Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jamaican Bolt sets world record in 100 meters

Jamaican Bolt sets world record in 100 meters

By EDDIE PELLS – 7 minutes ago
Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Like lightning out of nowhere, Usain Bolt is now the world's fastest man. The Jamaican sprinter, who doesn't even consider the 100 meters his best race, set the world record Saturday night with a time of 9.72 seconds at the Reebok Grand Prix, .02 seconds faster than the old record held by his countryman, Asafa Powell.

Bolt was using the 100 for "speed work" and to avoid having to run the more grueling 400, when, suddenly, he ran the world's second-fastest time a few weeks ago at 9.76. Even then, he said he wasn't sure if he would give up the 400 meters for the 100 for the Beijing Olympics.

Hard to imagine he has any choice now.

Springing from the starting block and unfurling his lanky frame — listed at 6-foot-4, but probably more like 6-5 and, either way, considered too tall for this kind of speed work — he created a big-time gap between himself and Tyson Gay at about the halfway point, then routed him to the finish line.

"I wasn't really looking for a world record, but it was there for the taking," Bolt said.

Gay, the best sprinter in America, finished in 9.85.

Within moments of crossing the finish line, the 21-year-old from Kingston was hoisting the Jamaican flag and a crowd with hundreds of Jamaican fans was going wild.

"Just coming here, knowing a lot of Jamaicans were here giving me their support, it meant a lot," Bolt said. "I just wanted to give them what they wanted."

But who could have expected this?

Bolt has long been considered one of his country's top, up-and-coming sprinters, but his height and running style seemed to make him much more fit for the 200, his favorite race, and the 400, which he doesn't love as much.

Like so many who compete in the 100, Bolt had lots of work to do with his push out of the blocks. He doesn't consider himself a true pro at that. And after a bad false start by the field — the second gun didn't go off until the runners were 20 meters down the track — this simply didn't seem like a night for world records.

Or was it?

"I was glad for the first false start," Bolt said. "My first start wasn't that good. I knew if I got Tyson on the start, I'd get him."

Gay said he knew it was over after he saw Bolt push out.

"Obviously, I have some work to do," Gay said. "Right now, it's hats off to Bolt. Today was his day."

"An awesome athlete," said Shawn Crawford, who finished sixth and witnessed history from two lanes inside of Bolt. "The time shows it."

This marked the first time the record had been set in the United States since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, when Donovan Bailey ran a 9.84.

A lot is often said about Olympic trials in the United States — that given the depth of the roster, it can be an even better meet than the actual Olympics. But the highlight of the pre-Olympic calendar could now be Jamaican nationals at the end of June, when Bolt and Powell should square off. Powell, who set the mark of 9.74 last September in Italy, is overcoming a chest injury but is expected to be healthy soon.

Also at Jamaican nationals will be Veronica Campbell-Brown, who won the women's 100 on Saturday in 10.91, the fastest time of 2008.

The fastest time ever, though, now belongs to Bolt, and it made a prophet out of Gay, who predicted that with himself, Bolt and Powell lining up against each other over these next few months, the record could go down, down, down.

The conditions were right.

The start of the meet was delayed by an hour because of threatening storms in the area. Then, about halfway through, a brief thunderstorm hit, cooling the track and leaving it with just the faintest sheen of glistening moisture before the last, and most-anticipated, race of the night. The tailwind was measured at 1.7 meters-per-second, .3 under the limit at which a record can be set.

"To be honest, I knew the track was fast," Gay said. "I knew a 9.7 was possible."

After his victory, Bolt paraded around with the Jamaican flag, accepted a hug from Gay, then went off to do interviews. Race organizers, knowing they'd get a big Jamaican fanbase out at Icahn Stadium on Randall's Island, had scheduled a post-meet reggae concert for the crowd of about 6,000.

And what a perfect choice that was on this history making night.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hamming's analysis of Nobel Laureates

FROM An opportunity for greatness Jamaica Observer - Monday, May 22, 2006

Canadian educator Dr Richard Marceau said it was the mentorship of the late famous mathematician Richard Hamming that spurred him to focus and achieve.

