Monday, January 7, 2019

Spain Gourmet Food and Wine Fair

Don Williams shares his expertise on Spanish Wines at a wine-tasting session


It was great to catch up with Don Williams, Managing Director of CS Citi-Scape and Victoria Garcia, Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Spain at their recent Gourmet Food Fair, celebrating the country’s exquisite wines and food products. Don conducted wine-tasting sessions and recommended delicious pairings. A graduate of St. Catherine High School and of Spanish universities, Don continues to support his school and his country. 



‘Passion, purpose and laser-like focus’ for 2019


Jamaica Observer column published January 7, 2019
By Jean Lowrie-Chin

am sharing this message from my friend Claudia Gordon: “Happy New Year!! I'm stepping into 2019 armed with passion, purpose, and laser-like focus. My promise to myself is to starve distractions and feed focus... to continually ask myself if what I am doing today is getting me closer to where I want to be tomorrow. Friend, it's going to be a great year. Let's go.”

Claudia Gordon Esq
To understand better why her greeting resonates, meet Claudia Johnson Esq: Jamaican-born and the first deaf black woman attorney-at-law in the USA. She served in the Barack Obama White House as head of their division for disabled persons and now she is a legal counsel at Sprint.

Claudia has never allowed being deaf to stand in her way. I first heard Claudia speak about her experience of going deaf as a primary school student in Cascade, St Mary. She recalls a deaf-mute in her district who was bullied and she said her late mother was resolute that she would not suffer the same fate. Thus, they migrated to the US where she could have teaching assistance in school and ascended the academic ladder to law school.

Claudia's company is energising; her passion for life and for the special needs community is contagious. As Maya Angelou noted: “Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.” This new year seek the company of the positive people.

The Cover of Dr Floyd Morris' inspiring Autobiography
As I read Dr Floyd Morris's autobiography, By Faith, Not by Sight, I see the parallels in their lives. Morris is also St Mary born and was a bright student at St Mary High School when he suddenly started to go blind. His marks and mental state plummeted and he left school without one subject. When he dropped out of school blind he went into poultry farming to earn a living, configuring the coop so he would not step on the chickens.

Do we understand the power of radio for the blind? Young Floyd was a dedicated listener and one day heard an interview on Dorraine Samuels' programme about the Jamaica School for the Blind. He called her and she encouraged him to relocate to Kingston so he could attend the school. “By faith, not by sight,” he sat the General Certificate of Education (GCE) exams with the assistance of his friends Gary Allen (CEO of the Gleaner-RJR Communications Group) and journalist Patrick Harley. In 2017 he earned his PhD from The University of the West Indies.

The first blind Jamaican senator and state minister, Floyd Morris is no tribalist. He speaks fondly of his schoolmates who were followers of “Uncle Eddie” while he admired “Joshua”. This thread of positivity and unity continues through his book, which is infused with the rich history of post-Independence Jamaica.


Hon Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender,
Entertainment & Sports lauds the Reggae Gilz
Girl Power
As we recall the kudos heaped on our Reggae Girlz by the Government we can use their example to strengthen our resolve for the new year. I had seen the excitement building for our national women's football team in posts by Cedella Marley tagged #strikehard. She gave unstinting support to the team and we are forever grateful to her, the team's management and coaching staff, as well as all players.
Of note, striker Khadija Shaw was named Footballer of the Year (above global male counterparts) by the UK's Guardian newspaper. She lost three brothers to gang-related violence, but soldiered on to score nine goals in 11 appearances. Now the Girlz have made history and are heading to the World Cup in France this June. 

Unsung heroes
Presentation to GK Male Household Worker of the Year Michael
Brown by MP Most Hon Juliet Holness and GK CEO Don
Wehby. Emcee Fae Ellington lauds the winner.
We tend to forget that we have champions literally in our own backyards, and so when GraceKennedy named Michael Brown as 2018 Male Household Worker of the Year, Jamaica was abuzz with the bravery of the 53-year-old who kept going at his job even after he lost a hand.
Rosemarie Forrester, Female Household Worker of the Year, advised her fellow workers, “You have to be just honest, work hard, and never give in.”
Guest speaker at the awards function, Member of Parliament Juliet Holness lauded Jamaica's household workers and called for them to be given the compensation and respect they deserve. She said they were veritable “magicians” in our homes.
GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby noted that the company's household workers awards, named in honour of the late Dr Heather Little-White, celebrate Jamaica's unsung heroes.

