Monday, June 17, 2013

Food for the Poor – love that lifts

Saleem & Evelyn Mahfood celebrate their 25th Wedding Anniversary with sons and their wives
by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column | Monday 17 June 2013
She was heading out to open a home for young mothers, when 80-year-old Evelyn Mahfood was crippled by a gunman’s attack in 1992.   This did not deter the matriarch of the Mahfood family from continuing her service to the poor, a way of life that she and her late husband, Saleem Sr had instilled in their four sons, Ferdie, Sam (Saleem Jr), Robin and Joe.  With her blessing, Ferdie had started Food for the Poor in 1983 as a feeding programme for the indigent in Kingston.  As she encouraged the organisation’s growth, it blossomed into an international entity by the time of her passing in 2004.

Food For The Poor (FFP) Jamaica is celebrating its 30th anniversary this month, as the largest charity organization in Jamaica, while Food For The Poor Inc., located in Florida is the largest international relief and development organization in the US, serving the poor in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Evelyn and Saleem Sr would be proud to know that on Ferdie’s retirement, their third son Robin, is now at the helm of the international organisation, while their grandson Andrew, son of former PSOJ President the late Sam Mahfood, is now Chairman of Food for the Poor Jamaica.
A grateful Jamaican family with their new home built by Food for the Poor

The achievements of Food for the Poor Jamaica is a litany of hope for our indigent:

-       33,862 housing units

-       16 fishing villages with gifts of boats, fishing and safety equipment and furnished bases

-       Some 60,000 farmers have received farming implements, seedlings and training and more recently with EU assistance, former banana farmers have been able to initiate other agricultural projects.

-       Hundreds of non-violent prisoners have been released and reunited with their families under the FFP Prison Release Project headed by Sandra Ramsay.

-       Thousands of tons of food have been delivered to distributions centres all over Jamaica on a monthly basis to prevent malnutrition

-       The FFP Education Programme has helped hundreds of students to study up to tertiary level

For 2012, FFPJ distributed health care supplies valued at J$3.1 billion to public health facilities, non-governmental organizations, infirmaries and schools. In February alone this year, the charity provided the Ministry of Health with 200 wheelchairs, 40 hospital beds, several operating theatre lights, stretchers and sofas; for its hospitals and health centres.

 Last year, Food for the Poor launched the Jamaica 50 - 50 Basic School campaign, a commitment to build 50 basic schools in 50 months.  The promised is being kept as the organisation’s high energy team, led by Susan James Casserly have already provided new buildings with modern sanitary facilities for: St. Margaret’s Real Success Basic School – Kingston; George’s Valley Basic School – Manchester; Esher Full Gospel Basic School – Hanover; Kings Infant School (formerly known as Long Hill Basic School) – Westmoreland;  Greenvale Basic School – Manchester; High House Early Childhood Institution – St. Catherine; Fern, United, and Accompong Basic Schools   St.  Elizabeth; Steerfield Basic School – St. Ann.

Sharon Thomas (3rd left), Principal, Garden Wood Basic School and Pastor Victor Peña (4th right), Donor Representative, Destiny City Fellowship Church of United States of America cut the ribbon, signalling the official opening of the Garden Wood Basic School on Wednesday, June 12. Cheering on the ribbon cutters are:  students of the basic school (centre) Jacqueline Johnson (3rd right), Executive Director, Food For The Poor Jamaica (FFPJ); (from left)  Marcia Walker, Social Outreach Manager, FFPJ, Pastors Dexter Dennis and Lansley Blake, school board representatives; and Claudette Grant, Secretary to the President of the Central Jamaica Conference of Seventh Day Adventists.
Wednesday the Garden Wood Basic School was opened in Clarendon, and tomorrow FFPJ will journey to Seaforth, St. Thomas for the opening of Agape Basic. Then they will be in St. Ann on Thursday for the opening of Grants Mountain Basic and in St. Elizabeth on June 26, to open new buildings for the Christian Methodist Basic School.

The dynamic local Food for the Poor team has a strong Board chaired by Andrew Mahfood, supported by Vice-Chair Chris Bicknell, former Chairman Sister Benedict Chung, legendary philanthropist Pokar Chandiram, William Mahfood, Jerry Mahfood, Professor Michael Lee, Monsignor Michael Lewis, Attorney-at-Law Debbie-Ann Gordon and yours truly.   The executive includes Jacqueline Johnson, Deacon Ron Burgess, Jennifer Tomlinson and Susan Moore.  We are fired with the words of Matthew 25:40: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do it unto me”.

My friend Jane Buchanan of Reuters in New York is now a monthly donor to Food for the Poor after I introduced her to their website.  “I was so impressed with what I saw there,” said Jane. “I know that my money is going directly to the poor.”  She said she appreciates the fact that only 5% of donations goes to administration.  Food for the Poor runs a tight, no-frills ship. Please visit their website at to see the islandwide locations where you can donate.

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