Hamming had analysed the approach of Nobel Laureates throughout the years, and had concluded that there were eight lessons we could learn from them:

(1) Plan your future. When you are going on a journey, the first thing you need is a map to ensure that you are going in the right direction.

(2) Do what you love. The combination of intellect, motivation and passion, is powerful.

(3) Give yourself a clear agenda. Have specific goals to work towards. However, do not spend your whole life preparing.

(4) Seek knowledge and know-how. Just as with steady saving, and compounding modest interest, you could double your money in 10 years, think how much you would know if you sought to learn 10 per cent more than the next person each year.

(5) Invest your time wisely. Choose your battles and have a strategy. If you hit the point of diminishing returns, find the courage to put the project aside. Tenacity and stubbornness are two sides of the same coin - the former is good, the latter counter-productive.

(6) Success requires courage, organisation and focus. Emotion, compassion, judgement and intuition are all important factors.

(7) Practise your creativity. Think thoughts no one has thought before. When faced with a problem, before rushing to an adviser or the internet, force yourself to draw on your knowledge and experience to come up with a solution.

(8) To do great things, you have to work on great problems. Don't waste your time on doing just what everybody else is doing. We have conquered many diseases because our scientists looked where no one else had gone before.

Claim Reggae for Prosperity

'Your Son Too' (for Lee Boyd Malvo)

Your Son too (for Lee Boyd Malvo)
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

(Band: Kumbaya Lord, Kumbaya
Kumbaya Lord, Kumbaya - Continues to play under poem)

Who that yu say?
Pastor Johnson come to pray?
That cold-heart man jus’ full o’ chat
Tell him to go away!

Who that now?
Miss Brown? Toppa-top lady in the town?
Say she sorry for mi?
But she sorry late
After she help seal mi pickney fate.

When I find meself pregnant
I get confuse
Pastor say I have no excuse
Beg a kotch for mi baby, Miss Brown refuse
Oh Lord, Kumbaya!

I send mi pickney from pillar to post
Everything I work, him get the most
Teacher say him bright
Get everything right
Oh Lord, Kumbaya

Mi boy getting bigger
I try get visa
They turn me down,
So is back with Miss Brown
Then mi good fren’ whisper
'No visa for Antigua'
Oh Lord, Kumbaya.

Man nice caan done!
Treat mi chile like a son
Mi boy get a father
To take him to America!
Oh Lord, Kumbaya

I hear bout sniper and pray for mi son
Lord, protect him from that wicked gun…
Oh God! The news reach me!
It buckle mi knee
Mi boy chain like slave
In the land of the free
Oh Lord, Kumbaya

Follow mi finger
Jamaica, Antigua, America
Look! is a hook!
And my son get jook!
Nerve gas soldier wreck him head
And now them say them want him dead!
Oh Lord! Kumbaya!

Miss Toppa-top, Missa Parson man
You can turn yu back
And wash yu hand
Blame mi for taking up wid man
But me and God know what is true
Lee Boyd Malvo is your son too!
(sung – Oh Lord, Kumbaya)

(c) Jean Lowrie-Chin

Friday, May 23, 2008

Father Holung - Bethlehem - Kingston, Jamaica

HOLUNG... life can be simple yet very rich

Monday, December 13, 2004
Jean Lowrie-Chin

It's Christmas, so let's visit "Bethlehem" - this one is at 36 Highholborn Street in downtown Kingston, where eight year-olds are still crib-sized. Oh little ones of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie, staring into space with beautiful eyes.

Next door is The Lord's Place, where HIV/AIDS patients sit in a dignified courtyard, nodding their welcome. Their serenity reflects the words of philosopher Teilhard de Chardin: "We are not human beings on a spiritual journey: we are spiritual beings on a human journey." Will we have to test positive before we become positively convinced?

A fit-looking Father HoLung (a year after heart surgery) comes out to greet me, and I remember the very first article I wrote as a rookie reporter for Clive Fung's "Pagoda" magazine. It was about a young scholastic named Richard HoLung, then studying to be a Jesuit and teaching at St George's College.