Faith and national priorities
Dr Lucien Jones
Dr Lucien Jones' Internet ministry is a great boost for our faith in these trying times. In his post 'A Mother and a Nation Cries: A Good God answers in Jesus Christ', he mourns with the parents of a brilliant young doctor who lost her life in a crash in the US and the thousands of grieving families in Jamaica bereaved by violence and indiscipline on our roads.

He comments on the call of Political Ombudsman Donna Parchment-Brown for less political vitriol on social media, noting that some of us have elevated our political favourites to almost messianic proportions. This, he believes, has contributed to disunity and violence, “the sad story writ large of a people who once feared 'Massa God' and 'Puppa Jesus', but now have 'grown up' and fear neither God nor man”.

I was relieved that Opposition Leader Peter Phillips accepted the invitation of Prime Minister Andrew Holness for a meeting to address issues of national security last week. I believe it is possible to uphold the human rights of suspects, even as we protect the right of ordinary citizens to go about our business in safety — so I had hoped that the states of emergency would have been extended. We pray for the members of our security forces who face great danger as they work to protect us.

Plastic ban and dengue
The plastic ban and dengue outbreak are issues generating a great deal of political heat. Politicians thrive on headlines, but instead of the constant harping, why not use the opportunity to engage your constituents? MPs and councillors who reach out to citizens to educate them on the danger of plastics to our environment and the importance of addressing mosquito breeding sites will make themselves positively memorable.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Private Sector Calls for a Review of Decision Against State of Emergency

PRESS RELEASE 
from JMEA, PSOJ and JCC
For Immediate Release December 12, 2018 
 
The private sector and the people of Jamaica are aware of the ferocious impact of crime, violence and corruption on the Jamaican people and economy. It is based on this stark reality that we seek to address the impasse that now faces our Government and Opposition on the State of Emergency. 

It is the view of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), The Private Sector 
Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) that the State of Emergency as one of the anti-crime initiatives has been effective in reducing the level of crime in 
the areas implemented; for example, in St. James where there has been a 72% reduction in murder  and 63% reduction in shootings. 

We note the concerns regarding the treatment of detainees and the broader human rights issues. 

However, at the same time, we recognize that crime is one of the biggest infringements on the very rights we are trying to protect. So, as we seek to protect the lives and rights of all our citizens, it is important that we assess the initiatives that are put in place to ensure that we reap the desired results and explore ways to balance the scale between competing rights.

As such, the JMEA, PSOJ and JCC are calling for an urgent meeting with the leadership of both the Government and the Opposition, with a view to address concerns and review the issues surrounding the decision, prior to the dates of expiration of the State of Emergency. 

Contact: 
Victoria Cole 
Marketing & Public Relations - JMEA
85A Duke Street, Kingston 
Tel: 922- 8880-3 | 564-3069
Fax: 922-9205 Email: victoria@jmea.org


Saturday, November 10, 2018

Jamaica's leaders step up for our students


Dr Henley Morgan is greeted by an appreciative student. At left is Hon Steadman Fuller, Custos of Kingston and Co-Founder-Chairman the Kingston & St. Andrew Development Foundation. He is also Chairman of
 Kingston Bookshop Ltd, major sponsors of the KSA Foundation

Observer column published 5 NOV 2018

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

We were given a reality check on the nation’s children last week, and so we welcome the upcoming interaction of Jamaica’s leaders with students. The room vibrated with positivity at the Jamaica Conference Centre for the recent launch of the Kingston & St. Andrew Foundation Student Motivational Programme. Main speaker Dr. Henley Morgan announced that he held a record as a student at Ardenne High School, but as the audience started to applaud, he held up his hand to stop them.

