Friday, April 14, 2017

William Mahfood and Jamaica’s promise

Observer column published 10 April 2017

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

William Mahfood receives his award from
AFJ President Wendy Hart

Former US Ambassador to Jamaica Hon Brenda LaGrange-Johnson
US Ambassador Hon Luis Moreno  and Mrs Moreno
show respect to their National Anthem
 The large audience at the Four Seasons in Miami rose to its feet on the announcement of the recipient of the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) International Humanitarian Award – William Mahfood.  As the citation noted, “Generosity comes so naturally to William Mahfood that when he is thanked he seems almost unaware of his many kindnesses that have uplifted countless Jamaicans.”

 The tribute video featured Sister Mary Benedict Chung, who noted that as Chairman of the Laws Street Trade Training Centre, William Mahfood is never too busy to assist her in the service of Jamaica’s poor in Kingston’s inner city. The legendary Shaggy explained that it was when William sat with him and his wife Rebecca to create a structured approach, that the Shaggy Foundation really took off, earning millions for the Bustamante Hospital for Children. 
Philanthropy runs in the Mahfood family.  They are founders of Food for the Poor, now serving millions in 17 Caribbean and Latin American Countries. Their company WISYNCO has grown into a multi-billion group of companies, but as a staff member commented, their Chairman still makes the time for the humblest of his employees. During his recent presidency of the PSOJ, William was known for his energetic advocacy of good governance and the promotion on inclusivity for national partnership. 

The Mahfood Family with Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell
William Mahfood and friend Shaggy
Beverley Levy and Tourism Minister
Hon Edmund Bartlett

Shaggy and wife Rebecca enjoy the vibe
The elegant Hon Audrey Marks, Jamaican Ambaasador
to the US, and friends 
When the young politician Damion Crawford described his 1-2-3 plan for education in his community, William took the time to call me and bring Damion to my office, so I could write about this unique approach.  William Mahfood has a passion for education and has quietly supported and mentored many young Jamaicans.  William and his wife Frances are a philanthropic power couple – Frances (nee Feanny) is a giver in her own right and a caring nutritionist with the Heart Foundation of Jamaica. We are proud to know them.

 Other AFJ awardees were Mrs. Sheryl Gillian M. Wynter, a team member of the Consulate General of Jamaica in South Florida and Dr. Kevin Coy, a highly skilled cardiologist who has saved many lives in his capacity as a Senior Physician at the Aventura Hospital and Medical Centre of Mercy Hospital in South Florida. 

Former US Ambassador to Jamaica,
the inspiring Hon. Pamela Bridgewater presents
an award to Mrs. Sheryl Gillian M. Wynter
The pledges came in thick and fast at the Charity Gala, bolstering the US$310,000 presented to various Jamaican organisations last Monday by the AFJ. The Board of the American Friends of Jamaica comprise former US Ambassadors to Jamaica and their colleagues.  The AFJ Board is led by President Wendy Hart, Presidents Emeriti retired Ambassadors Glen Holden, Sue Cobb, and Brenda Johnson, Treasurer Barron Channer, Secretary James A. Coda, and other Directors, retired Ambassadors Pamela Bridgewater and J. Gary Cooper; other philanthropists Patricia Falkenberg, Monica Ladd, Paula Campbell Roberts, Michele Rollins, Dr. Laura Tanna, Glenn Creamer and Sydney Engel.
Dr Kevin Coy with his Award

To date, the American Friends of Jamaica have contributed over J$60M (US$470,000).  Recipients include The Alpha Institute, The Good Shepherd Foundation, Fight for Peace, The Pocket Rocket Foundation, Cornwall Regional Hospital and SOS Children’s Village. This outpouring of support shows how convinced our international friends are of our potential.  Now we need to match strides with them to show our appreciation for their faith in our country.  


Why is it that so many Jamaicans are not moved to do for our own country what others do for us? Perhaps our people are disheartened about the garbage, joblessness and are immobilized out of frustration. However, it becomes very embarrassing when those outside of our country continue to give so willingly while we become closed to the neediest among us.  While our people should be getting closer attention from our Members of Parliament and Councillors, it is still our duty as citizens to reach out to others. No innocent child or helpless elderly should be allowed to suffer because “is Govament business”.

The horrendous murder of a 14-year-old by an 11-year-old in Trelawny led to the discovery by the Child Development Agency of a five-year-old in the same district being mercilessly abused.  This co-incidental discovery leads one to wonder how much child abuse is going unnoticed throughout our country.

Without early intervention, traumatized children will manifest their anger in the anti-social behaviour that is rife in the country. Again, this column repeats the call for an incentive programme to train more social workers to promote harmony in families and in communities.

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