prince to have their fines paid by the charity. Sixty-eight men have been liberated from the country's national prison.

The Food For The Poor Prison Ministry Program is helping to transform lives. Since the program's inception in 1998, the charity has assisted in freeing, training and reintroducing nonviolent prisoners back into their communities as productive citizens.

In Honduras, 18 nonviolent offenders were released from their prisons. Eight men from the Privados de Libertad Para Conmuta Penitenciaria and 10 men from the Pastoral Penitenciaria in San Pedro Sula, which included 30-year-old Orvin.

Four years ago, Orvin had moved from the rural tropical rainforest of Mosquitia to the city of San Pedro Sula in search of work to provide for his wife, children and his mother. It didn't take long for Orvin to realize there wasn't much opportunity for an unskilled rural laborer in the city. He said he became depressed, started to drink and got caught up with the wrong crowd.

He was picked up by the police for a minor violation and spent five months in the Pastoral Penitenciaria because he did not have the money to pay his jail fine. But in Orvin's case, his sentencing turned out to be an unexpected blessing.

"It's very hard to survive in a place like this, but while here, I learned how to make sandals. Now I have something to do once I get my freedom," Orvin said. "I am thankful for this program, because it has allowed me to return to my family."

Orvin, along with the rest of the men released, were provided with clothing, toiletries, food and a copy of the Holy Bible.

In Jamaica, 21 nonviolent prisoners were released from their cells. Four women were freed from the Fort Augusta Adult Correctional Centre, which is the only prison for women on the island, four men from Richmond Park, one man from Tamarind Farm, two men from Tower Street and 10 men from the St. Catherine Adult Correctional Centre.

That group of 10 men included a 63-year-old bus driver, who was placed behind bars on Dec. 1, 2016, for not wearing the required bus uniform. The man had two options for the offense, pay a fine of JA$32,000 ($246.15 USD) or spend 60 days in prison. Since he could not afford the fine, he opted to be jailed.

"I have a daughter attending university, and college expenses are quite costly, but I want to give her a better life. This is why I didn't have the funds to pay the fine," said the newly released man. "It has been hard in prison, especially when you think about not having the freedom you are used to. Being on lock down is not easy."

When the man found out that Food For The Poor had paid his outstanding fine for his early release, he went on to say, "I feel good! I didn't have it to pay and to know that people who don't know me would just do this for me, it makes me feel really good inside. Hearty thanks to Food For The Poor."

Immediately upon release from the different prisons, the former inmates were escorted from their cells to a room and later to that prison's chapel where they were each greeted by Food For The Poor staff who provided them with food, supplies and encouragement.

Eleven men were freed from Guyana's notorious prisons in Georgetown and New Amsterdam. The men were taken to the Food For The Poor-Guyana office where they were treated with a simple lunch and a copy of the Holy Bible and other books. They also received travel money and hampers filled with food and personal care items.

Each man was given the opportunity to express his gratitude for a second chance at freedom in a phone call from Georgetown, Guyana, to Mr. Mahfood in Coconut Creek, Fla. Sayad, 37, who was sentenced to three months for stealing, was beside himself with gratitude during the call.

"I am very happy to be out of prison to be with my wife and family. I am very thankful to you for paying this fine for me. I am really, really thankful," said Sayad.

To support Food For The Poor's Prison Ministry Program, checks payable to Food For The Poor can be mailed to 6401 Lyons Road, Coconut Creek, Fla. 33073. Please include reference number "SC# 74122" to ensure your donation is correctly routed, or make an online donation at www.FoodForThePoor.org/prisoners.

"Words do not convey the gratitude we have for our loving donors and staff who have not lost faith on a segment of people who are often forgotten or written off as a lost cause. Thank you," said Mahfood.

Food For The Poor, one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the nation, does much more than feed millions of the hungry poor primarily in 17 countries of the Caribbean and Latin America. This interdenominational Christian ministry provides emergency relief assistance, clean water, medicines, educational materials, homes, support for orphans and the aged, skills training and micro-enterprise development assistance, with more than 95 percent of all donations going directly to programs that help the poor. For more information, please visit www.FoodForThePoor.org.

