Saturday, February 27, 2010

Depending on our kindness

Drs Shane Alexis and Khia Josina Duncan in Haiti

Jean-Lowrie Chin | Jamaica Observer | Monday, February 22, 2010

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” said a Tennessee Williams character. But we Jamaicans are no strangers to our sisters and brothers in Haiti. Shane Alexis and eight fellow members of the Jamaica Medical Doctors Association, Ryan Peralto and Petri Ann Henry of Food for the Poor recently shared their experiences as they worked to help our devastated neighbours. They have no regrets, despite the terrible suffering they saw.

Yes, I am writing about Haiti again because as actor Sean Penn begged on CNN's Larry King Live recently, “Do not tune out – Haiti needs us!” Shane Alexis, who is JMDA president, shared with me a special issue of the organisation’s Check Up magazine, describing the Haiti experience. Youth is definitely not wasted on this passionate, energetic young man. So anxious is he to get his association's message out that he is editor, photographer and gopher for this magazine. (If, like me, you have been enjoying the Tru-Juice health page in the Observer, you should know that Dr Alexis contributes to it).

Dr Khia Josina Duncan, a member of the JMDA mission, wrote feelingly about her experience at the Bernard Mevs Hospital in Port-au-Prince: “The cries for help… were overwhelming,” she remembered. “There were so many fractures we ran out of plaster of Paris very quickly… I assisted mostly with amputations, while the others continued dressings and administered antibiotics that were now getting scarce. Many of the patients could have been discharged but of course they had nowhere to go.”

“What was being shown on TV was nothing compared to the… destruction we saw,” wrote Khia. “The first thing I did when I got home was to have a long shower, and I noticed a continuous tremor in my hands which lasted about four days… It was a good experience for all of us. I’m getting back to normal now but I know I’ll never be the same.”

Shane was so concerned about the unavailability of medical records that his association got 5,000 record de santé books printed and shipped to Haiti for patients' data. He said Haitians were not passively waiting for help but were making every effort to help themselves. “People were moving about, trying to pick up the pieces,” he said. He related that a Haitian family, related to Mrs Kameel Azan, was tireless in working to help others.

Ryan Peralto Jr, CEO and Petri Ann Henry, Public Relations Officer of Food for the Poor (FFTP) Jamaica, went on a fact-finding mission to establish the most pressing needs to be funded by the donations from ordinary Jamaicans, moved to dig deep for Haiti. “RJR Group has entrusted us with $15 million collected from the Jamaican people, and we have also received $5 million through our account. We are preparing detailed updates so that these kind people will know that every dollar of the funds is well spent.”

“While we were travelling on a street in Port-Au-Prince just observing the level of devastation, I saw a lady about my age or younger with no top on and she was bathing on the street. People were just passing by, business as usual, she had no privacy,” said Petri-Ann. “It reminded me how we take simple things, such as privacy, for granted.”

Ryan's and Petri's most moving moment was praying with FFTP Haiti representatives at the mass graves of earthquake victims. “We just stood there holding our rosaries, praying and praying. I felt so apologetic to the victims in the mass graves. I kept saying to them in my heart that I knew they deserved better than that,” said a pensive Ryan. “Imagine, one mass grave held an entire school of children. Heartbreaking!”

So traumatised are the surviving victims that most refuse to return to their homes, even the sturdy ones built by Food for the Poor. Port-au-Prince is a tent city with the most basic of facilities. Happily, the FFTP Haiti headquarters and warehouse were largely spared, and a Haitian women’s cooperative uses the donated food to cook and serve 4,000 hot meals daily.

Ryan’s photographs give a glimpse of the continuous emergency that is Haiti: a little van pressed into service to rush oxygen cylinders to hospitals, water feverishly distributed as “There is tremendous fear of a widespread outbreak of disease.”

Meanwhile, several people have been hinting that Haiti may well be much, much richer than Jamaica. So I googled “oil in Haiti” and turned up an article written last year by Haitian-American attorney-at-law and author Ezili Dantò.

