Monday, December 8, 2014

Towards an articulate and prosperous majority

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column for MON 1 Dec 2014

Malik Pusey (seated), a Kingston College student and Grace and Staff beneficiary, shows off the new equipment at the GraceKennedy Parade Gardens STEM Centre, while US Charge d'Affaires Director Elizabeth Lee Martinez (left) and Denise Herbol, USAID Mission Director look on. - Contributed Photo
We should convert our distress at Minister Bobby Pickersgill’s labelling us, users of social media, as “an articulate minority” into efforts to promote an articulate majority. We refuse to believe that the Minister could have meant that the intelligentsia of this country do not count, and that he is comfortable that our country has an “inarticulate majority”. 
This is why it was wonderful to hear GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby (@dgwehby on Twitter) announce the opening of a well-equipped STEM Centre on Water Lane in downtown Kingston last Monday. STEM is the buzz-acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, which need urgent attention if Jamaica is to keep pace with our fast-changing world.  This is in addition to five well-equipped Homework Centres operated by the Company in five parishes. 
“The real game-changer in Jamaica will be investing in our youth,” Don noted.
The Centre was made possible through a partnership of the GraceKennedy and Grace & Staff Foundations (@GK_Foundation), USAID (@USAID) and WIHCON (@WIHCON). The Chairman of the Foundations James Moss-Solomon (not on Twitter but very articulate) spoke about his dream to build such a centre, a vision shared by The Grace & Staff Foundation Manager Frances Madden.
“After that initial commitment, I am sure that the People of the United States through the USAID can rest assured that the communities of Kingston have gone beyond the narrow scope of rivalry,” assured James, “towards being a part of a strong development of goodwill that is so necessary for empowering the communities, in particular, our children.”
And so, through projects like this, our students will be well-equipped to tell the free-curry-goat politician “no thank you”, because they are no longer depending on handouts, having been given a hand-up by responsible corporate citizens and generous international partners.
“The dream of Science, Technology, Robotics, 3-D printing, all in a modern environment on Water Lane is almost surreal,” commented James, “and I find it difficult to understand why we sometimes fail to make these dreams into reality for this beautiful Nation; Jamaica land we love.”

“Now is the time to shine”

On Wednesday, I met Lexley Johnson at the Abilities Foundation Open Day. Lexley, who has physical disabilities, but is obviously brilliant, recounted how he attended courses at the Foundation’s IT Department, graduating with high marks and joined the staff at Jamaica Teas Limited where he has moved up the rank to Assistant Manager. 
The articulate young man urged the students at the school to go forward with confidence and focus, not to postpone their chance for a better life. “Now is the time to shine!” he told them.
 The Abilities Foundation has a dedicated staff that ensures hands-on training for their students.  We were delighted that the Digicel Foundation could assist by equipping the Furniture Making Department with state-of-the-art machinery. The Abilities Foundation is already supplying stores with their fine products, including linens and terrariums (dish gardens); please do some of your Christmas shopping there at 191 Constant Spring Road (opposite the Police Station).
Congratulations to the Managing Director Susan Hamilton, and other staff members including Woodwork Instructor Solomon Scott, Sewing Instructor Pauline Williams, and Counselor Coral Mason. The orderly environment and professional conduct of all whom we met, speak well of their stewardship.

Hardworking leaders
The Government Ministers who spoke at the STEM and Abilities events – Ronnie Thwaites and Derrick Kellier are two obviously very hardworking leaders. They have stayed mum on the Easton Douglas-NHT issue. Being the eternal optimist, I hope they are working from within the system to clean it up, to promote good governance, transparency and accountability.  Please do not fail us.

Jamaica’s Poverty Level
The latest PIOJ findings on poverty are alarming: Jamaica is at its poorest since 2002. The number of poor have doubled in the Kingston Metropolitan area to 24 percent while the parish with the highest level of poverty is St. Thomas at over 32 percent. 
Let our leaders mark the words of National Hero Marcus Garvey: "Poverty is a hellish state to be in. It is no virtue. It is a crime. To be poor is to be hungry without possible hope of food; to be sick without hope of medicine; to be tired and sleepy without a place to lay one's head; to be naked without the hope of clothing; to be despised and comfortless. To be poor is to be a fit subject for crime and hell."
May we all work towards a more articulate and prosperous majority.

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