“I broke the record as the student who had the most repeats in several forms at Ardenne High School,” he said to the startled gathering.  He said that his despondent father visited the Principal, Mrs. Olson, and asked her, “Please tell me what is wrong with this boy’s brain.” She responded, “There is nothing wrong with his brain, Reverend Morgan, the problem is with his mind.”

This was a turning point in Dr. Morgan’s life. He embraced the challenge to align brain and mind, transitioning from being a failing student to one of academic excellence – as he noted, “with more degrees than a thermometer.” 

Dr. Morgan’s Principal was, indeed, a perceptive educator – one who took the time to study her student. This is the insight and compassion demanded of those who take up a foundational profession that can make or break a child, a family and, indeed, a nation.

Dr. Henley Morgan, a Fortune 500 management consultant who moved his business into the heart of Trench Town, turned over $700 million last year to bolster its local economy. “You can achieve without selling your soul,” he advised.


The Co-founder and Chairman of the Kingston & St. Andrew Development Foundation, Kingston Custos Steadman Fuller, reminded us of the responsibility we have to our children. “The real objectives of the Programme are to get outstanding citizens to start a conversation with our young people,” he noted. “We have abandoned our young people and they have been put into a category as rude and uncouth, under educated and without a future, but we fail to understand those descriptions are about our own children.”

Political Ombudsman Hon Donna Parchment-Brown (left) and
MP Antony Hylton (right) are among the participants in the Programme
He challenged us to “take responsibility to see that our students are given all the opportunities to develop themselves as leaders, ready to replace us in the management of our country and businesses.”

Custos Fuller himself is a fine example of leadership and philanthropy.  Though his company, Kingston Bookshop Limited, he has sponsored the creation and operation of the Kingston & St. Andrew Development Foundation. He shared a sober truth: “I believe that our generation is afraid of the fact that we’ll have to make the transition and hand over to our young people in a short time; not when they are old as us.”
Custos Fuller, a trained teacher, opined, “I know Minister of Education has been doing a fine job in the development of education,” he said, “but for Jamaica to achieve its 2030 Vision we will need to build about 50 smart schools and to upgrade most of the present school structures and come up with new and technologically smart methods of teaching.”

Students listen in rapt attention
In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, 40 motivational speakers have agreed to visit high schools in Kingston and St. Andrew before the end of the year.  They include Prime Minister Andrew Holness, former Prime Ministers Portia Simpson Miller, Bruce Golding and PJ Patterson, Lady Patricia Allen, Custodes Fuller and Dr Patricia Dunwell, Chief Justice Brian Sykes, Ministers of Government MP Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, MP Fayval Williams, MP Ruel Reid, MP Floyd Green and Opposition MP Anthony Hylton, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson and other leaders in business, education and civil society.

Director for Education Services in the Ministry's Region One, Dr. Kasan Troupe, urged the students to seize the opportunities which education offered them.  She quoted motivational speaker Les Brown, “Don’t let your dreams die with you.” She reflected on the challenges she faced as the child of a single mother living in the inner city, and her decision that she would aspire to the highest goals. “Programme yourself for success,” she urged.

It is said that young people are deeply motivated by their peers and so we felt excitement in the room when Fabian Morris, President of the National Secondary Schools Student Council stepped up to address his fellow students. He challenged them to “Imagine a Jamaica, where the average youth is fully self-aware that he/she is not just here to exist but rather to make a positive difference in this world.”

He said: “Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica, more often than not reminds us that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed with what is right with Jamaica. Colleagues, we have a great task ahead of us today, and that is to ensure that we become intentional about welcoming and motivating ourselves, whilst striving to live an empowered life.”
He then offered these four guidelines – worthy of being posted above every home study desk:
1.     Resist the urge to entertain negative self-talk. What you tell yourself every day you will believe and live out.
2.     Assess your circle of friends, because, who you truly are is manifested by the people we call friends
3.     Guard your mind, remember, if you feed your mind an unhealthy diet, you are destined to become sick maybe not physically but mentally. Read an uplifting book, listen to a motivational podcast, use kind words to affirm your worth. “I am bold, I am smart, I am loved, I am becoming better every day.”
4.     Lastly, let’s be open to celebrating ourselves and not comparing ourselves with others. Let’s vow to never allow comparison to rob us of our uniqueness.