I ended up being a stagehand for his Jamaican version of Antoine de Saint Exupéry's "Little Prince" where he stayed true to its theme even as he blended it with Louise Bennett's poetry and Broadway songs.

"What is important is invisible to the eye," the Little Prince had declared, and I felt the fleeting fame of headliners evaporate in the quiet garden of the monastery. Father HoLung recounts the growth of his Order from three priests (including Trinidadian Father Hayden Augustine and Jamaican Father Brian Kerr) in 1981, to 328 today who serve hundreds here, in Haiti, the Philippines, Uganda and India.


I journey back to my dizzy day, but cannot forget the babies of Bethlehem. Nothing wrong with being busy, I remind myself, as long we are earning to help the helpless.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ahead of their Time

The story of Alexander Bedward, movingly told in the play of the same name by Louis Marriott, is an allegory of the struggle of people of colour to take their rightful place in post-emancipation Jamaica. Bedward took the spiritual road, Garvey took the socio-economic path and Claude McKay chose a way through literature. They were all ahead of their time and they all died in obscurity.

Born in the 1840s, Bedward succeeded the American founder of the Jamaica Native Free Baptist Church, Shakespeare Woods. He was a charismatic leader, garnering the support of over 30,000 followers at the height of his popularity in August Town. He encouraged his members to grow their own food, and miraculous healings were recorded at the Hope River. Traditional churches started losing members to Bedward's movement, and the establishment closed in on him. He was overtaken by delusions of grandeur - the scenes of Bedward anxiously inquiring about Gleaner reports are still being replayed by succeeding generations of leaders. Bedward's absolute power at Union Camp created what may have been the first garrison in Jamaica, repelling the security forces when they tried to investigate a case of praedial larceny. His rapid descent begins when he fails to keep his promise to fly. He was committed to the Bellevue asylum where he died in 1930.

A good education brought Garvey and McKay a certain level of respect, but they could not eventually withstand the powerful establishment. After being deported from America on charges of "mail fraud", Garvey's growing following raised the eyebrows, as well as the hackles of the authorities in colonial Jamaica. He eventually migrated to England where he died broken-hearted in 1940.
The gentle-hearted McKay started out as a policeman but quit the rigors of the beat to become one of Jamaica's finest poets, colouring our childhood with memories of his "green hills of Jamaica", and awakening our consciousness with militant poetry. He was quoted by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and toasted in post-revolution Soviet Union where he shared the reviewing stand with Russia's leaders for their Labour Day Parade in May 1923.

But this sensitive, elegant Jamaican writer died in 1948 in a Chicago hospital, a devout convert to Catholicism and a humble teacher who had failed to earn from his much-praised work.

Every overworked, unappreciated individual can take comfort in the fact that succeeding generations have revived interest in the lives and work of these three remarkable men. In his book, Marcus Garvey Said… Ken Jones (who went to great lengths to put out this recent edition) quotes the late Martin Luther King Jr: "Marcus Garvey was the first man, on a mass scale, to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny and make the Negro feel that he was somebody." Claude McKay's body of work continues to amaze and inspire generations of students worldwide.
It would be unfair to ignore the role of enlightened white folks in the struggle for equality. White clergy members of the Protestant Church and white abolitionists were in the forefront of the 19th centu ry movement for emancipation. McKay was befriended in his adolescence, by a Mr. Jekyll English gentleman who became his intellectual and literary mentor. In England, his friend Frank Harris promoted his poetry and arranged a private meeting for him with George Bernard Shaw.

By the 30s, white Jamaicans like Bustamante and Edna Manley put the establishment in a quandary, with Busta baring his chest and daring the security forces to "shoot me but let my people go" and Edna carving the powerful and poetic Negro Aroused.

Armed with the bravery and eloquence of his remarkable ancestors, Bob Marley, the son of a black Jamaican woman and a white Englishman, gave us Redemption Song, the anthem for a century of self-realization. But were it not for a white Jamaican with English roots, Chris Blackwell, Marley might also have died in obscurity.