“There is evidence that the United States found oil in Haiti decades ago and due to the geopolitical circumstances and big business interests of that era made the decision to keep Haitian oil in reserve for when Middle Eastern oil had dried up,” alleges Dantò. “This is detailed by Dr Georges Michel in an article dated March 27, 2004 outlining the history of oil explorations and oil reserves in Haiti and in the research of Dr Ginette and Daniel Mathurin.”

If this were indeed true, it could “build a heaven out of hell’s despair”. But then, as Shane, Khia, Ryan and Petri-Ann are doing, right now we can continue to participate in the building of a new Haiti.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Thursday, 18th February 2010 – Kingston, Jamaica: Digicel Founder and Chairman, Denis O’Brien, has been named as a goodwill ambassador for the city of Port-au-Prince in Haiti, it was announced today.

The honour comes in recognition of Mr. O’Brien’s dedication to helping Haiti recover and rebuild in the aftermath of the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince on 12th January and was bestowed on Mr. O’Brien by the mayor of Port-au-Prince, Jean Yves Jason and the deputy mayor, Nadeje Augustin in a meeting in the Haitian capital on Tuesday 9th February.

Since the earthquake, Mr. O’Brien has been instrumental in efforts to attract much-needed aid relief to the stricken country – as well as to encourage businesses to consider Haiti as an ideal place for foreign direct investment.

In accepting the honour, Mr. O’Brien commented; “In my role as goodwill ambassador for the city of Port-au-Prince, I promise to do everything in my power to ensure that the plight of the people of Haiti is kept front of mind across the globe. I would like to thank the mayor and the deputy mayor for this honour."

He continued, “Over the last few weeks, we have seen a massive worldwide outpouring of sympathy and support, but much more is needed. The challenge is to achieve significant and sustained foreign investment and to ensure that this money is channeled into the right projects and succeeds in making a tangible positive long term difference. With the right focus and planning, together, we can help Haiti to rise again.”

Mayor of Port-au-Prince, Jean Yves Jason, commented; “Since before Digicel’s launch here in Haiti back in 2006, Denis O’Brien has been a huge supporter of our country – and has worked tirelessly to ensure a better standard of living for our people through the provision of housing, educational facilities and programmes. He is very much the right person to help us to rebuild and to look to the future in a positive way. We are delighted that he has accepted this role and look forward to working together closely for the long-term benefit of the Haitian people.”

As the single largest investor in Haiti with a total investment of over U$300 million since its launch in 2006, Digicel has over two million customers in Haiti. The Digicel Haiti Relief Fund has donated US$5 million to NGOs in Haiti to support the relief efforts and to date over US$800,000 has been raised by Digicel customers across the Caribbean and Central America through a text and voice donation line. Digicel also gave each of its two million customers US$5 in free credit – totaling US$10 million.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'Hall' of fame - Senior Gleaner reporter takes journalism top prize

Laura Redpath, Senior Staff Reporter

GLEANER SENIOR staff reporter Arthur Hall is the Press Association of Jamaica's (PAJ) 2009 Journalist of the Year.

Hall took the award for a body of work that included the story of a teenager who was arrested for abandoning her physically handicapped baby, allegedly to attend a stage show.

Last year, Hall's work also stirred controversy when he reported on the approximately 80 students at the Pembroke Hall Primary School in St Andrew who were to resit the Grade Four Literacy Test after their test papers were not identified by the education ministry.

The title of Journalist of the Year is Hall's first 'major' award in a more than 15-year journalism career. It is his first PAJ award.

Beginnings in print

Hall started off in print, at the now-defunct Jamaica Record , before moving on to radio station KLAS as a reporter. He would later work as news editor at Nationwide before moving on to RJR, where he took the role of associate editor. He was also news editor at Television Jamaica.

"I was never a broadcaster," Hall said, explaining his move back to print media. He has been with The Gleaner for the past two years and said he signed up with the leading daily "to win awards".

As for his future in journalism, Hall said when reporting is no longer fun, it will be time for him to move on.

"I'm enjoying it now," he said.

Hall said he likes telling stories, being on the scene and informing the public.

Meanwhile, guest speaker at yesterday's award presentation, RJR's Managing Director Gary Allen, charged journalists to strive for excellence as it was the "survival tool" for reporting.