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Fontana Pharmacy - 50 years and growing




Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness (third left) and his wife, Most Hon Juliet Holnes MP (fourth left), with executives of Fontana Pharmacy in Mandeville (from left), Ann Chang; Co-Founder, Bobby Chang (second left); Kevin Chang; and Ray Thierren, at the launch of Fontana Pharmacy’s 50th anniversary celebrations on January 17. Mr. Holness was the keynote speaker.
Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson - JIS 

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published 10 September 2018
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

We were shopping around in vain for household items at an older store in Savanna-la-mar some years ago, when someone suggested that we check out the then newly opened Fontana Pharmacy, one of several branches of Jamaica’s largest pharmacy chain.  There we were greeted with a well-stocked store and helpful staff. What a bold move in a relatively small town.

Created in 1968 in Mandeville by Bobby and the late Angela Chang, their children Kevin and Anne responded to keen succession planning. Eighty-six-year-old Bobby continues as a Board Director in retirement, while Anne's husband Ray Therrien has joined the Board. The strong trio, Kevin, Ann and Ray have made  Fontana a household word and one of the most popular Jamaican shopping sites online.  
They will mark their 50thAnniversary with the opening of a 35,000 square foot super store at the Waterloo-West Kings House intersection which it is reported “will feature a state-of-the-art pharmacy, one-stop beauty hub, extensive baby and children’s selections, wide-ranging house and home décor collection, full business centre, photo lab, bill payment and courier services.”
Jamaicans should be heartened by such developments which will create 80 new jobs in addition to the scores employed in the construction of the complex. Clearly we have solid investment opportunities, so we hope fellow citizens both here and in the diaspora will come on board and enjoy the benefits to themselves and to the country.





Renewable energy on a roll in Jamaica

Nobel Laureate Professor Anthony Chen
Excerpt from Observer column published 10 September 2018

by Jean Lowrie-Chin


The specter of Kingston becoming submerged and the shoreline of Montego Bay becoming compromised should motivate every single one of us to do our part to protect our island and indeed our planet from climate change. The erosion at Hellshire beach and Little Ochie has sounded a loud alarm.

Last Thursday, Jamaica’s scientists and policy makers participated in a Forum at UWI, entitled “100 percent Clean, the ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Jamaica’s Transition from Imported Fossil Fuels to Natural Resources.” Chair of the Forum Gerald Lindo, USAID Project Management Specialist for Energy opened, declaring that “Climate Change is the direst situation faced by civilization.”
Professor Anthony Chen, Member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with former US Vice President, Al Gore and Professor of Applied Atmospheric Physics, led the discussion. He noted that Jamaica had joined with the NGO 350.org which states as its purpose: “cut CO2 emissions and build a global movement for climate solutions”. Last Saturday, 350.org led a worldwide campaign #RiseforClimate, stating, “It’s a beautiful time to really feel global unity in the struggle for just climate action”.

Jamaica has been making some headway in renewable energy:  Prof. Chen shared that solar, wind and hydro generation accounted for between 15 and 20 percent of our energy supply. He acknowledged that the cost of installation of renewables was costly but that this was steadily becoming less expensive.

Prof Chen sees the day when renewables will cost much less that fossil fuel energy generation and is calling for a national spatial plan, mapping for wind, solar and hydro installations. He said that the tragic floods in Kerala and the extensive fires in California is awakening the world to the danger of global warming. California, he noted, had committed to 50 percent energy generation by renewables in 2025, and 100 percent by 2050.

Panelists Dr Masaō Ashtine and Dr Randy Koon Koon convinced us that indeed we can change our climate for the better, as they discussed applications, integration and socio-economic pathways. Dr Ashtine referred to the extensive solar installations at the Lady Hamilton Grand Palladium in Hanover and WISYNCO in St. Catherine.  I can add the multi-million-dollar Rainforest installations in both Montego Bay and Kingston. He gave us the big news that in my home parish of Westmoreland, financing had been secured for a 51 MW plant that will represent a quarter of Jamaica’s renewable energy portfolio.

