Monday, April 11, 2011

Something right about St Ann

Healthcare mogul Jennifer Kerr who has invested in St Ann tourism

Observer column | Mon 11 April 11 | Jean Lowrie-Chin

I fell in love with the garden parish of St Ann on regular trips to board meetings of the Jamaica Family Planning Association. Regardless of how many times I went, I was always left breathless by the lush green fields, enchanting Fern Gully and the sparkling Ocho Rios coastline.

The legendary Beth Jacobs would introduce us to some of the most gracious Jamaicans, steadfast members of the Association which she had co-founded many years before with her husband Dr Lenworth Jacobs. These were educated individuals who would hold forth on population issues at annual meetings and support the various fundraisers.

At events like the Appleton-Ting 10K in the 80s, St Ann volunteers would show up in their numbers to assist with hospitality and logistics. When someone remarked on a very different experience in another parish where every request was answered with a price tag, a gentleman replied, “If the event is being held in St Ann, you are our guests and it is up to us to help make it a success.”

Well, you may say, those were the good old days – things are different now. I am happy to report that I had yet another wonderful St Ann experience last week. The “Eat Jamaican” road show team was faced with the challenge of getting electricity at the Buckfield playground. Ms Lecia Mignott of the St Ann Parish Council offered to pay a visit to the JPS office and ensured that the power was switched on.

Then we discovered that an electrician was needed to make a proper connection. We were given the name of Courtney Hamilton, who arrived within 15 minutes and rushed to make the connection, good-humouredly reassuring us that all would be well. With obvious professionalism, he checked every single connection along the various lengths of cable and the voltage levels before switching on the sound equipment. VoilĂ  - the show came alive with music and jokes from the inimitable Ity & Fancy Cat.

But it did not stop there. Young Desmond Stephenson was booked the day before to arrive at 2 pm to clean up during and after the show. He arrived before time and did not wait to be told to get busy. In fact, he outdid the other members of the clean-up crew, as he worked tirelessly and cheerfully. We are not sure if it is the scenery or sea breeze, but there is something definitely right about St Ann.

We were delighted to see tourism investor Jennifer Kerr, that gutsy self-made mogul, well respected in Detroit where she owns a large healthcare business. Jennifer chose to repatriate a good chunk of her hard-earned fortune by purchasing the Liberty Hill Great House. She is a keen supporter of the “Eat Jamaican” message, having established a mini-farm on her estate to ensure that her guests get the finest Jamaican fruits, vegetables and ground provisions.

Jennifer has had some tough challenges with the local bureaucracy but is enthusiastic about the renovations she has made to the exquisite Liberty Hill property. I should pause here to mention an unfortunate experience that Jennifer had with an employee at the Jamaica Tourist Board. She had called the Kingston office to see if they could support her in getting telephone land lines for her establishment. She said the woman on the line announced to her colleagues, that Jennifer had enough already and should not be asking for anything else. I tell you, ‘badmind’ and bureaucracy can be a toxic mix! Lucky for Jamaica, Jennifer will allow no one to rain on her parade.

St Ann residents are not braggers, but you couldn’t blame them if they were. This parish is the birthplace of two of the most famous Jamaicans – Marcus Mosiah Garvey and Robert Nesta Marley. Many people do not know that these famous lines sung by Marley were actually written by Garvey: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery/ None but ourselves can free our minds.”

St Ann boasts Discovery Bay where Columbus landed in 1494. It was the St Ann vista he surveyed when he declared Jamaica “the fairest isle” he had ever seen.

The residents of St Ann who streamed onto the field for the show were disciplined. We saw no shoving as they waited for refreshments, and heard lots of good humour. My friends who have opted to relocate in St Ann have expressed no interest in returning to Kingston. Of course the parish has its challenges, especially with inadequate housing for tourism workers and a few violent incidents. Generally speaking though, the people of this parish have somehow preserved an atmosphere of order and friendliness. Well done, St Ann.

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