For his accomplishment, Hall took home a cheque sponsored by The National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training, and a trophy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Haiti Mourns Its Dead - New York Times

Haitians mourned during a memorial service on Sunday. The government said more than 230,000 people died in the earthquake.

By DEBORAH SONTAG | New York Times | Published: February 14, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Will anyone remember that 17-year-old Angelania Ritchelle, a parentless high school student who wanted to be a fashion model, died of fright two days after the earthquake and ended up in a mass grave on the outskirts of this city?

Haitians gathered on Sunday for prayer and a memorial service during a period of mourning. Belatedly, funerals and memorial services are taking place daily.

Emmanuella Dupoux's cousin died after the quake. “She is just one of the nameless, faceless victims, and I hate that,” she said.

A Haitian woman prayed at dawn inside of the remains of the main Cathedral in Port-au-Prince in February.

That is what her cousin Emmanuella Dupoux, 23, her voice thick with emotion, wanted to know. “Angie was a nobody, she died a nobody, she will never have a funeral, she will never have a tombstone,” Ms. Dupoux said. “She is just one of the nameless, faceless victims, and I hate that.”

In Haitian society, Rudy Bennett, 57, was a somebody, a prominent businessman and the younger brother of Michele Bennett, the former first lady and ex-wife of Jean-Claude Duvalier. But his death got little notice here, either.

Few were aware that his sister, a polarizing figure who lives in exile, had flown in with a search-and-rescue team to look for Mr. Bennett in the rubble of the Montana Hotel, where he had gone to fix an espresso machine leased from his food company. He was buried just last week.

The Jan. 12 earthquake was an equal opportunity leveler with such mass deadliness that it erased the individuality of its victims. According to the Haitian government, more than 230,000 people died in the disaster, but initially few had ceremonies to mark their deaths. Even the collective loss of life was not memorialized until this past weekend, when the government imposed a national period of mourning.

Bit by bit, though, the individual losses are coming into focus for Haitians finally ready to grieve. Many victims were not accepted as dead until the search missions were over, and many bodies were never recovered or were dumped in mass graves. But belatedly, funerals and memorial services are taking place daily, and the traditional word-of-mouth network known as telediol has reawakened, delivering death notices.

If Haiti, always stoic, first seemed too stunned to cry, the tears are rolling now for those who seem irreplaceable: the tax man who wrote software to detect fraud in a corrupt society; the gallery owner whose eminent Haitian art collection perished with her; the writer who translated the culture’s oral storytelling into prose; the feminist leaders; the nursing students; the factory workers; the teachers; and the children, especially the children.

“My little girls died at the very moment I was making plans for their future,” said Frantz Thermilus, the chief of Haiti’s National Judicial Police, caressing their pictures on his cellphone. “And the future of the children is the future of Haiti.”
His daughters Talitha, 12, and Emmanuella, 11, were crushed in their school, the Christian Institute of Haiti, when their mother was late to pick them up. She had been diverted by Mr. Thermilus, who had insisted that she stop first at an English-language academy to register the girls for intensive classes, he said.

“Someone else offered them a ride, but that person was not authorized to pick them up, and the school’s guardian wouldn’t let them go,” he said. “To show you just how sweet they were — they could have left without her permission. But they always respected authority.”

Head shaved, spine erect, epaulets starched, Mr. Thermilus spoke in his office at police headquarters. Tearing up, he said his daughters used to run to greet him when he arrived home. Talitha would tuck under his right arm, Emmanuella under his left, and he would debrief them on their days.

Now, having sent his wife and 3-year-old son to New York, he has barely left work since the earthquake. “When I go home, I’m in pain,” he said. “Here I can do something constructive.”

The earthquake not only took away his girls, Mr. Thermilus said, but allowed the 5,000 inmates in the country’s main prison to escape. “In those few minutes, so much I cared about was undone,” he said. “Justice undone, children gone, innocence destroyed. I mourn it all.”

Many mourn the older victims who had weathered a lifetime of Haiti’s adversity and served as the institutional memory of many sectors of society.
Brother Hubert Sanon, 85, for instance, was the first Haitian member of the Salesian order of the Roman Catholic Church, which plays a caretaker role for poor and orphaned children in Haiti.