Dr Ashtine foresaw JPS moving to micro-grids, guaranteeing greater energy efficiency. Dr Koon applauded the US$21.6 million JPS hybrid energy plant, the first of its kind in the Caribbean.  He said with the continued installation of renewables, Jamaica can reduce electricity cost by 67 percent! 
Therefore, we were heartened when Professor Alvin Wint took the podium and explained that the Generation Procuring Entity (GPE) which he chairs, has as one of its operating protocols special consideration for the procurement of renewable energy. His organisation, in conjunction with the PIOJ under the guidance of Professor Michael Taylor, Dean of the UWI Faculty of Science and Technology, has soberly acknowledged “what Jamaica will look like if we don’t act.”

He said the existing power plants will peak in 2020 and the plan is to phase out these heavily fossil-fuel dependent plants and install renewables, the cost of which is trending down.  He sees this as “important to Jamaica’s competitive advantage”. We must count first on ourselves, on academia, government, business and civil society to stay step with global efforts to literally save our planet.

We have to thank Dr Tannecia Stephenson, Head of the Department of Physics for convening an important Forum. We understand that this outstanding Convent of Mercy ‘Alpha’ graduate returned to her alma mater to teach for two years before continuing her post-graduate studies. What a good example: giving back to her school in a brilliant and practical way.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Mustard Seed’s 40-year embrace of God’s people


Mustard Seed Communities' founder, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon (centre) gives the audience
an overview of the operations of the charity at Wednesday's launch of its 40th anniversary.
Seated from left are board members Thyra Heaven, Thalia Lyn, and executive director, Mustard Seed International,
Father Garvin Augustine. (Photo: Michael Gordon - Jamaica Observer ) 


Jamaica Observer column published 3 September 2018

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Children who literally live in garbage dumps.  Children who walk miles to a Mustard Seed orphanage, not sure if they will be one of the lucky 900 to be fed that day. We watched the video and listened in awe to the narrative of Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon, Founder of Mustard Seed Communities, now in Jamaica, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Malawi and Zimbabwe, at the Launch of the organization’s 40th Anniversary celebrations last Wednesday.

The name is taken from Jesus’ parable (Matthew 13:31-32): “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed … Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree…” And so, Gregory Ramkissoon, Trinidad-born UWI Lecturer began his small ministry in Mona Commons in 1978, growing it to serve thousands in residential, educational, agricultural and spiritual programmes.

Ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1984, the legendary minister, his In
ternational CEO Father Garvin Augustine and local CEO Darcy Tulloch-Williams somehow manage to attract the most enthusiastic and compassionate staff members and volunteers who travel far and wide to serve. The Launch was supported by Board members Thalia Lyn and Thyra Heaven, and PR guru Berl Francis who has volunteered with Mustard Seed for decades.

Monsignor Gregory graduated from Boston College with a first degree in Urban Planning and Master’s Degrees in Philosophy and Theology.  A visit to the Olympic Way compound with its well laid out grounds and buildings, shows his planning genius.  This area has experienced unrest, but Monsignor Gregory says community members value the organisation and are protective of his people.

Brendan Hames (second left), IGT Regional Director – Caribbean was pleased to join the Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) in the celebration of the launch of their 40th anniversary. IGT has partnered with MSC through their global philanthropic effort – IGT After School Advantage Programme, contributing fully equipped computer centres so far at three MSC residences with plans to open two more by the end of 2018. Also sharing in the moment are Executive Director of MSC, Darcy Tulloch-Williams (left), Father Garvin Augustine, Executive Director, MSC International; Thyra Heaven and Thalia Lyn, MSC Board Members.
A scenic marvel is the Jacob’s Ladder community in St. Ann, a safety net for disabled individuals who cease to receive government funding at age 18.  The residence houses over 50 persons in a series of cozy cottages surrounded by various agricultural projects.  At the large Centre of Excellence donated by the Digicel Foundation, residents receive therapy and create art and craft which is sold to raise funds. Farming provides food for the various communities and the vision is to grow the residential population to 500 on the 100-acre property. Monsignor made an urgent appeal for funds to establish the well, important for this expansion; he has already raised $10 million of the $40 million needed, so please try to help.