Wanda Wright
Public Relations
954-427-2222 x 6079
wandaw@foodforthepoor.com

Monday, January 2, 2017

CCRP - founded to honour my Mother & other mentors

With my beloved Mother Mrs Maisie Lowrie
who inspired the creation of CCRP 
After celebrating the 30th Anniversary of my company, PROComm (PRO Communications Limited), I decided to create and sponsor an organisation to honour my parents, Maisie and Joscelyn Lowrie, and other senior mentors.  Thus was born CCRP (The Caribbean Community of Retired Persons), launched in April 2010.
CCRP is a non-profit membership organization for persons 50 and over, retired or preparing for retirement. 
It is operated out of the offices at PROComm and funded by both the company and my own private funds, over J$15 million to date.

CCRP Board Director Mike Fraser
who advocated for our CCRP-Sagicor
Health Insurance
When our sister-company, PRODEV embarked on the development of the Phoenix Central professional complex, I ensured that the comfort of our senior members was considered in the design of the building. Thus there is an elevator with grab bars, large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. The Jamaica Suite comfortably seats 150 persons for our meetings as well as other activities, and the elevator goes to our finished rooftop where our members enjoy games evenings and fetes.
We are working to make the organisation self-sustaining, and are grateful to Sagicor for offering a Major Medical Health insurance for Seniors, and our over 60 discount partners.
Distinguished Line-Up of 2016 CCRP Legacy Awardees
At right is Honorary Chair Professor Hon Denise
Eldemire Shearer

The main goals of CCRP are: 

  • To ensure that retired persons are allowed to contribute to national and regional development as we acknowledge their vast resource of expertise, and experience.
  • To provide services to enhance the lives of retired persons and their families in the Caribbean community.
  • To serve as a unified voice for its members.
  • To be a powerful lobby group for national and regional issues, particularly those related to retired persons.
Headquartered at PROComm's offices, Phoenix Central, at 2 Phoenix Avenue, CCRP has established links with similar organisations in the Caribbean and in the Diaspora. 

For more information, please visit our website at www.ccrponline.org


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Giving is Joy - truth!

PROComm/Stella Maris Foundation scholar, medical student Tricia Campbell (second left), receives a symbolic cheque for $200,000 towards her tuition from Jean Lowrie-Chin (centre), managing director of PROComm, recently. Looking on are (from left) Janielle Jackson, manager, Stella Maris Foundation, Frances Beard and Hubert Chin, company directors.
A surprise visit by world swimming Champion Alia Atkinson
to our PROComm Scholars Christmas get-together brought so much joy!
Even as a much smaller business, my company,  PROComm launched a Scholarship Fund in 2001 to benefit children living in the Grants Pen Area.  The first scholar,  Etmour Williams is now a University Grad and marketing manager.  He recently visited with our current scholars.. You can imagine our delight when world record swimmer Alia Atkinson dropped in! (see photos above).
With Lady Allen and Aloun Assamba at a CCRP event
at King's House.  
We also founded, operate and sponsor CCRP (the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons) - our sponsorship to date is over J$15 million.  Read more about this at    http://lowrie-chin.blogspot.com/2017/01/ccrp-founded-to-honour-my-mother-other.html. 
Earlier this year,  we made a special presentation to a Medical Student from the Grants Pen area.. See photo above and report from the Star below.
From the Star.. Feb 2016
Tricia Campbell, a fourth-year medical student at the University of the West Indies, Mona, was the recent recipient of a scholarship cheque for $200,000 towards her tuition, from PRO Communications Limited and the Stella Maris Foundation. The official presentation of her scholarship cheque was made to her on Friday, February 19 at PROComm, 2 Phoenix Avenue, Kingston 10.
Campbell has been excelling despite numerous challenges she has faced over the years. She has also volunteered with numerous projects coordinated by the Stella Maris Foundation. It was for these reasons, her outstanding academic performance, and more, that she was chosen for this donation. During the last four years, Campbell received small grants from Stella Maris. This is her largest scholarship cheque to date, which she said she was extremely grateful for.
The cheque was presented by Jean Lowrie-Chin, managing director, PROComm, and members of the board of her company. Just two days before this presentation, PROComm's founding director, Maisie Lowrie, passed away. The PROComm directors dedicated this grant to her blessed memory.
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We have learned that in reaching out,  God keeps Her-His promise of returning our kindness many times over. 

Season's Blessings! 
Jean Lowrie-Chin 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Please pray!

Message from my friend Anne...  