The Salesians raised former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, ordained him as a priest and eventually expelled him; Mr. Aristide ran, and radicalized, their vocational school in the neighborhood of La Saline, where Brother Sanon was sent afterward to restore order, the Rev. Sylvain Ducange said.

Brother Sanon died in his dormitory room at the school, whose collapse also killed scores of students. He was found sitting in his chair, rosary beads in hand, Father Ducange said.

A tailor by training, Brother Sanon had made the robes for priests and lawyers in Haiti for many decades. “Who will do this now?” Father Ducange asked.

And who will root out corruption with the single-mindedness of Lytz Elie, 43, an electronics engineer who had designed the Haitian government’s new software to fight fraud? He was killed in the tax department’s offices; like many government workers who died at their desks, he was among the most dedicated, working past quitting time.

“Most of the people who died at the I.R.S. and the Supreme Court are the die-hards,” said Louis Herns Marcelin, a sociology professor at the University of Miami. “They are the ones who understood their work meant something bigger than themselves.”
Referring to Mr. Elie, he said, “This guy who died is irreplaceable. He was against corruption with a passion. He was creating software that understood how Haitian bureaucrats steal and lie.”

To many writers, the loss of Georges Anglade, a geographer who had turned to fiction and literary theory later in life, seems unfathomable. A Haitian-Canadian, Mr. Anglade invented a literary genre in the style of Haitian oral storytelling. “He helped Haiti understand itself, and his death is a big loss for the intellectual world here,” said Evelyne Trouillot, a novelist and short-story writer.

Micha Bennett, 27, whose father died at the Montana Hotel, said, “It is hard to focus on any one individual because the country lost the country. “But I know this: the last time I saw my father was the day of my wedding” in Miami Beach, shortly before the quake. “And it was one of the happiest days of his life.”

Patrick Delatour, 61, Haiti’s tourism minister, who is charged with overseeing the country’s reconstruction, spoke in a vacant motorcycle showroom beneath his temporary office about the loss of his octogenarian parents, misting up among the Harley-Davidsons.

“Watch out, you’re going to make me cry,” he said. “We in the government haven’t really had time to bathe in our own sorrow. To a certain extent, that has been a blessing. One month after the death of my parents, it’s just starting to sink in.”
His father, Cavour Delatour, 89, was an engineer and architect who spent half a century constructing and reconstructing the house that collapsed on him and his wife. He had worked on buildings throughout Port-au-Prince, including the destroyed National Palace, for which he served as engineer.

“It would have devastated him to see everything in ruins,” Mr. Delatour said.
One of the foremost collectors and promoters of Haitian art, his mother, Carmel Delatour, 85, amassed hundreds of works, including those of Bernard Séjourné, Andre Pierre and Tiga. Her 34-year-old gallery, Rainbow Art Display, crumbled with her home.

“The art died with her,” Mr. Delatour said.

The only room that survived was the basement library, thousands of tomes that make up “a strong part of the Haitian archives and the country’s memory,” Mr. Delatour said, adding, “So they leave behind all this knowledge to guide us.”
Angelania, the 17-year-old who aspired to be a model, did not leave anything behind, according to her cousin, Ms. Dupoux — “not a dress, not a notebook, not a trace.” Having fended for herself since her parents abandoned her at 4, she was often stressed, and the earthquake seemed to push her over the edge, said Ms. Dupoux, who lived with her.

“She was freaking out, screaming, ‘I have no school. I have no house. I have nothing. Why go on?’ ” Ms. Dupoux said. “Two days after the earthquake, these guys started pounding on the gates of the yard where we were sleeping, yelling, ‘A tsunami is coming.’ Everyone panicked and ran out, except Angie.

“Her heart stopped.”

Marc Lacey contributed reporting.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An assignment to finish

Archbishop Lawrence Burke

Professor Rex Nettleford

I wondered how I would weave the passing of two great Jamaicans with my plan to write on the protection of Jamaica's children. Then I realised that the lives of Professor Rex Nettleford and Archbishop Lawrence Burke supported the cry of Jamaican sociologist Dr Claudette Crawford-Brown.

Many glowing tributes to these legendary human beings have been written already, so this column will focus on the lessons they have left. Students of both the professor and the archbishop remark on their passion for excellence, and their demand for discipline.