Thyra Heaven and her fund-raising committee can take credit for the creation of the “Powerful Women Perform for Charity” concert, later expanded to include men, with the kind oversight of Broadcast Commission CEO Cordel Green and Michelle Wilson-Reynolds.  Supporters of the event will be happy hear that this year’s concert raised over $7 million for Mustard Seed. 
The organisation is keen on education so it was special for Brendan Hames, visiting Caribbean Head of IGT, to see its work.  IGT Jamaica led by Debbie Green, has donated After School Advantage computer learning centres to three Mustard Seed locations and plans to open two additional centres at Sophie’s Place in Gordon Town, and Matthew 25:40 (part of Dare to Care) at George Headley Drive in Kingston before the end of the year.

As reported in the Jamaica Observer last week, Monsignor Ramkissoon is appealing to the Government for a waiver on education tax, as this is a burden to his organisation which hires teachers.  We join him in this appeal as the massive work he has undertaken surely has saved our government millions.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Canada's High Commissioner Laurie Peters commends Jamaica's Volunteers

High Commissioner Laurie Peters at the induction of Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon
into the CVSS Hall of  Fame by CVSS Volunteer President Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson

Dear readers: Canada's High Commissioner  Ms Peters gave an inspiring address at the recent CVSS Awards Gala.  I am pleased to share it with you.

Speech by Canada’s High Commissioner Ms Laurie Peters
The Council of Voluntary Social Services
National Volunteer Awards Gala

·       I am delighted to be with you here this evening to be a part of this prestigious event, hosted by the Council of Voluntary Social Services to honour volunteers who have added significant value to the development of Jamaica, and who continue to impact the lives of Jamaicans.

·     I am also humbled to be asked to speak as your keynote after only one year in my role here as Canada’s High Commissioner.
·     I do acknowledge that it is perhaps more in recognition of Canada’s longstanding partnership and friendship with Jamaica and our track-record of assistance and capacity building through our CIDA and now through Global Affairs Canada – rather than through my own personal contributions.

·     That being said, I do come from a family of volunteers: earliest memories of accompanying my Mum as she went door to door canvassing for the Canadian cancer society or cheering on my Dad Coach Peters who started up inner-city football team.

·     This spirit of giving has rubbed off on all 7 of us kids – personally and professionally.  Going for my first job interview – I recall the nugget of wisdom from my now 94 year young Mum – tell them you’ll volunteer!  I suppose it is no surprise that I left my 18 year career with the public service to work with a volunteer driven NGO, Aga Khan Foundation Canada – part of the Aga Khan Development Network where I learned the true meaning of the value of a “hand-up” beyond that of a “hand-out”.

·     And while I returned to the public service – and more specifically to Canada’s foreign service, I am delighted to know that I can continue to contribute – personally and professionally to the welfare and well-being of my community – whether in Canada – in Japan (my previous posting where they suffered the devastation of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake) and now, here in Jamaica.

·     Here in Jamaica where in my brief 12 months I have seen first hand the generosity and giving spirit of Foundations from RockHouse to Rosetown; individuals like Cynthia at Winnifred Beach; Angela at Women’s Inc and Georgie in Discovery Bay.  And those countless generous souls here in Kingston – here in this room – who continually give of themselves – their time and their funds to lift up the communities of Jamaica.  It is both impressive and inspiring and I am honoured to be amidst this sense of service to others here in Jamaica.

·       Mahatma Ghandi once said, “that the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” We all know that the task of protecting human dignity and achieving noble goals such as eradicating poverty and hunger, intolerance and discrimination, and other threats to human dignity would not be possible without the energy and dedication of volunteers.

·     Volunteerism also offers a means for people to show their value and to reaffirm that they have an important place in society. It can build a sense of self-worth, and true feeling of pride for their contribution to creating a better world.

