Friday, September 30, 2016

Important contact numbers from ODPEM

RAFA Jamaica – 70 years serving our brave veterans

excerpt from column by Jean Lowrie-Chin published in the Jamaica Observer
His Excellency Most Hon Sir Patrick Allen raises a toast to RAFA Jamaica in celebration of their 70th Anniversary 
Maj. General Robert Neish, RAFA President
The Royal Air Forces Association (RAFA) Jamaica Branch (580) held an elegant 70th Anniversary Banquet last Wednesday at Curphey Place, at which Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, their Patron and Lady Allen were guests of honour.  Sir Patrick hailed the Jamaican World War II veterans who fought for the Allied Forces.

“A resounding message out of the service of the veterans,” the GG noted, “is that no good cause or just demand should be ignored by those who have the means to make a difference.”

An Officer who epitomises the excellence and courage of our army officers, is the President of RAFA Jamaica Branch, Retired JDF Chief of Staff, Major General Robert Neish. General Neish’s family connection to the Royal Air Forces dates back to World War I when his great uncle commanded the first contingent of Jamaicans that served in World War I and his uncles were members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. His father served in World War II.

At the head table with the Governor-General, L-R: Major Rev. Denston Smalling, JDF Chaplain; Major (ret'd) Johanna Lewin, Chairman RAFA Jamaica Branch; Brigadier Rocky Meade, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff JDF; WO1 Albert Hird, Band Master Jamaica Military Band; Major General (ret'd) Robert Neish, President RAFA Jamaica Branch.

At a young 76, General Neish can look back on an outstanding career, having joined the Army in 1958 and was sent to the Royal Military Academy – Sandhurst in England for two years. Upon his return, the Federation was disbanded and at the time of Independence, the Jamaica Defence Force was formed. He was posted at Newcastle as a Training Officer.

Sir Patrick greets Dennis Boothe, World War 2 RAF Veteran and Life Vice President RAFA Jamaica Branch, while Vice President of RAFA Jamaica, Merline Bardowell looks on.
In 1963, the Air Wing Unit of the JDF was formed and General Neish volunteered to be trained as a helicopter pilot by a British Major at Up Park Camp. Of significance are his participation in the assistance given when Jamaica experienced severe flooding as a result of heavy rains caused by Hurricane Flora in 1963, and daring rescue operations. This earned him enduring gratitude and respect. In January 1964 he received his Air Wings and was pinned by the then Prime Minister, the Right Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante.

After retirement, General Neish took up the challenge of serving as the first Executive Director of the Digicel Foundation, setting unshakeable standards of dedication and community engagement which still guide the Foundation. 
The Chairman of RAFA is Major (Ret’d) Johanna Lewin who was Jamaica’s first female flight officer with JDF and the daughter of the legendary folklorist and musician Olive Lewin.  Even as she holds a high position at a Government Agency, this fine leader continues to lend her energy and insight to RAFA. 

She and RAFA Executive Committee Members, including President, Major General Neish, Vice Chair Merline Bardowell, Dennis Boothe, Barry Beckford, Roy A Knight, Stanley Ottey, Brigadier Rocky Meade, and Valerie Tate, have been implementing a series of events to mark this milestone of RAFA. 

Congratulations RAFA Jamaica, outstanding volunteers who work to support our courageous RAF veterans.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Tribute To A Prince – Ian Martin salutes Prince Buster

By Ian Martin

He proclaimed himself as King of ‘Ska’, the beat that became the forerunner for Jamaica’s own Rock Steady and Reggae beats. He was a no-nonsense jurist who casted judicial restraint to the wind. His verdicts were swift and sure. As the proverbial Judge Dread, he handed down some ridiculously lengthy and harsh sentences. Today some of those sentences would be considered cruel and inhumane on many international fronts. He was a singer, songwriter and record producer. Born Cecil Bustamante Campbell, he was professionally known as Prince Buster. His outlook on life was “Enjoy yourself; it’s later than you think”.

On September 8, 2016, Prince Buster passed away at a hospital in Florida. No sooner than his death was announced, the social media came alive with some glaring tributes to Buster.
Undoubtedly, Buster was one of Jamaica’s greatest entertainers during the 1960’s.  The responsive recordings between him and another Jamaican legend, Derrick Morgan are often talked about at Jamaican social gatherings. During some of those recordings, the two men resorted to some serious name calling, as they battled for bragging rights as to which of their related recording studio ruled Orange Street. Despite the rivalry, there was an unbroken and profound friendship between the two entertainers.

Buster was dauntless and controversial. He was dauntless in the sense that he was not afraid to bring Jamaica’s troubling and pressing social issues to the forefront through his music. He was a thorn in the flesh of ‘so-called rude boys’ and gunmen. He was not afraid to rebuke them by way of his musical works. Judge Dread, one of his works told the tale of the scorn he bore for the ‘so-called rude boys’ and gunmen.