A journalist shared an experience, learning at the feet of Prof Nettleford. "He insisted on punctuality and would close the door of the classroom just before beginning his lecture. I was a few minutes late so I stood by the window to try to listen in. Continuing his lecture, he walked over to the window and gently closed it. I was never late again!" You could use the start of NDTC performances to set your watch.

Last year, Archbishop Burke broke ground for a building at his alma mater, St George's College, where he had been teacher and principal. He harked back to his time where teachers not only taught, but "took ownership" of the buildings to ensure that their pupils had surroundings conducive to learning. He spoke of the value of education to liberate and transform our people. "I have walked with the richest and the poorest and felt at home with them," he said. "This little boy from Vineyard Town is proof of what education can do for our people."

These learned men were not afraid to challenge the status quo. Addressing a luncheon of the Public Relations Society in the 80s, Professor Nettleford said he asked an advertising executive why more people of his colour were not used in advertisements. He said he was told it was some problem with the lighting and retorted, "Well, fix the lighting!" He knew the power of the media in the process of self-actualisation.

Archbishop Burke welcomed the news of free tuition for high schools, and called for graduates to give one year's unpaid service as teachers' assistants in our overcrowded primary schools in inner-city communities. However, he said the very same people who were complaining about the country asked him if he was crazy to suggest this for their children.

What would have happened if young Rex of Bunkers Hill, Trelawny, and young Larry of Vineyard Town, Kingston, did not have a support system that would take them safely through their childhood and into productive adulthood? This is the concern of sociologist Dr Claudette Crawford-Brown who made a powerful presentation recently at the annual Ambassador Sue Cobb Lecture.

Dr Crawford-Brown, lecturer in sociology, psychology and social work in the UWI Faculty of Social Sciences, discussed her findings from a six-year stint in an inner-city community where she worked with 35 teenaged boys whom her group tried to "pull from the cliff" in a tug-o-war with criminal gangs. She insisted that the heads of these gangs should be described as "criminal leaders", not community leaders.

She said she spoke with children from criminal families who were defensive -- "Him in jail but is not him do it" -- and downright confused: "Mi father go out with him gun and him Bible -- Jesus will protect him."

Crawford-Brown said that there had been good initiatives but they ended as soon as funding dried up. She wants the government to develop a concept, a sustainable framework for violence prevention. "Criminals do not drop out of the sky at 18," she declared as she demanded that even as we work on gang-busting, we stem that flow of recruitment.

She said that of the 824 major crimes committed by boys in 2005, 10 per cent were in the 12-15 age group and 90 per cent were in the 16-20-year range. She is weary of the authorities telling her when she warns them about a wayward boy, "I can't do anything with him until he commits a crime." She says girls are now increasingly being found with weapons in their schoolbags.

Crawford-Brown has winnowed out the predictive factors that could make a child easy prey for gangs: the absent mother, lack of contact with father, lack of contact with mother, relationship with negative peers and severe conduct disorder.

The absent mother is the most significant, says the sociologist, who coined the phrase "barrel children" and now fears that there is an even more at-risk category: "The Western Union children". She says that at least the mothers of the barrel children were still in touch with their children's growth as they were buying their clothes, matching shoes to outlines of feet, etc. Now that many are just sending money, the children "buy anything, including drugs".

"These are symptoms of a state that is not providing social welfare in a meaningful way," says Crawford-Brown. She says there is a lack of political will, reflected in the "ah nuh nutten syndrome". There is a layer of apathy, "like scar tissue" on our society, she believes. She has developed programmes that have shown positive results, "a nurturing model, clinical and community-based". She describes "hug therapy" for children who have never been hugged and efforts to get grieving children to cry so they can heal. She has had success in schools using pop culture: she is seeing bullies bettering themselves because they want to enter what she has dubbed "The Behaviour Hype Zone". She wants us to "stop wringing our hands" and start focusing on the tenuous lives of our at-risk children.