This has been Jamaica's unique legacy: the bold assertion of self-worth, supported by all the races of the majority of her people. There may still be the few who would want to perpetuate their puzzling prejudice, but we are teaching the world great lessons about the strength of racial harmony.
In the name of those who have bequeathed our proud history, we should resist any inclination to devalue the efforts of our fellow Jamaicans.
-Jean Lowrie-Chin - 2004

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

David Hall's Ja experience

Observer column by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Jamaicans are persuasive, creative and innovative - challenge them with a situation and they will solve any problem," said outgoing Digicel Jamaica CEO David Hall as he offered advice to prospective investors. "Don't be stuck on negative statistics. An economic and social system as dynamic and multilayered as Jamaica, demands that you seek information from various sources, and not just rely on official records." He urges those interested in Jamaica to visit the country and "feel the pulse of the nation".

David Hall did that long before he joined Digicel. As a young accountant with the Kirk Connell-owned business in Cayman in the 80s, he was a frequent visitor to neighbouring Jamaica and fell in love with our people, culture and landscape. It was a love inherited from his father Kevin Hall who had been visiting the country every year for 30 years as a representative of Waterford Crystal.

"My Dad developed a great friendship with Pokar Chandiram as well as George Fatta, and now Pokar's son, Anup is a good friend," smiles David. He recently disclosed that he will be making Jamaica his home base - he and his wife Liz had already bought a house here.

The warm-hearted, hard-driving Irishman developed his practical approach to life growing up in Ireland. "My parents insisted that we all go to university, studying whatever we wanted, as they considered the university experience as the important stepping stone more so than the course itself." His parents also insisted that they take summer jobs, so they would learn to put better value on money: "At 12 you got your first summer job and at 16 you worked abroad staying with family friends or relatives."

When he finally graduated from university in Ireland, David thought he had arrived. Not so. He was feeling quite spiffy in his new suit when he showed up for an accounting post at a Kerry group facility in Durham, England. The managing director invited David into his office, demanded his jacket and told him to return for it in six months. The bright graduate was unceremoniously dispatched to the fast-moving factory floor, decked out in a fluffy blue cap, white coat and rubber boots.
In the following months he operated machines, packed meats and learned the tough basics of the business.

"It was probably the greatest lesson I ever had," he says. "How can you manage someone if you don't understand their job? That's how you appreciate whether they are being efficient or not."

This was the beginning that made David Hall a quiet giant in corporate leadership. As a mentor, David has encouraged the 1,000-strong Digicel team to be determined in the face of obstacles: "Go over, under or around obstructions. Expect challenges, but meet them head-on. Have the confidence and be determined to overcome."

David takes no complaint lightly. "Have a passion for your customers and Jamaica," he advises, "both are your life bond and if treated right, will not let you down."
There are countless stories of David, hearing a complaint on the road, arriving at the office with his notes, making breathless calls and insisting that the sun must not set on the issue. Then David gives all the kudos to his team, reserving none for himself, so that many are not aware of his hands-on leadership.

"We have the hardest working staff in Jamaica," he says. "They have the world record for the pace at which they have rolled out networks, creating the biggest brand in the Caribbean." David says Digicel works as a "flat" organisation, allowing team members a measure of autonomy. "For fast progress, you have to trust people to take quick decisions. You may get some things wrong, but that's how you learn."

He mentioned individuals like Rohan Pottinger and Lesline Chisholm who have come up through the ranks. "Thanks to individuals like these pillars, the Jamaican operation is the most efficient of all 23 countries," he says.

But it's not easy getting cellphones into 1.9 million Jamaican pockets: "Like Seamus Lynch before me, I was married to the job," says David. "We average about 20 social functions per week plus long days at the office."

Monsignor Richard Albert,who got to know David when he attended Stella Maris, says, "David really took Digicel to new heights - I don't think a lot of people know how hard he has worked, how many people he won over to Digicel by sheer determination, and what a genuinely kind person he is."

In spite of the accolades, David, who will be moving up to the post of Digicel's North Caribbean ceo, says there is "nothing amazing" about the way he works. "Listen to your customers," he says. "We are customer-driven and David Hunter, my successor in Jamaica, thinks in the same vein."