He was controversial to a fault. Many of his personal recordings were banned from the Jamaican airwaves and considered baneful to children ears. Taking a page out of the Mighty Sparrow’s book highlighting his sexual prowess, Buster made lyrical mockery of Tony Joe White’s work “Rainy Night in Georgia”

It did not matter that some of Buster’s works garnered no play on the Jamaican airwaves. Truth be told, his sanctioned songs were heard on jukeboxes in shops and bars all over Jamaica. Another truth was many of those jukeboxes were owned by the Prince. Globally, Buster’s stock took off. His message to the Jamaican airwaves police was he Buster was “A Hard Man Fe Dead”.

The Prince was also a philanthropist and a successful entrepreneur. Many credit his success to another Jamaican music icon, Clement ‘Coxsone” Dodd with whom Buster worked as a studio-hand and security guard. However, a good friend of mine, former YMCA and Jamaican footballer, Hector Henry, who roamed the streets of Kingston with Buster during their heydays, strongly disagree with such a position.

According to Mr. Henry, Buster earned his business acumen while operating a fleet of handcarts in the Kingston Metropolitan markets. In defending his position, he remarked how Buster built the fleet of handcarts and rented them to the small and downtrodden men on a weekly basis enabling them to put food on their table.

Buster’s songs are known for their easy catching phrases and upbeat tempo. His negro-spiritual type works, “Wings of A Dove” and “Wash, Wash” (Wash All Your Troubles Away) were very popular with Jamaicans of all age group. The Prince was very versatile. His cover version of James Carr’s “The Dark End of The Street” and the Beetles’ “All My Loving” is a testament of his versatility. My personal favorite piece of Buster’s works happens to be his prophetic warning song “Tongue Will Tell”.

With the advent of the Reggae beat, Buster gradually departed the recording scene. Although he appeared in a few music festivals in the 1980’s in the UK and Canada, and resumed recording in the early 1990’s, he could not revive the Prince Buster of the 1960’s early 70’s.
In 2001, the Prince was duly awarded the Order of Distinction by the Government of Jamaica for his contribution to music. In bringing my tribute to the legendary Prince Buster to an end, I would like to bid him a royal salute, and express deepest sympathy to his family, relatives, friends and fans and bid the Prince a peaceful rest.

Ian D. Martin
Brooklyn, New York


PAJ mourns passing of Ingrid Brown - dedicated member and fine journalist

The Press Association of Jamaica is again mourning the passing of one of its own, with the death of former Secretary of the Association and multiple-award-winning Associate Editor of the Jamaica Observer Ingrid Brown.
Ingrid served as Secretary of the PAJ from 2012-2014, a task she performed with her trademark diligence. She also represented the PAJ on the board of the Jamaican Copyright Licensing Agency (JAMCOPY).

Ingrid began her journalism career in 1994, working at the now defunct Jamaica Herald, and by 1995, had already won her first professional award from the PAJ for her human interest stories.

Ingrid also worked with the Gleaner, and the Jamaica Information Service, but most of her professional life was spent at her Jamaica Observer, where she thrived, rising to the position of Associate Editor.

Apart from additional Awards from the Press Association Award for Best Feature story in 2008 and Best News Story for 2010, she also won awards from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Fair Play Awards.

In 2011, Ingrid spoke at the PAJ's World Press Freedom Day breakfast. She said, inter alia, the following:

"As journalists we must commit to performing our professional duties with intelligence, objectivity, accuracy and fairness. More important than having that front-page story or that leading item in the newscast is the commitment to ensure that the information being disseminated is accurate, true and fair to all parties concerned.
"As members of the fourth estate we have the awesome responsibility to inform, educate and entertain. But do we realise that information released in the public domain does not go away with an apology? We know that we Jamaicans are of the opinion that 'if it no go so, then is near so'. And for those of us who had the privilege of growing up in small, rural communities we would have first-hand knowledge of how information first told about someone can take on a life of its own and is told far and wide."

In a thought-provoking presentation which is worth revisiting as we in the media continue to grapple with ethical issues, she shared this story:

"I remember as a young girl growing up in deep rural St Catherine where the story is told of a man who stole his neighbour's donkey. In order to avoid detection he changed the donkey's complexion from a light grey to a lovely brown with the aid of a couple bottles of dye. And even as he disguised his neighbour's donkey he was instrumental in leading the search for this donkey who it was believed had broken free and wandered off. But, as the story is told, a few weeks later a heavy shower of rain came and washed the dye off the donkey, revealing the trickery which had occurred.

"To this day I still don't know if this story was true, but what I clearly recall is the hell the children of that man went through as they were teased and called all kinds of names by kids who, like myself, had no evidence that this did happen but had relied on second-hand information from even those who had heard it from someone else.
"Never let us, as journalists, contribute to disseminating information which, while making juicy and, as some of my colleagues say, "sexy" stories, will damage someone's reputation and that of family before ensuring that we have the facts."