·     But I don’t need to tell this room about the importance of volunteering. It is incredible to be surrounded in such generous and caring community and corporate leaders who pitch in and support such worthwhile initiatives from Early Childhood Education to uplifting the abandoned and forgotten to mentoring young women and men in need of a hand up.

·     So perhaps you will indulge me briefly to speak about Canada’s approach to volunteering and service so that you might just see how we are all in this giant ‘circle of love’ together.

·     Canada has a proud tradition of supporting volunteer opportunities. A 2010 survey found that about one-half of Canadians contributed their time, energy and skills to groups and organizations such as charities and non-profits. (In more recent years, we are also seeing how “new Canadians” are contributing to the social fabric of their new home through volunteering.)

·     Like Jamaicans, in volunteering, they provided leadership on boards and committees; canvassed for funds; provided advice, counselled or mentored; visited seniors; prepared and delivered food; served as volunteer drivers; advocated for social causes; and coached children and youth (like my Dad, Coach Peters). In short, they shaped their communities and enabled non-profit organizations to deliver programs and services to millions of their fellow Canadians.

·       Like Jamaica, each year, Canada celebrates National Volunteer Week. It is a time when Canadians celebrate and thank Canada’s volunteers, and highlight their contributions in our communities.


·       Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refers to volunteers as “quiet builders and the constant backbone of every city, town, village, and outpost.” (if you change outpost to “parish” I am sure this same quotation would apply to Jamaica).


·     The Government of Canada is dedicated to making sure more young people have opportunities to serve. Earlier this year, we launched the first phase of Canada Service Corps, the country’s first national youth service initiative. In encouraging a the spirit of volunteerism, Canada works with young Canadians to create a program that will provide them with meaningful volunteer and service opportunities, and inspire a new culture of service across the country.

·     Like Canada, Jamaica, also highlights its volunteers. Prime Minister Holness has hailed the outstanding philanthropic contributions of citizens and corporate entities which have served to engender a culture of volunteerism locally.

·     Like Canada’s Governor General, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen has recognized Jamaican volunteers through the Governor-General’s Achievement Award Scheme, the Governor-General’s Youth Award of Excellence, and the Governor-General’s Jamaican Diaspora Award for Excellence, and the I Believe Initiative.
·     There are a number of Canadian volunteer organizations doing great work around the world and in Jamaica.

·     The work of Canadian University Services Oversees (CUSO) comes to mind. Over the past five decades members of CUSO International have volunteered around the world, helping people in need and building sustainable communities. Today, CUSO International work in over 40 countries, including Jamaica, to provide essential services, learning opportunities, and improve living conditions for so many.

·     The work of the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) is also known to many Jamaicans. Each year, several CESO volunteers work within Jamaica’s private and public sectors to assist with organizational and community development.
·     WUSC – Volunteers from World University Service of Canada who have been working most recently on the PROPEL project in Manchester and other parishes – a unique and sustainable agriculture initiative to facilitate the safe effective movement of fresh produce from farms to markets.

As a young Canadian volunteer affirms, volunteering allows one to gain even more than one gives:

Volunteering in Jamaica has been a truly gratifying, wonderful experience. As a sovereign island nation, Jamaica has so much more to offer than just gorgeous beaches. Hilly, sleepy towns, magnificent mountains, beautiful forests, freshly cultivated fields, and many other hidden treasures abound, including a rich and diverse culture and history. Volunteering with WUSC has allowed me to glimpse a different side of Jamaica that most visitors rarely get to experience.

·     Beyond the individual commitments and rewards of volunteering, the contributions of corporations in this space – such as Sagicor who is being honoured this evening -- is laudible

·     As I read in the Observer this week (Doing Well by Doing Good by Henley Morgan), and as our good friend Howard Mitchell reminded us in a recent speech to Rotarians, there is great merit in corporations ‘doing good.”

·     “Companies can reap incredible growth while sowing tremendous improvement in people’s lives”.

