Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why Henley Morgan dazzled Nobel Laureate Yunnus

Dr Henley Morgan CD
by Jean Lowrie-Chin | column published 8 Nov 2014 | Jamaica Observer
Staff members conducted us politely to the spacious, cool conference room with digital facilities.  Our meeting, hosted by a consultant to Fortune 500 companies, started exactly on time.  You may be surprised to learn that we were not in a ritzy business district, but rather in the heart of Kingston's inner city - Trench Town, to be exact. 
Marley's Trench Town Street
Our host was Dr Henley Morgan who moved his New Kingston office to Trench Town in 2004, and now runs several social enterprises under the umbrella of AIR - the Agency for Inner-city Renewal.  My creative friend Henley loves catchy acronyms, and so we later took a look at their flourishing PEP greenhouses – that is, Productivity Empowerment Project, supported by the USAID.
As one tours the projects, one understands why even an innovator like Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunnus, Bangladeshi creator of the empowering Grameen Bank, was dazzled when he toured AIR's projects some years ago.
Dr. Morgan explained that I-SEE, are the initials for the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship & Equity which has partnered with leading universities to offer an MBA in this important field.  JAMin – the Jamaica Music Institute has a state-of-the-art music studio which has a Pro-tools certification Laboratory to graduate top studio engineers.
Musicians with Henley and me
Recording studio
Are you tired yet?  Well Dr Henley Morgan is not!  Other projects include The Louise Morgan Learning Centre, named for his late mother and the Sandra Morgan Counselling Unit for Traumatised Inner-city Early Childhood Students (CUTIES). It was named for his late wife Dr Sandra Morgan, who was one of Jamaica's most beautiful women, and was his dynamic partner until her passing three years ago.
AIR also runs a training and employment programme which sends over three hundred workers to various jobs outsourced by several companies each day.  Dr Morgan says that he paid out salaries totaling $175 million last year – consider the financial boost this must have given the community. Real money, earned in dignity!
He has facilitated the establishment of micro-enterprises under the business incubator concept; he has partnered with Churches Co-op Credit Union to establish a Micro Finance Advisory Unit; AIR is developing JAMin tours to "Trench Town, the Maker and Mecca of Reggae Music" to 'Culture Yard' where Bob Marley lived and celebrated in his songs.
Reading Centre
Of course, none of this would have been possible without AIR's supportive Board and team.  Their Chairman is UTECH Lecturer Dr Horace Williams, while the experienced Mrs Debbie Dunn-Ferguson is Chief Operating Officer.   The calm professional Canadian-Jamaican Richard Lambie runs PEP, and Master musician Ye Kengale runs JAMin and DJ Lance is the expert in-house Engineer.  Tourism guru James Samuels who chairs the Kingston Metropolitan Resort Board is guiding the development of the 'Reggae Mekka' Tour, so we know it will be memorable.
Old Ambassador Theatre
Dr Morgan took us to the Trench Town Reading Centre where we met the visionary Roslyn Ellison, a Canadian who arrived by happenstance in Trench Town in 2004 and has established an oasis of learning.  Kerry-Jo Lyn, a senior executive of the Digicel Foundation who was part of our tour group confessed, "I didn't want to leave – there were so many great books that I could have just spent the day browsing through!" This place, just down the road on First Street where Bob Marley lived, has nurtured the minds of thousands of children throughout the years.
Two weeks ago Dr Henley Morgan was invested with the National Order of Distinction, Commander Class.  It is an honour long in coming but my friend would have had no issues if it never happened – as he offered up our meeting in prayer to our Maker, so has he offered up his life in inestimable service to his fellow Jamaicans.

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