Ingrid had completed her law degree, and was about to embark on her studies at the Norman Manley Law School. Although becoming ill several months ago, she continued her studies, as well as her editorial work at the Jamaica Observer until ill health forced her to stop. Her work ethic was beyond question.

But apart from her strong work ethic, and the high quality of her work, Ingrid was, quite simply, a sweet and wonderful person whom colleagues remember as a pleasure to work with.

In this year in which the media fraternity has suffered loss after loss, Ingrid's passing is yet another blow, yet another loss of an outstanding colleague and human being.

We express condolences to her family, the Jamaica Observer family and her friends. We mourn with you.                                                                                                                                   
Contact:          Dionne Jackson Miller, President
                       Rohan Powell,            Secretary
"A Free Press, Oxygen of Democracy"


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Let mercy flow this week!

Observer column for MON 19 SEPT 2016

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Governor General Sir Patrick Allen has issued a Proclamation that from this year onwards, the week in which September 24, Mercy Day, falls, will be National Mercy Week.  Here is an excerpt from the Proclamation:
“Whereas, at this juncture in the Jamaican society, there is a constant call from citizens for justice tempered with mercy, in this global year of Mercy ... and for the past 136 Years, Alpha has served as a place of safety and refuge, extending Mercy values … and whereas showing mercy will foster a more caring society in the island of Jamaica. I do hereby proclaim the week in which the 24th day of September falls annually, National Mercy Week, and urge all citizens to join with the Mercy Sisters and Associates in Jamaica, the originators of this observance, in recognition and thanksgiving for fostering works of mercy in our island, demonstrating the mercy of God to all humankind.”

This was read at the launch of Mercy Week and the announcement of plans for the Alpha Historical Museum on Friday, which was blessed by a distinguished student of the Sisters of Mercy, St. Catherine High School graduate Archbishop Kenneth Richards.

Deputy British High Commissioner Julia Sutherland (2nd left) with Archbishop Emeritus Charles Dufour, and from left Enith Williams; Carmen Rives Ruiz-Tapiador, Charge d'Affaires at the Embassy of Spain and Errol Moo Young. Mrs Sutherland worships regularly at the Holy Trinity Cathedral where this photo was taken. (Jean Lowrie-Chin photo) 

Keynote speaker Britain’s Deputy High Commissioner to Jamaica, Mrs Julia Sutherland, in congratulating the Sisters on their project, quoted our own National Hero Marcus Garvey: “A people without knowledge of past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.” She said Kingston had a rich culture; she was happy to discover Jamaica's beautiful Holy Trinity Cathedral in Downtown Kingston, and is a regular worshipper there. 

Students from various organisations run by the Sisters of Mercy shared their experiences in ‘Mercy Storytelling’.  The retired teacher Mrs Blake from Seaford Town recalls how a Mercy Sister organised a scholarship for St. Joseph’s Teachers College when her family was having hard times.  Communications guru Berl Francis related how Sister Mary Bernadette’s insistence on her taking French classes led her to becoming a journalist with the prestigious Montreal Gazette.

The famous Alpha Boys Band
Graduate of Alpha Boys School and St John Bosco School Devon Gaynor gave a witty account of those days with a litany beginning with, “It was mercy that …” and shared how Sister Ignatius, Sister Magdalene, Sister Regine and Sister Susan showed them the tough love that made them into good men.    

Hugh Douse, owner of the Nexus Performing Arts and talk show host, related how Sister Mary Paschal Figueroa opened up St Catherine High School to male students, affording him and his brother the opportunity of a fine Mercy education.  He reminded us that our Prime Minister is a St. Catherine High graduate, as well as our Archbishop.

This week, there will be two Panel Discussions open to the public with the theme, “Mercy – the Unexpected Path to Justice”, the first at the UWI Mona Library on Tuesday 20 September and on Thursday 22 September in Montego Bay at Mount Alvernia Conference Hall.

In the annual observance of Mercy Week and the Alpha Historical Museum, we draw from our deepest spiritual roots to make us a stronger and more compassionate nation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

STGC Tragedy - Rest in Peace Dominic James

Tragedy beyond description.... STGC Captain Dominic James collapses in game.... pronounced dead at hospital
By Lloyd Tenn

It is a very sad day for day for the St. George's College community.

Manning Cup captain Dominic James collapsed on the Stadium East football field after two minutes into the game against Excelsior High this afternoon.
He was rushed to the University Hospital but pronounced dead.

I am saddened to my core. I pray for his parents, Denise and David at the passing of their only child. They must now face the pain of this sad event.

May Dominic and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. AMEN.

Lloyd Tenn


Monday, September 19, 2016

Activist Sr Marilyn Lacey for Mercy Week in Jamaica

The renowned Sister Marilyn Lacey, a Religious Sister of Mercy (RSM)  will speak on the topic,  'Mercy: the Unexpected Path to Justice'  at Mercy Week Panel Discussions to be held in Commemoration of Jamaica's first Mercy Week,  proclaimed to be an annual event by His Excellency,  Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. 