We know why we so deeply feel the loss of Professor Nettleford and Archbishop Burke: they did not simply parade their qualifications and talents, but used them to raise our sights and better our circumstances. There are national treasures like young Rex and Larry waiting to be nurtured and we must protect them from the gangs that hover dangerously. To mourn is not enough - our distinguished teachers have left us a life-saving assignment that we must not fail to complete.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

'Souldance' for Rex Nettleford

-Photo by Maria Layacona


How wondrous is the truth I found
The soul is not by body bound
It travels like a ray of light
And sees with universal sight

And so my soul will keep me whole
When senses fail and steps grow slow
This body is a tiny stage
On which the soul performs a phase

Come, fly beyond the day and night
Sway your soul to strains of light
God’s music falls like sweet, soft rain
Takes you past all fear and pain

Clap soul-hands, tap soul-feet
And dance to Heaven’s mighty beat!

(c) Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, February 1, 2010

Aspirin advice from Dr Heather Little-White

Something that we can do to help ourselves.  Nice to know. 
Bayer is making crystal aspirin to dissolve under the tongue. They work much faster than the tablets.

Why keep aspirin by your bedside? 
About Heart Attacks

There are other symptoms of an heart attack besides the pain on the left arm. 

One must also be aware of an intense pain on the chin, as well as nausea and lots of sweating, however these symptoms may also occur less frequently.

Note: There may be NO pain in the chest during a heart attack.  The majority of people (about 60%) who  had a heart attack during their sleep, did not wake up. However, if it occurs, the chest pain may wake you up from your deep sleep.

If that happens, immediately dissolve two aspirins in your mouth and swallow them with a bit of water.

- phone a neighbour or a family member who lives very close by
- say "heart attack!"
- say that you have taken 2 aspirins..
- take a seat on a chair or sofa near the front door, and wait for their arrival and...
~ do NOT lie down ~

A Cardiologist has stated that, if each person, after receiving this e-mail, sends it to 10 people, probably one life can be saved!

Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel

'When I was hungry, you invested'

Hon. Karl Hendrickson

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | 1 February 2010
(Click on title for full column)

Four prime ministers at his birthday celebration, and no media. Fifty million donated to his alma mater, Jamaica College, and minimal publicity. His friends and associates know that I could be writing about only one person: Karl Hendrickson. The Jamaican public may be surprised to know that this elegant patriot who recently achieved fourscore years has founded, and with his four children re-engineered a group of homegrown companies with a total workforce of over 3,000.

Today, Gary runs National Baking in Kingston and Coconut Bay Resort and Spa in St Lucia; Lori-Ann and her husband Dave run Caribbean Broilers, Newport Mills and their subsidiaries; Kevin and wife Jackie operate Yummy Bakery in Mandeville, The Courtleigh and Knutsford Court hotels in Kingston and the Holiday Inn in Montego Bay; Cathy and husband Ian operate Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in Montego Bay, Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, Sunset at the Palms in Negril.

The business pioneer recalls that when the family decided to invest in the hotel industry, they got solid advice from other hoteliers. What would this country be without such daring investors? Entrepreneurship is probably the greatest and least acknowledged response to the Christian mandate, which in modern times could be translated as, "When I was hungry, you invested."

Karl is asked regularly, "How did you mentor all of your four children to become such successful entrepreneurs?" His first response is to praise his wife Nell, who he says has been the strength of the family. "I knew that with guidance they would realise their capabilities," he says. "It is important to release energy, intellect, potential."

The iconic business leader harks back to the 70s when they saw many of their extended family members migrating: "But we made a collective decision to stay in Jamaica. Times were tough ... the family, including the children, focused on work and home. It made them stronger and inculcated positive work habits. They also developed a deep compassion for the less fortunate." He is grateful that his grandchildren are now showing the traditional Hendrickson caring, diligence and discipline.

For the Hendrickson family, business is an integral part of their lives. "Even during the short holidays we took, we used the time to acquire knowledge about new technology, equipment and processes that were taking place around the world. I can't remember ever leading a boring life. Business is a full-time commitment," says Karl, "seven days a week, 365 days a year. I am not a hobby person, my hobby is work."

"I am a manufacturing person," emphasises Karl. "I believe if Jamaica is to progress we should go back to production; we need to respond to the necessary discipline that goes into production. This will generate quality employment for our people, and this deviation from production is why Jamaica has not seen growth."