Today at 9 pm, Pope Francis calls everyone around the world no matter where you are, nor the creed or religion to a moment of meditation or prayer for peace in Syria and the rest of the world. The whole planet united in prayer For peace.
If you can forward it, please join us in urgent prayer, because the radical Islamist group has just taken Quaragosh, Iraq's largest Christian city. Where there are hundreds of Christian men, women and children who are being beheaded. It is asking for prayer cover. Please take a minute and pray for them. Pass the message to all your contacts, do not cut the chain.
We have been asked to pray, please pass it on to others. Eur-lex.europa.eu eur-lex.europa.eu

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Getting the Peace and Goodwill we need

Observer column published 19 DEC 2016

by Jean Lowrie-Chin
A family lighting Advent Candle at
Stella Maris
  Christmas is a big deal in Jamaica. However humble we may be, we are ‘drawing’ our sorrel, sprucing up our homes and sending cards by mail or internet to our loved ones. Church folks are now in the final week of Advent as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and focus on the message of ‘Peace and Goodwill’ that this historic event heralded.
Our Awareness Walk against Domestic Violence
at Hope Gardens
However, for many Jamaican families, their joy has been extinguished by evil thugs who have been murdering, raping and robbing the innocent, with no regard for age or gender. In recent weeks, the scourge of domestic violence has become even more painful. Two organizations, WeChange and the 51Percent Coalition, with the support of UN Women and the USAID, organized an Awareness Walk last Sunday at Hope Gardens to discuss this dangerous trend. Some 50 women and men formed groups to discuss such issues as street harassment, financial harassment, and various other areas of concerns. 
One gay young woman from an inner-city community said she was gang-raped and became pregnant. She went ahead and had the child, whom she loves dearly. She related to us that one of her attackers told her that she was lucky, ‘because if the don never dead you would get shot long time’.
Those who created these monsters, who are now beyond their control, should be hanging their heads in shame. They must make amends: fund scholarships for social workers so we can have them on the ground in these communities, start volunteer groups of mediators to detect family issues before they escalate. At the Stella Maris Foundation (SMF), psychology majors were invited to man a counselling post at our headquarters, a mutually beneficial project as they could extract data and anecdotal evidence for use in their theses. We saw a marked decrease in domestic violence because of this, and we are happy that Omar Frith, once SMF CEO is now at the Social Development Commission where he can introduce such a programme on a wider scale.

As churches celebrate the arrival of Christ, the life of Jesus is the template for their mission.  Beyond the Christmas treats and gift-giving, we need to examine how we can make a lasting impact on our communities. While I appreciate the efforts of colleagues on the National Prayer Breakfast Committee, and we have continued to support their publicity efforts, let us hope that their next event will be held at Emancipation Park.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Why we must go #beyond16days

Letter from Emma Lewis 
via Joan 'Joy'  Grant Cummings 

OUR WORK CONTINUES PAST THE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM, AND IN JAMAICA FOR EXAMPLE WE MUST BE RELENTLESS.  LOOK AT THIS ONE POSTING FROM, EMMA  to A NUMBER OF US IN THE 51% COALITION  IN JAMAICA:

Dear Sisters:

While writing a blog post the other day, it struck me that women and girls are victims - day in, day out it goes on. From five months to 84 years old. Here is a short and incomplete list from the past week ONLY:

  • Jeneta Gordon (Miss Jenny) was raped and murdered by a man who climbed in her bedroom window. She was 84 years old. Bell Rock, St. Catherine.
  • Alexia Brown was shot dead in Porto Bello, St. James, with her baby daughter in her arms. The 5 month-old girl later died in hospital.
  • Chrissy Vaughan, 31, was shot in the head as she tried to drive away from a party in Bogue Village, St. James where gunfire had broken out
  • Lena Powell (73) and her daughter Lisette (44) died in a fire in Craighead, Manchester after shots were heard. The police suspect arson/murder.
  • Then, this morning about 5 minutes away from our house, the police blocked the road because of a crime (murder) scene. This was the reason: 

"Irate lover."

I have not mentioned the 14 year old girl who was raped and then carried in the same police car as her rapist…who then "escaped" from the police station.

- Emma Lewis @Petchary 


Caribbean Development Activist Women's Network
Women's Resource and Outreach Centre [WROC] 
51% Coalition - Women in Partnership & Empowerment
Telephone: (876) 342-6940
E-mail: braceletsofjoy@gmail.com
Skype: Gracum591