The Panel Discussions will be held on Tuesday,  Sept 20 at 5pm at the UWI Library,  Mona,  and on Thursday Sept 22 at 4pm at the Mount Alvernia Conference Centre.

Sister Marilyn Lacey is passionate about making the world a more welcoming place for refugees and migrants. She has stood with displaced persons for over 30 years.  Marilyn was personally honored by the Dalai Lama in 2001 as an "Unsung Hero of Compassion" for her life's work. 

Although she holds an Master's in Social Work from U.C. Berkeley and 3 honorary doctorates, she insists that the poor have been her best teachers.  In 2009 Marilyn wrote a memoir, 'This Flowing Toward Me: A Story of God Arriving in Strangers'.  She is the founder and Executive Director of Mercy Beyond Borders, a nonprofit partnering now working with displaced women and girls in South Sudan and in Haiti to alleviate their extreme poverty.

Sister Marilyn has helped refugees in the Lao-Thai border, Sudanese and Somali camps in Kenya and has also worked extensively with the Lost Boys of Sudan helping them to resettle safely in the United States.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Jamaica needs our brightest and best

Prime Minister Andrew Holness lauds Audrey Marks, Jamaica's newly appointed Ambassador to the US at Vale Royal last Friday.  Sharing the moment is his wife, Mrs Juliet Holness. 
Observer column for MON 12 SEPTEMBER 2016

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

PM Andrew Holness has made the wise move of appointing Audrey Marks as Jamaica's Ambassador to the United States, her second such assignment.  We applaud Ambassador Marks who has been the subject of this column more than once, because she is such an excellent role model for young Jamaicans.  She has worked tirelessly, created employment for hundreds through Paymaster, and has taken leadership roles in both the public and private sectors because of her unflagging faith in her beloved country.

In her previous Washington assignment, she introduced such investors as Digicel Chairman Denis O'Brien to prospective US investors, so they could learn about the many opportunities we offer.  She forged ties with the Jamaica Diaspora, traveling throughout the US, to stir their interest in their homeland.

We are blessed that this excellent entrepreneur and management guru is back in Washington DC, where she can enhance our country's image and build important relationships. She will do us proud!

With this commendation, who knows how I will be labelled this week?  Last week I was branded a PNP when I wrote that greater respect was due to Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller.  Over the past 15 years, this column has lauded and criticized leaders on both sides of the fence. There are fine representatives in both parties whom I consider my friends and who know how passionate I am about the development of our beloved country.

That being said, I do see the dilemma that government operatives face in making appointments. In fact, I believe that the Bruce Golding-led JLP Government may have suffered a few setbacks because of an idealistic decision to keep certain individuals in certain positions. At that time, I recall having to convene a meeting at my office for a new Government official to meet the head of a government agency as the person's efforts faced daily roadblocks, which could only be described as sabotage. 

We dearly hope for the day when Jamaica will be able to identify a cadre of brilliant professionals who have been proved to be trustworthy nation builders. If we believe there is a shortage of such persons, we should know that many have tried and have left this country in frustration.

Let our leaders work at finding the brightest and the best among us, and those in the diaspora who still wish to become nation builders. The recent Business and Consumer Confidence report shows that there is much optimism. With strong leadership we can fulfill the prediction of Jamaica Exporters Association President Michelle Chong, that 'Jamaica is ready to take off'.

Local Government Elections

As Local Government Elections approach, while the political representatives use so much of their energy and focus on gaining power, little is left to address the needs of the people. I remember one politician describing Jamaica as "a patient in crisis". He said that this "patient Jamaica" had so many multiple issues that even as one was being addressed, the other was getting worse.

With all due respect to that Minister, our leaders must ask themselves why countries many times larger than us, with fewer natural resources are thriving better than we are.  The buck stops with our leaders both in Government and in Local Government.

The allegations and rumours around campaign financing are very disturbing. When we consider that a complete Food for the Poor house can be built for US$3,200, consider how many of our poor those millions could house!

Campaign Financing

We fully endorse the call by the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica for the laws governing Campaign Financing to be enacted so that our country can be viewed in a positive light by the many investors who have expressed interest in partnering with our people.  If our political parties cannot embrace a transparent system for Campaign Financing, it calls into question their integrity.

Even as I believe that we should show respect for all persons as we sing in our Anthem, that respect has to be returned by our leaders.  Those who have run afoul of the law and have unhealthy alliances are simply not worthy of leading us.

Our Luke Lane Visit

When a group of us from the 51% Coalition and the Women's Resource Outreach Centre (WROC) visited the family of young Demario Whyte, who was so tragically killed in what is being described as gang warfare, we were touched by the deep love and unity among the family members we met.

There was a poster near the gate with a series of hearts in which folks had written beautiful messages to baby Demario and there was a large colour poster from which the shining eyes of Demario broke our hearts.