Observing the achievements of the Jamaican team, deployed all over the world to spread "the Jamaican DNA" in all the company's networks, David has become even more passionate about better educational opportunities for young Jamaicans. He spearheaded a joint venture with HEART and the National Youth Service to train call-centre personnel and has been an enthusiastic supporter of the company's EMBA programme.

He is particulrly pleased with the educational projects supported by the Digicel Foundation. "Success is cyclical - the more you pass it on, the more it comes back to you," he says.

Buoyed by his positive Jamaican experience, David hopes that business interests "will keep on believing in Jamaica, and press forward with innovation and entrepreneurship". He has been deeply impressed by the Observer's Business Leader of the Year awards. "Bureaucracy and excessive administration are frustrating entrepreneurs where conditions in Jamaica make it very difficult to succeed. Therefore, when business people actually do make it, it really is an achievement. I salute Butch Stewart for these awards that celebrate their success."

Recalling the sea change in Irish business in the 80s, David said it taught him that "you can actually change a country's dynamics forever". He is convinced that no other Caribbean country is as endowed as Jamaica is. "You have attractions on your north coast and south coast, a strong culture, wonderful people and a superb climate. Jamaica is at a crossroads. It is important that the right decisions are made now as they will impact generations to come."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

No Visa Required

I am floating in the sea with my eyes closed. I am six years old again, on a school outing. I picture the tiny huts, no hotels, as we pick our way through the bushes to arrive at the pristine beach. Ahh, Negril. Nor winding road, nor snorting truck will keep me from her beaches. Negril is another country without the interminable airport security checks.

I lose myself in nostalgia on my way through Sav-la-mar. As we drive past Hendon Circle, I am always startled to see the petrol station where our church used to be. Glancing down Great George's Street, I remember the beloved library, the fountain where we posed for many childhood photos, and the little grocery shop where our newly widowed mother had eked out a living. We head to Negril via Lewis Street, looking wistfully at the few tall palms, remnants of the beautiful tree-lined driveway that led to our schoolhouse.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

‘Talking up’ my Jamaica

Like a smitten girl bent on defending a scruffy boyfriend, I have written a restrained “State of the nation” speech to present to our Alpha Alumnae Toronto chapter. I know they get a steady diet of our scary headlines on the internet, but I want them to be aware also, that foreign direct investment has never been higher.

I will share with them excerpts from Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s enlightening and enlightened Budget presentation (his dear mother taught us at Alpha). His address has signaled that the government has taken a 360-degree view of our challenges, taking steps that should reduce mendicancy and promote sustainability. Relief for the poor, food production and processing, energy conservation and diversification, improving our tax reform, investment and job creation are well explored.

Contradicting the Opposition’s accusation that his Government does not have people “at the centre”, the PM citing his speedy introduction of free high school tuition and free health care, declared, “They are at the centre of our minds!” Whatever your party preference, it must have been heartening to hear his resolve to make education accessible to the poorest. “Education is the ladder that will enable poor people to escape from poverty,” he rightly observed, “and therefore we want to do something extra for those students who are registered under the (PATH) programme and who are at risk.” It was gratifying to read the stories of three such students, twins Venecia and Valecia Johnson and Rochelle Batten, who have excelled in the CSEC examinations.

But even as we congratulate the Government for these bold moves, we have to cry out against the escalating number of murdered and missing persons. There are countless crime plans and good intentions but the monster is gaining on us. Those of us who have remained steadfast even while our relatives left us in the dust during the 70s and 80s are asking, “When, O Lord, when?”

One prospective donor of a surveillance system for Montego Bay’s Hip Strip is about to withdraw his offer, because no one seems to be in any particular hurry to take it up. At a time when people are even afraid to make anonymous telephone calls, only technology and forensics can save us now. Crime Stop is a great programme, but it could do with a marketing makeover. Just as phone or beer companies continue to update even their wittiest campaigns, Crime Stop should be revamping its messages.
As we watch Americans rationing and hoarding rice, we realise that a food crisis is upon us. It was after 9/11, when we started to get blow-by-blow coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we saw the dusty, sandy environs of those countries that we realised how truly blessed Jamaica is. Prime Minister Golding’s idea to do a massive planting of fruit trees on Labour Day is a good one, because our fertile soil will certainly send them up quickly. He should know however, that there are many bearing fruit trees being cut down because of the unbearable vandalism that is occurring throughout the length and breadth of Jamaica.

