Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Make Jamaica ‘a nice place to live’

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer | 17 January 2011

'What a nice place to live - Sweet Jamdown!' - Tony Rebel 

News from abroad should make us stop and think. Relatives up north are battling heavy snow. One friend barely made it home after a heavy snowstorm and was thrilled to turn on to his street – only to see the white stuff piled high against his front door, his shovel securely locked away behind it. “Next time, I'll travel with my shovel,” he said wryly.

There is violence in the Middle East and in the drug-torn communities of Mexico. We admire the many achievements of the US but they too are facing difficult issues. In a Tucson suburb, yet another 'troubled youth' turned his high-powered weapon on a gathering called 'Congress on the Corner'. Six people, including a nine-year-old, were killed and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot point-blank in the head – thankfully, doctors are optimistic about her recovery.

The 23-year-old gunman, who had been rejected by the US Army, was able to buy a high-powered weapon after an “instant background check”, and then proceeded to Wal-Mart where he bought bullets for 22 cents each. It must be a no-brainer that US gun laws are making deadly weapons too easily available to those with evil intent. Today's observation of the Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, who was assassinated in 1968, makes us wonder, “How long, O Lord, how long?”

In several Middle Eastern and African countries, Christians are being attacked. Even in relatively peaceful India a 24-year-old Catholic Priest is threatened for starting a children's home in a poor district and wakes up in time to rescue the children from a fire set by intolerant extremists. My sister's church in Maryland is helping him to rebuild.

Night after night on the news, we see the arid landscape of Afghanistan where terrorists live in caves and suicide bombers wire up themselves for their pass to paradise.

The more we think of these situations, the more we understand why Jamaicans spontaneously break into applause when their flight touches down at Norman Manley Airport. Now I know it is true that the dip in crime here is still not significant enough, and that some of our drivers should be featured every night on Keith Olbermann's “Worst Persons in the World”, but these are problems that our small country can fix if we apply ourselves honestly and diligently.

This blessed Jamaica would be so very rich, were it not for the “Big G” – the raw greed for money and power that is driving us to ignore the very basic needs of our humble, trusting Jamaicans. One of Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is “First Things First”. A hard-working Jamaican entrepreneur said he could not believe that his taxes were going into so many vain projects while farmers had such horrible roads to drive on, and people were still carrying water on their heads. “Imagine how desperately we need good schools,” he opined. “And the Trelawny Stadium is sitting there empty!”

A Jamaican couple abroad wrote me about the difficulty they are encountering in adopting a baby here. I would like to refer the authorities to a fast-track adoption process created by Melanie Scheetz, executive director of the Foster and Adoptive Care Coalition in St Louis, Missouri – read about them at She got the idea from watching the Extreme Makeover programme for HGTV, where a large group of people literally transformed a home in 24 hours. “Why can't we do that too in finding homes for kids?” she asked herself, and decided to action the idea by pulling together a focused, professional team who would ensure that every step was expedited.

Unlike Ms Scheetz, we bombard the talk shows with questions about why certain things are not done, but do not turn our minds to taking the action to getting them done. I know I knock politicians pretty hard, but there are well-educated, well-off Jamaicans who can do much more for their country. It is enlightened self-interest to contribute to scholarship funds, to support training, to provide employment. We applaud the PSOJ's recently announced programme to promote job creation for our young people and to make them more employable.

There are several opportunities staring us in the face. Take this glut of vegetables in St Elizabeth. HEART training schools could be sourcing equipment to transform those beautiful tomatoes into salsa, sauces and juices and those fine carrots into other products. Householders who are constantly complaining about their supermarket bills could be buying these $20 per pound carrots and freezing them to last through the next bounce in prices. Our last mango season saw the bounty of fruit left to rot on the ground, while hotels were serving imported Haagen Daz mango sorbet. We delighted visiting relatives this Christmas with mango sorbet made months ago from some “common” mangoes, and kept in the freezer for our “rainy day”.

The best thing about the latest international news is that Jamaica is not a part of those scary headlines. Let us take that as our cue to make this little piece of paradise safer and more productive.

Leila Thomas
The late Jamaica Library Service pioneer Leila Thomas deserves all the kudos she has been getting, even if somewhat belated. Alpha alumnae are proud to claim her as ours, nurtured with a passion for service by our beloved Sisters of Mercy. The brilliant and generous Leila Thomas was honoured as an Alpha Academy Woman of Excellence several years ago. On your next visit to the library, spare a thought for the lady whose vision and hard work made books accessible and the library experience pleasant for generations of Jamaicans past and to come.

Danny Buchanan

Danny Buchanan was not amused when he heard me planning an event and suggesting that no politicians be invited. He proceeded to explain that in his constituency, when no one else could be found in a crisis, he was available, day or night. He described how he pounded the pavement to get services from various agencies for his constituents and how his entire family had to get involved. As a member of the Electoral Advisory Committee, he participated actively in the process of electoral reform, which would herald a new day for our democratic system. William Chin See who was then chairman of the EAC said, “Danny argued hard but he never held a grudge. He certainly made his mark.” Ah yes, after that incident when he dressed me down properly, he was as cordial as ever. He served Jamaica well. Rest in Peace, Danny Buchanan.

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