Jamaica's children have a right to a safe environment in which to grow. The harsh words from political platforms have created an atmosphere of tension and hostility which is rippling throughout the nation.  If our people cannot look to our leaders for responsible and mature conduct, where else can they look?

Week of Mercy in Jamaica

As we celebrate the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Kolkata, we look forward to the celebration of Mercy Week, beginning this Friday, September 16.  As Shakespeare's character says in 'The Merchant of Venice': "The quality of mercy is not strain'd …It is an attribute to God himself."
The first Jamaican Sister of Mercy was Jessie Ripoll, who with two friends bought land at South Camp Road in 1880, and started Alpha Cottage, an orphanage. With the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy in 1890, this blossomed into islandwide missions for health, education and residential children's homes.
A highlight of the Week will be a Public Lecture and Panel Discussion next Tuesday, 20 September at 5pm at the UWI Library Multifunctional Room, by the inspiring Marilyn Lacey, a Religious Sister of Mercy (RSM), who has worked with migrants and refugees worldwide and has received multiple international honours for her compassionate outreach.  Her topic is: 'MERCY: God's Unexpected Path to Justice'.
Other speakers and panelists are Dr Leith Dunn (Chair), Sr. Theresa Lowe Ching RSM, Dr Anna Kasafi Perkins, Rev Fr. Peter McIsaacs SJ, Sr. Mary Theresa Jackson, RSM, Rev Dr Margaret Fowler of Hope United and Sr. Dr Debbie Ann Chambers RSM.
This Friday evening, there will be a Launch of the Mercy Historical Centre at my beloved Alma Mater, Convent of Mercy Academy 'Alpha'.  Guest speaker will be UK Deputy High Commissioner, Graham Glover.
Let Mercy guide our steps this week.
Jean Lowrie-Chin

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Unforgettable Fred Wilmot

A fitting farewell to a magnificent gentleman!
Observer column published MON 5 SEPT 2016

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Fred Wilmot was the ultimate mentor. We were the grateful recipients of the matchless guidance of this foundation Executive Director of the Jamaica Exporters Association, after our shop won the tender for the JMA-JEA Expo Trade Show in the early eighties.

Fred Wilmot, brilliant journalist, playwright and communications expert would say. “Jeanie baby, let us discuss this programme.”  Then he would fine-tune the project till it sang of excellence.  Half-measures were never good enough for him and even if the truth hurt, you could expect it always. 

It was this integrity that piloted him through his 98-year life with his beloved wife Cynthia, who passed away last year, by his side.  Born in 1918 of Jamaican parentage in Toronto, Canada, Fred Wilmot was a man of many firsts.  After working in his Father’s electrical contracting business and serving in the Canadian Army (Infantry), he moved from freelance drama writing for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and in 1946 joined the Winnipeg Citizen as Canada’s first black full-time daily newspaper reporter.

He was Executive Director for the Committee to Combat Racial Intolerance, established an advertising agency and co-hosted the CBC western network jazz programme, ‘Rendezvous with Rhythm”.  He, Cynthia and sons traveled to Jamaica to visit his relatives in 1950 and decided to remain here, buying the beachfront property in Bull Bay where they lived for the rest of their lives and which became home to four generations of Wilmots.

Fred was Editor of Public Opinion, broadcaster and presenter on RJR, beloved host of the ‘Round the World Quiz’ on JBC and was Executive Director of Public Relations for the Jamaica Tourist Board. He later started a PR consultancy, serving major airlines and hotels.

In 1973, Fred’s appointment as Executive Director of the Jamaica Exporters Association, marked a new era in export as his dynamic leadership saw membership in the JEA increasing from 70 to over 300 members. Over the next 14 years, he managed trade missions to the Caribbean, Central and South America, Canada, the US, UK, and to the Vancouver Expo.  He was one of the prime movers of the popular JMA-JEA Trade Expo at the National Arena.

Fred came out of retirement in 1990 to serve as Executive Director of the Jamaica Information Service and after retiring in 1994, continued to write and lecture at CARIMAC. He was conferred with the Order of Distinction, Commander Class in 1992 and among many other awards, was made Honorary Life Member of the Press Association of Jamaica and inducted in the Jamaica Jazz Hall of Fame by the Jamaica Musicians Association.

This standard bearing wordsmith has authored numerous columns, articles, editorials, scripts for documentaries and dramas and programmes for the CBC, RJR and JBC. Fred Wilmot made time for everyone, and was a pillar for Maurice Garrison’s Twin City Sun. He was the beloved Grand-Dad for the Jamaica Surf Association which grew to international fame right there on the Bull Bay Beach, where he gloried in the achievements of his children and grandchildren.

I had asked Fred why he did not go to church. With some pain in his voice, he related how his parents were avid church goers and got him involved in the church in Toronto from a very early age. As a teenager, he was a youth group leader and they had a party in the church hall.  The Minister’s teenage daughter asked Fred if he would dance with her. He did and afterwards, he was called to a meeting with his pastor. He said to his astonishment, the pastor was angry and told him that he was never to go near his daughter again. Fred said he left the church never again set foot in any church again.  