·     “There is growing realization that business has a responsibility that goes beyond blithely buying, selling and making a profit.  Business has a corporate social responsibility”. 


·     This is evidenced by the plethora of corporate foundations here in Jamaica – in fact right here in this room -- that together give hundreds of millions of dollars to social causes and programmes.

·     Canada echoes this sentiment and also amplifies this beyond our borders promoting Corporate Social Responsibility globally.


·     The term “CSR” means different things to different people. When we in Canada refer to Corporate Social Responsibility, we are NOT talking about a company building a school or a hospital - which is corporate philanthropy.

·     Rather, we define CSR as “the voluntary activities undertaken by a company, over and above minimum legal requirements, to operate in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner”. 

·     To expand a little further on Canada’s approach to CSR, we encourage companies to look across their business functions through the lens of their impact on the surrounding economy, community and environment and adjust the way they perform these functions to create value for both the companies and the public good.

·     Experience has shown that those firms that go above and beyond the letter of the law to adapt their planning and operation processes along CSR lines, in a market-appropriate manner, are better positioned to succeed in the long-term and to contribute to a more stable and prosperous environment for all.

·     This is why the Government of Canada expects all Canadian companies operating abroad, regardless of sector, to respect human rights, all applicable laws and international standards, to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities, and to work in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.


·     I am proud that at my own High Commission, the spirit of volunteerism is alive and well.  Gestures from both my fellow diplomats and our local Jamaican colleagues – both big and small – are a reminder of not only our responsibility as guests of Jamaica but our duty as global citizens.  Building a school with Food for the Poor Canada in Trelawny; Raising funds for Women’s Inc Women’s Shelter; Wearing Pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness (tomorrow!) – are all gestures to remind us that we are in this together.




·     Looking at the list of awardees I am thrilled to note that some have a “Canadian” connection, as the High Commission of Canada has had the privilege of working closely with them and their organizations on several initiatives.

·     Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI)

·     through CFLI, we had supported the Mustard Seed Communities in F/Y 2006-2007 to improve the facilities at Dare to Care – A Mustard Seed Communities HIV/AIDS Home for children. In F/Y 2008-2009, through CFLI, we had supported the construction of a Greenhouse at Jacob’s Ladder in Haddon, St. Ann.

·     And I was delighted to see Manchester’s Young Women/Men of Purpose being honoured this evening as our Canada Fund supported the training of 45 young disadvantaged women.  I was thrilled to see the new confidence of these women when I attended their graduation ceremony at the outset of this year.

·     Your theme this evening couldn't be more appropriate. I also truly believe that “Volunteerism is a Circle of Love.” It is that circle of love that guides the hands of the team of doctors from Canadian Vision Care who visit Jamaica each year, and partners with the Jamaica’s Lions Club to provide primary eye care (eye exam and glasses) and surgical care to many Jamaicans.

·       It is also that circle of love that engulfs Food For the Poor Canada, and its team of volunteers. They go across the world whether to renovate or construct classrooms in Jamaica, build houses in Haiti, ship millions of dollars’ worth of medicine, medical equipment, food and educational supplies and provide emergency relief after natural disasters.



·       We see that circle of love in-house through the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign in support of United Way Health Partners and other registered Canadian charities. At the High Commission, there are members of staff who volunteer on the Environmental Committee (encouraging us to be more environmentally aware), or as members of the Canadian Women’s Club (raising money for many local initiatives).


·     This evening, I am truly honoured that you have allowed this Canadian to be included in the circle of love and generosity of spirit that is your Jamaica – our Jamaica --land we love.
Before I close, I have a confession to make – I had thought that the theme of the evening was Circle of Life and I was prepared to end on Elton John’s song from the Lion King.  As it turns out, the lyrics do apply to this spirit of giving we are celebrating this evening (much more so than the Circle of Love by The Steve Miller Band!).

Thank You.

H.E. Laurie Peters
High Commissioner of Canada
Kingston, JAMAICA
October 4, 2018






Circle of Life
From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done
There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high
Through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round
It's the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life
It's the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle
The circle of life
Songwriters: Elton John / Tim Rice