Our nutritionists also have their work cut out for them, because although we are in the enviable position of being able to produce enough food for ourselves, we have spoiled our palates (and our health) by giving up the habits of our grandparents. The complex carbs so celebrated in the South Beach diet are our yams, cocos, dasheens and sweet potatoes, but our children have been weaned on rice and flour.

There is also the problem with all good ideas in this country: doing the work to ensure that they are properly executed. I remember a lady complaining that “where I am from, the problem is not food, the problem is money.” How will we convert that abundant food into money? The Agricultural Marketing Commission (AMC) of the seventies was a good idea, poorly executed. During that time, many were the tears of farmers, standing by the roadside, waiting in vain for a promised vehicle to arrive to collect their produce.

As we look at the global issues, we are hoping for a quick and smooth resolution to what some are calling a looming constitutional crisis in the dual-citizenship debacle. Politicians who put country ahead of self, will be the ones who will stand tall in the challenging months ahead.

We like to boast about how bright we are in this country, but it is only when brightness is translated into urgent, concerted action that we will make the change. Committees meet, decisions are made, but the action lists sit on desks or in inboxes for days on end. Depending on the company or ministry, lives or millions could be lost to Jamaica’s soon-come culture. Again, technology can assist in ensuring accountability and our software experts should be kept busy, creating programmes that will promote transparency in all our dealings. We are hearing that some of the complicated hoops that investors have been forced to jump through, were created by unscrupulous individuals bent on collecting “a bly”. Let’s use the technology to unmask them.

In the same spirit, we should not dismiss, but encourage the People’s National Party, celebrating 70 great years of service to Jamaica, to be a vocal and just Opposition. This is how we will keep each other honest. This weekend, therefore, I will face my friends in Canada bravely, and tell them that we are not giving up on cleaning up our diamond-in-the-rough Jamaica.

Congratulations: Heartiest congratulations to the heroines honoured by the Kiwanis Club of New Kingston last Thursday: Mrs Sarah Newland-Martin, courageous social worker and 1965 Jamaica Sportswoman of the Year; Sister Maureen Clare Hall, OSF, legendary and iconic retired Principal of the Immaculate Conception High School; Mrs Faye E.G. McIntosh, high-achieving Financial Director of the GraceKennedy Group and Dr Olivia “Peaches” McDonald, world-renowned family planning expert. They inspire us!

Vote for MaryKay – ABC News, in their “Picture of Health” competition, has nominated lifestyle coach, Jamaican MaryKay Mullally as one of five finalists. Please let Queen MaryKay reign – cast your vote before midnight May 31 at
Published – Jamaica Observer – 5 May 08

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sister Benedict’s love story

Sister Benedict (3rd left) celebrates with look-alike niece Wendy, sister Jean and brother-in-law Henry Williams.

Be at attention …or not. You are in the presence of royalty, but relax: she is as loving as she is regal. She is Sister Benedict Chung, the acknowledged queen of Central Kingston. But this is no figurehead on a throne. Oh no – there is too much to be done. At her Laws Street Trade Training Centre, there are bakers, caterers, garment makers to be trained, disputes to be resolved, the poor to be fed and a bonafide bakery to be run.

We gathered at the quaint Christ the King Chapel last week, to honour Sister Benedict for her 60 years of service as a Sister of Mercy. Strong of posture and clear of voice, she repeated the vows of poverty chastity and obedience that she had first pronounced as a 16-year-old in that very Chapel on South Camp Road on February 2, 1948. There have been several studies on the amazing lucidity and resilience of women who choose religious life, particularly those who enter the teaching profession. Going from classroom to bakery, to boardroom, Sister Benedict moves as seamlessly as a professional in her prime.

The Indian greeting ‘namaste’ means ‘the divine in me greets the divine in you’. Embracing God’s people, rich and poor, God’s divinity shines in her ready smile, lilting voice and boundless energy for helping everyone she encounters to realise to their potential. Canon Law expert Father Michael Lewis is one of the many she taught at Holy Family, and he never fails to remind us of her inspiring mentorship, referring to her as “my second Mother”.