At another dance in Canada, he met a beautiful white lady, Cynthia who would become his beloved wife for 72 radiant years. They are celebrated in a column I wrote on their 65th anniversary in 2008, headlined ‘Life on their own terms’.

As this column goes to press, Fred’s family will celebrate their beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather with a Jazz Night on the Beach at Jamnesia, Eight Miles, Bull Bay.  It will feature his precious collection of jazz.  No doubt, Fred and his beloved Cynthia will be smiling their approval of this unique honour for a man whose legacy is immeasurable.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

#ILD - Reading the Past, Writing the Future

Opening of Digicel-USAID-Ministry of Education Enrichment Centre at top performing Horizon Park Primary.

Today, Thursday, September 8, is being celebrated globally as International Literacy Day (ILD), under the theme 'Reading the Past, Writing the Future' .

It will mark the 50th anniversary of the ILD, focusing on  the efforts made over the past five decades in increasing literacy rates around the world, while addressing the current challenges and identifying innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.

In Jamaica,  the Literacy Enrichment Programme a partnership of the Digicel Foundation, USAID and the Ministry of Education was launched three years ago to use ICT as an intervention tool to improve the literacy skills of children performing below the required aptitude levels prior to the National Grade Four Literacy Examination.

Since 2013, over 40,000 children have benefitted from the project, with over 250 teachers trained. Enrichment Centres are built and outfitted with computers, audio visual equipment and teaching tools within primary schools. Students between grades one and three who are reading below their grade level, are selected for enrolment and given special literacy and numeracy lessons to accelerate learning. The Foundation has been directly supporting the MOE's goal of achieving a national average of 85% literacy by 2015, which was not only met, but surpassed.

Year - National Literacy Average
2012 - 72
2013 - 74
2014 - 75
2015 - 86.5

These results are indeed heartening.

Jean Lowrie-Chin (Chairman,  Digicel Jamaica Foundation)


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Celebrating the Canonization of Mother Teresa

Information courtesy of Keith Brown

Mother Teresa, Patroness of Our Time
COMMENTARY: The most famous Christian of the 20th century spoke the truth to the powerful and to the powerless and loved them both.
SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER Saturday, Sep 03, 2016 

The 75th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Maximilian Kolbe on Aug. 14, falling just a fortnight after the visit of Pope Francis to the starvation bunker where he was killed, brought to mind the characterization of the Franciscan founder, missionary and journalist as the “patron of our difficult century” by St. John Paul II. The Polish Pope was speaking of how, amidst the brutalities of totalitarian atheism, St. Maximilian allowed the light of Christ to shine in the darkest moments.
All true enough, but it would seem that when Pope Francis canonizes Mother Teresa of Kolkata tomorrow( Sept. 4), the 20th century will truly have its patron saint, as no other figure manifested a heroic response to the challenges of the Church in our time.

Certainly John Paul had no doubts about her importance. He received her many times in Rome, established a convent of her Missionaries of Charity inside Vatican City to serve the poor and, upon her death in 1997, desired to move quickly and directly to her canonization, according to his priest-secretary, Father Mieczysław Mokrzycki, now archbishop of Lviv of the Latins in Ukraine. He was advised by the cardinals instead to proceed in the normal fashion, though he did waive the five-year waiting period.

She was beatified only six years after her death (only John Paul II himself would be beatified more quickly under the current norms), and he placed her beatification at the center of the events marking the 25th anniversary of his pontificate in October 2003.

Mother Teresa was the most famous Catholic of her time, save for the popes themselves. Her name became shorthand for heroic charitable work.

The Missionaries of Charity are the fastest-growing religious order in the world, starting with 12 sisters in 1950 to reach some 4,500 religious sisters today. That all this was achieved by a woman from Albania who moved to the slums of India is one of the mightiest works of God in our time.
The canonization of Mother Teresa was intended, along with the World Youth Day in Kraków honoring St. John Paul and St. Faustina, to be the highlight of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Providence however, lifted up a different contribution from the Missionaries of Charity (MC) for the Year of Mercy — the martyrdom of four MC sisters in Yemen in March, killed by Islamic jihadists. The killing of the sisters in Yemen highlighted that Mother Teresa’s sisters serve in the most desperate of situations, caring for the poor and the wretched in places where few others will go.
In canonizing Mother Teresa during the jubilee year, Pope Francis finds a suitable model for a Church that is poor for the poor.

It is integral in her living out of the Church’s social teaching, united in the life of prayer and of service.

She was distinctive in her renewal of religious life, strong in feminine discipleship, authentically Catholic in her encounter with other faiths and heroic in the face of persecution. We might call these the seven particular patronages of Mother Teresa, patron of our time.

