Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Henley Morgan’s formidable fix for Jamaica

Dr Henley Morgan - man of vision ... and action!
by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column for Monday 8 July 2013
Nelson Mandela once said, “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” He could have been speaking of Jamaica’s own Dr Henley Morgan who has spearheaded multiple companies in his sparkling model of social entrepreneurship.

If a qualified, financially comfortable relative of ours came home one day and announced that he was going to leave his cushy New Kingston office and set up shop in Trench Town, we would probably suggest that he see a psychiatrist. Yet that is what Henley Morgan did nearly ten years ago, transforming the lives of hundreds of Trench Town’s citizens with career training and employment creation.

Dr Morgan’s Agency for Inner-city Renewal (AIR) has been the oxygen that has revived a community where ‘young men dying and mothers crying’ was an everyday occurrence. Since setting up state-of-the-art offices and conference rooms which serve the community for their meetings as well, Dr Morgan has nearly 500 persons on his payroll who work with some of Jamaica’s leading manufacturers, in addition to scores involved in cultural and agricultural projects.

“My commitment is to use business strategies to solve a complex social problem,” he declared at a recent press conference. “There are three ways you can help a person: hand out, hand down, or hand up.”

Honey Bun hires 100 persons through Dr Morgan's placement company
The dedicated social entrepreneur has chosen the ‘hand-up’ method, one that Public Defender Earl Witter in his report on the Tivoli Gardens incursion, listed as a recommendation at the end of the report: “That the Government initiates such a study as is suggested by the Agency for Inner–City Renewal (AIR) and the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship & Equity (I-SEE) as precursor to designing an entrepreneurship model to drive economic and social development of Tivoli Gardens/West Kingston.”

Dr Morgan’s recruits and trainees come from not only Trench Town, but also Tivoli Gardens, Majesty Gardens, Payne Lands and other communities. “We are not politically affiliated nor linked to any religious denomination,” says Henley, “so there are no barriers for those who want to make something of their lives.  There are people who want to label our inner-city folks as “lazy” and “worthless” and they are so wrong! Our people want to earn their way and take care of their families. That is what social entrepreneurship is all about, not giving handouts but providing opportunities.”

Dr Morgan refers to the last Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report that recognizes Jamaicans as entrepreneurial leaders – Jamaican women are Number Five, while Jamaican men are Number 12!  “Yet we live in an economy where financial institutions give to people who are rich in pocket and poor in ideas, rather than the other way around,” he says ruefully.
Event planned for JaMIN
With the help of the USAID, AIR recently launched The Jamaica Music Institute (JaMIN) – a modern recording studio that is also a centre for international certification in Protools Engineering, equipping students with a globally marketable career. Executive Director is that visionary Yekengale and consultant is Stephen Stewart who is also CEO of Harry J’s Studio – USAID funded their studies in California, so that they are now able to train others.

Last year, again with USAID assistance, AIR started the Productivity Empowerment Project (PEP) with a greenhouse right there in the middle of Trench Town.  The yield has been so great that last week, representatives of the US State Department broke ground for an expanded 3,000-square-foot greenhouse farm.

“Remember there was a lot of bulldozing in these areas,” noted Henley. “So there are large tracts of land that can accommodate greenhouse farming.  Every evening, 60 persons arrive at AIR to be trained not only in greenhouse agronomy, but in marketing and community governance.”

Henley Morgan wants us to promote our diligent Jamaicans, so he is planning the Trench Town Trade and Investment Fair, working ‘primarily through corporate foundations to engage micro-entrepreneurs from across the island, with the intention of bringing them into the mainstream of the economy.’  This is an unapologetic advertisement for the event which will be held from November 14 to 16.

This event will finally give talented, humble Jamaicans a showcase for their resourcefulness and ingenuity.  Buying Jamaican gives us not only a warm patriotic feeling, but also value for our money.  We need to have more faith in ourselves and our handiwork, and invest in ourselves. 
We were heartened by the solid Jamaicans who stood with Henley to promote the Trench Town Fair at a recent press conference: Winsome Wilkins, Earl Witter, Oliver Jones, Junior Lincoln, James Samuels, Trevor Spence and Ambassador Byron Blake, who also spoke on behalf of AIR’s inspiring patron former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.

Last week, a permanent exhibition on the life of Norman Manley was launched at his birthplace in Roxborough, Manchester, on the 120th Anniversary of his birth.  However, I believe the best tribute to this National Hero would be the recapturing of his Jamaica Welfare vision in the work of the Social Development Commission, using the Henley Morgan model.  Having attended the recent Diaspora Conference, Dr Morgan says the passion that overseas-based Jamaicans have for their country is amazing.  “They want to invest, but it will not happen until we solve the problem of crime,” he says. “If we fix crime, we will fix our economy.”

We hope Jampro will direct a part of its sizeable budget to the Trench Town Trade Fair.  We suggest they provide monetary assistance to the desolate, traumatized residents of garrison communities, so they may be allowed to hone their talents and promote them at the event. Then all the other investments they have been seeking via those expensive trips and verbose presentations, will follow. By their deeds, we shall know the politicians who will activate Dr Henley Morgan’s proven ways to prosperity for poor Jamaicans.  We hope to see them at the Trench Town Fair come November 14.

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