She is so openly loving and non-judgmental, so supportive and affirming, that we are inspired and at times feel positively spoiled by her. Sister Benedict’s meals are the stuff of legend. The caterers trained at Sister Benedict’s Laws Street Trade Training Centre, know that only the best ingredients must be used, and that the presentation must always be first class. Who but Sister Benedict could create a twist to a traditional Jamaican fruit salad by topping it with morsels of tender, cool coconut jelly.

At Christmas, several uptowners join ‘Sister Benny’ and her fellow Mercy Sister Irene Chen See at Laws Street for their now famous Christmas Treat. Just as diligently as she prepares for the Centre’s corporate clients, so does she ensure that the meals served to the senior citizens are perfect, that the lights are brilliant and that the live band puts pep in every step. She teaches those of us assisting an important lesson: we are not helping these goodly folk as much as we are helping ourselves to discern the joy of service.

Time and time again, we hear people wondering aloud why this nun or that priest – attractive, intelligent, articulate, would choose a life of service over the prospect of a well-endowed home and corporate career. We owe them a debt: take from Jamaica Sister’s trade training centre, the Salvation Army, Father Gregory’s Mustard Seed, Father Holung’s Missionaries, Sandra and Henley Morgan’s ministry, Bishop Blair’s outreach, and think what we would be left with. Dr Parris Lyew Ayee at UWI has shown us a direct correlation beween the number of schools and churches in a community and the level of crime.

The legendary Sister Mary Bernadette, in her nearly completed grande oeuvre on Alpha, has devoted an entire chapter Sister Mary Benedict O.D., quoting tributes from Sir Howard Cooke, late Prime Minister Michael Manley, Food for the Poor and Professor Errol Miller.

The goodly Professor of Education wrote about Sister Benedict’s leadership as Principal of the Holy Family Primary School, in an article published in the Gleaner in 1996, headlined A Giant in the Ghetto. “Anger, animosity and aggression were the definitive features of the environment in which this Chinese-Jamaican disciple of the church sought to keep school for mostly Afro-Jamaican children,” Prof. Miller observed. After Sister Benedict established generous feeding and health programmes, he remarked on the warm relationship that developed with the community matched by soaring academic achievements.

In his tribute for her 25th Anniversary as a nun, late Prime Minister Michael Manley wrote: “Sister Benedict is one of those rare human beings whose lives exemplify their Christianity … By her every action she proves every hour and every day that she does love her neighbour as she does herself.”

Manley credits Sister Benedict with “the great breakthrough that was made in my constituency when the two rival gangs were persuaded to stop fighting each other.” Such was the high level of trust that some of the men who fled Green Bay after the alleged massacre in 1978, sought safe haven at the Laws Street Centre.

Observing the great suffering of her people after the onslaught of Hurricane Gilbert in 1988, Sister Benedict opted to move from the quiet Mercy convent to Laws Street. Mercy Superior, Sister Marie Chin, reflected that, at a time when most people were looking towards their retirement, Sister Benedict and her fellow Mercy member, Sister Irene, decided to make their permanent home in Central Kingston in order to make themselves more accessible to their beloved community.

Born Rona Chung to Frank Chung and Beryl (nee Lai) of Troy, Trelawny, Sister Benedict, an honours graduate of St Joseph’s Teachers College, is from a family of high achieving academics and professionals. They have wholeheartedly supported her choice of a life that has enriched of thousands of others. She has opened her heart and her schools entreating her neighbours to enter, pray, learn, eat, be happy; she is a living channel of her Maker’s infinite abundance.

Appropriately, Wayne Armond and ‘Dickie Bird’ McDonald, serenaded her with Taurus Riley’s classic, She’s Royal, even as she bustled about ensuring that we received generous slices of her 60th Anniversary cake that she insisted on baking herself.

Sister Benedict’s compassionate nurturing is a great love story for St Valentine’s week. To honour her 60 years of love for her Jamaican brothers and sisters, let’s do something extraordinarily good. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Observer - Feb 11 2008 -