Poor for the Poor
Pope Francis, in the earliest days of his pontificate, famously dreamed of a “poor Church for the poor.” Mother Teresa lived that reality, renouncing everything to live in the slums of Kolkata and pledging herself to serve not the poor, but the poorest of the poor.
In the second half of the 20th century, the Church had to contend with atheistic communism and the sexual revolution from without and doctrinal, moral and liturgical turmoil from within. All that meant that the Church’s traditional works of charity became less prominent. In the midst of that, Mother Teresa was able to carry out in a radical way the ancient diakonia — charitable service — of the Church on a scale never before done for the most wretched of the earth, based in a country where Christians make up a tiny percentage of the population. The most famous Catholic personality of the 20th century was the face of a poor Church for the poor.

Human Development
In the aftermath of the social upheavals of the 1960s, there arose a practical polarization in the life of the Church, with many working for social justice but also embracing aspects of the sexual revolution, in contrast to those who put a priority on pro-life witness, marriage and family.
Often characterized as a division between “liberal” and “conservative” Catholics, Pope Benedict XVI argued (in 2009) that both are necessary, noting that it was the same pope celebrated for his advocacy of development in Populorum Progressio (The Development of Peoples) who wroteHumanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI.

The charitable work of the Church cannot be separated from the truth about the human person, wrote Pope Benedict, using the term “integral human development” to describe working for charity in truth. Mother Teresa’s charitable work earned her the admiration of the powerful, allowing her to speak at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Oslo in 1979 and the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington in 1994. At the former, she spoke about abortion as the destroyer of peace, and at the latter, she spoke about contraception. There is no group in the Church more “liberal” in their care for the poor or more “conservative” in their upholding of the Christian tradition on life, marriage and sexuality than the Missionaries of Charity. Last year in India, the religious congregation withdrew from providing adoption services after the Indian government insisted that they place children with single people and unmarried couples.

Prayer and Service
Another great division that arose in Catholic life was between the life of piety — prayer and the sacraments — and the life of charitable service. Some religious orders went over to a certain kind of activism, leaving behind the common life of prayer, while in parishes it was not uncommon to have prayer groups and service groups working separately and involving wholly different parts of the parish.
Visitors to Mother Teresa’s convents are struck by the priority the sisters put on their common life of prayer, especially Eucharistic prayer, which Mother Teresa insisted was the most important part of their day and what made the rest of the day possible. It was in recognizing and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist that she was able to recognize and serve Jesus in the poor.

Renewal of Religious Life
It would be hard to think of anything more damaging to the life of the Church than the collapse of religious life. The principal engine in the Church of both prayer and service has stalled in some sectors. Vast areas of the Church now live a sort of amputated existence, with many religious in nursing homes, although there are hopeful new vocations in vibrant orders.
As other convents were emptying and religious vocations on the decline, Mother Teresa’s order grew rapidly, offering new entrants a life of austerity and great rigor. That the Missionaries of Charity thrived while almost everyone else was dying was a critical factor in the limited renewal of religious life that is now seen in some pockets of North America and Europe. The Church is not whole without religious life, and the Missionaries of Charity were, for many years, the principal light in a very dark time.

Feminine Discipleship
The collapse of religious life in many areas meant that the feminine face of discipleship was practically lost for many Catholics. When religious sisters were common, it was often consecrated women who were the face of the Church — in the parish school, at the Catholic hospital and the various forms of charitable service. The disappearance of religious in many areas rendered the Church disproportionately masculine in her day-to-day life.
Mother Teresa breathed life into the great tradition of the mulier fortis (formidable woman), who knew how to lead in a firm and feminine manner. There are hundreds of stories of cardinals and bishops who, finding themselves in the path of a determined Mother Teresa, quickly realized that resistance was futile.
Pope Francis often speaks to priests about making the maternal face of the Church more evident. Priests can do that, but not as well as someone who is simply called “Mother.”

Encounter With Other Faiths
Mother Teresa spent her life in India, where the number of Christians is tiny — less than 2% of the population. She served all who were in need and did not insist on conversion. Indeed, in her orphanages, her sisters would raise Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist children to follow their own faiths and try to find husbands or wives of the same religion for the children when they grew up. Their respect for the identity of others was unquestioned, and their own identity was unambiguous.
In a world where religious identity is often the source of tension, Mother Teresa showed that a strong identity, coupled with authentic service, is a valid path for authentic pluralism.

Christian Persecution
By the time of her death in 1997, Mother Teresa was so beloved in India that the government honored her with a state funeral. Yet life for her sisters in India, and in other countries where Christians were a tiny minority, was not without difficulties and even persecutions. The killings in Yemen in 2016 were not the first in that country; Missionaries of Charity were killed there, too, in 1998.
In the years since Mother Teresa’s death, anti-Christian violence in India has increased, and her sisters are found in many places in the world where the scourge of Islamic jihad makes life for Christians difficult and dangerous. The gentle sisters are courageous and serene in the face of all this, often providing the only “official” Church presence to Catholics under pressure. It is a lesson that the value of the Church’s charitable service is recognized even by those who would persecute her. There are many in the Church who speak about encounter and dialogue as the remedy for persecution from afar; the Missionaries of Charity live it on the street.

Finally, Mother Teresa is a model for a world saturated by a culture of celebrity. She knew how to use her fame to point to Christ and for the advantage of the poor. It is easy for religious leaders to achieve a measure of popularity by telling the regnant culture what it wants to hear, but that approval is superficial and transitory.

Mother Teresa, the most famous Christian of the 20th century, spoke the truth to the powerful and to the powerless and loved them both. Charity and truth were what she offered, and therefore her witness endures.

Father Raymond J. De Souza 
is editor in chief of 
Convivium magazine.
Alexey Gotovskiy/CNA


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mercy for Demario and our children

Observer column published 29 AUG 2016
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

We returned from the Rio Olympics inspired by our athletes, full of light and hope for our beautiful Jamaica.  But when the light of life is snuffed out in an innocent two-year-old, by a deliberate, execution-style gunshot, it is a heavy challenge to our faith.

Tanesha Mundle’s report in last Thursday’s Observer carries a photo of Demario Whyte holding a football almost as big as himself, neatly dressed in tracksuit and sneakers.  Now Demario will never get the chance to grow up and realise the dreams his parents had for him.  The downtown Kingston community on Luke Lane where the tragedy took place, is lined with pieces of black cloth, noted Mundle.

She wrote: “The shocking execution-style killing of a toddler on Luke Lane in downtown Kingston, on Tuesday night, has left residents in the community in fear and outrage.
“According to relatives, two-year-old Demario Whyte was shot in his head at point-blank range by the gunman after his injured father left him at the gate while trying to escape the gunman’s bullet.
“The boy along with his father and uncle were shot after gunmen drove into the community and started firing on the corner where the men were sitting around 8:30 pm.
“The child’s father was reportedly shot twice in his foot and once in the stomach while his brother was shot in the face. Both men are said to be in stable condition at the Kingston Public Hospital.
“Yesterday, when the Jamaica Observer visited the community the grief was obvious as residents stared into space while others openly shed tears and expressed anger at the gunman’s heartless behaviour.”

From the report we learn that Demario’s mother had taken up a job abroad, and that he and his father moved to the community five months before.   Demario’s grand-aunt noted that her nephew, Demario’s Dad, was a good father: “Him nuh stop cry, is him only child and is the only child for the mother. Him always deh on the verandah with the baby and every night a him put him to bed and have him pon him shoulder a shake him till him go sleep, no night no pass and him no put him to bed.”

For any serious politician who says she or he entered politics to serve the people of Jamaica, the cold-blooded murder of a two-year-old innocent must be one of the strongest calls ever, for them to insist on honest and empowering politics.  They know how the gangs started, and how some are still being nurtured by the cynical ones in their midst.  They know how decent communities, urban and rural, have been transformed into tenements where people are packed, as in a modern-day Middle-Passage slave shipment, to generate frightened votes.

Instead of the endless debates and discussions about strategies to win more power for their parties, we need them to point their colleagues in the right direction.  They need to address urgently the dangerous environment in which our low-income children are being raised. They must know that when good people do nothing, the breeding grounds of evil flourish. Every individual who buys phone credit is paying taxes, to support the security of our leaders.  We ask them, that the next time your tax-payer’s security opens the tax-payer’s car door for you, that you spare a thought for the safety of that little person whose GCT is making you safe.

I heard a representative of ISSA (Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association) sharing on the news last week, that some children only eat at school, where free meals are provided, as there is no food at home.  Will the 63 MPs and 216 Parish Councillors start engaging their communities and see how they can help these hungry children?  Or do they prefer to sign billion-dollar loans, feather their nests and leave it to churches and charities to do for the Jamaican people what they swore on the Bible that they would do?  Many volunteers in this country are contributing more that some of leaders, to ease the suffering of the poor.

In this year of mercy, as we contemplate the precious life of Demario Whyte and all the innocent lives lost to violence, we plead for compassion in our nation.  This compassion has to be without reservation for it to bring healing to our wounded communities.  It means we must also forgive those who became so brutalized by political expediency, that they saw no other way but thuggery.  It means we must have mercy on those who are trying to break out of the iron grips of gangs that have become more powerful than their instigators. It means that we must support the rehabilitation of those who have been imprisoned for their crimes so they can start their lives anew after they have served their time.

It calls for us to have more constructive engagements with our teens and school leavers via the National Parent Teachers Association, the Child Development Agency and the Social Development Commission, so they do not become ensnared in the scamming network.  The Police Youth Club alone cannot do this.

If our leadership on all sides adopt a spirit of compassion and cooperation, then we would be spending less time bickering over statements and power, and more time listening respectfully to each other, working towards a safer and more productive society.