Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Olympian efforts to make Jamaica a place of safety

Observer column for MON 22 JAN 2018
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

The generous  Jamaican Olympic Legend Usain Bolt committed J$1 million to the
rebuilding of Walker's Place of Safety

I can write volumes about our experience thirty years ago with a so-called ‘place of safety’ for children. We had decided to adopt a second child and were told that we could visit the baby boy who was being kept at a ‘place of safety’ until our home could be passed for his relocation as the first step of the process.

We fell in love with the sweet four-week-old, and were concerned that he was so congested and that he was not being changed often enough.  We were permitted to take him to the doctor and filled his prescription.  We brought the medicine, diapers and other items to ensure that he was well supplied.
You can imagine our distress when we discovered by the next day that all the items including the medicine had been stolen.  We had to visit more frequently to give him his regular dosage and change him ourselves.

The facility was a disgrace – we learned to jump up the steps quickly because they were crawling with insects at night.  We were relieved when we could finally take our baby home, so sick that over the next three months he had to be on several courses of antibiotics.

We felt sorry for the manager of the home, a nurse who seemed frustrated in her efforts to manage the staff. Within that year, perhaps due to our and other complaints, that so-called ‘place of safety’, located on the lower end of Lady Musgrave Road was closed.

For us, the story has a happy ending, as our son Noel, now a protective six-footer and a manager in our business, is looking forward to the celebration of his 30th birthday this week.

For Anna Kay Moreland and Anika McCrea, who perished in the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety last week, their story had the most tragic of endings.  The wringing of hands reminds us of what followed the fire at the Armadale Correctional Centre in 2009 which took the lives of seven teenaged girls.
We are not judging the staff at Walker’s Place of Safety, because we understand that some of these institutions can barely make ends meet with the resources they have.  However, we must judge ourselves who call ourselves leaders in this country.  Whether we are members of the private or public sector, we have to become more committed and passionate about the well-being of our fellow Jamaicans, particularly the most vulnerable of our citizens.

Too little is being done and too slowly – it is up to us to push the envelope on child safety. The donations are important, but these should be followed up with urgent action.  The victims of the Armadale fire had to wait seven long years before damages were awarded. 

‘we are at war with ourselves’

If we do not look to the protection of our children, whether in institutions, at home, in school or on the street, we will never be able to solve Jamaica’s crime problem. If children are ill-treated, we cannot expect humane behaviour from them when they become adults.

In his stirring message at last week’s National Leadership Prayer Breakfast, Rev. Astor Carlyle noted: “Warm and generous are the words our visitors use to describe us, but the homicide figures show that we are at war with ourselves.”

He challenged Jamaicans to move out of their self-serving comfort zones: “when institutions and office bearers of healing and accompaniment misappropriate the trust vested in us to satisfy our selfish lust, then we are a people at odds with ourselves indeed .. a daunting side of the Jamaican reality”.

Since the start of the year, we see the result of our inactivity and insensitivity as we have lost count of the number of murders committed. We support the state of emergency in Montego Bay, but we know it did not have to come to this – too many wrongdoers have hypocritical supporters in high places.  No state of emergency will have long term results if the thug-hugging does not stop.

Step up with sports

Legendary Veronica Campbell-Brown
receives Icon Award from Gleaner
Manabing Director Chris Barnes 
Special Olympian Dave Oddman
receives Award from
Wisynco's Francois Chalifour
Special Olympian Romaine
Austin receives his Award

Jamaica cannot be prouder of our National Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year, Alia Atkinson and Omar McLeod. At last Friday’s RJR-Gleaner National Sports Awards, they both spoke passionately about perseverance and hard work, faith and the ability to handle failure. McLeod noted that our sports stars were so outstanding that one had to be an international champion to win the Jamaican honour. 

We heartily applauded Veronica Campbell-Brown for receiving the Iconic Award, moved by the tears of this humble but determined warrior of athletics who has earned more medals than even the great Usain Bolt.  We also noted the patriotic dedication of Don Anderson, recipient of the Chairman’s Award, who was Jamaica’s Olympic Chef de Mission for six consecutive Olympic Games.

We applauded loudly for Special Olympian gold medallists Dave Oddman and Romaine Austin, both speed skaters on ice, awarded for their outstanding performances in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, held in Austria. Austin’s gold was the first ever for a Jamaican performing on ice, related Lorna Bell, untiring Special Olympics Jamaica Executive Director.

Sports for Peace

How then, can we infuse these great qualities to heal our wounded nation? There may be a solution staring us in our faces, as so brilliantly outlined by GraceKennedy CEO Senator Don Wehby. He referred to the Sports section of Jamaica’s Vision 2030, outlining a dynamic national plan for sports, including ‘sports for peace’. This ‘Sports for Peace’ had us sitting up and listening keenly.   

Don Wehby receives a gift of appreciation from
RJR-Gleaner Group Senior Executive Yvonne Wilks O'Grady
“The United Nations recognizes the practice of sport as an instrument for promoting peace,” said Senator Wehby, “and for playing a significant role as a promoter of social integration and economic development. I strongly believe that sports can play a larger role in Jamaica’s fight against crime.”

He made the following points:  
It has an ability to unify people in a way that is unbelievable.  When you look at the crowd that gathers in Half Way Tree when Jamaica is about to perform on the World stage.  Every man woman and child is out there some with their pot covers and all are dressed in their Jamaican colours united to cheer on their champions .. One Jamaica –united with love and passion.

It serves as a positive outlet for the youth providing a channel for expression, building friendships and can deter risky behavior. It shows what can be achieved through hard work, determination, self-belief and fair play. 

It facilitates social development in under-resourced communities. There are so many community sports clubs around Jamaica with opportunities to nurture the interest of the youth and for harnessing talent.  These clubs need visionary partners and financial support in order to become sustainable sources of social reform in their respective communities.  Public-Private partnerships can work when we begin to see these associations as viable business opportunities.”

The power of sports will have North and South Korea marching under one flag for the Winter Olympics – what a message for this tiny country Jamaica.  Let’s get serious about sports for peace.


Lester Woolery - The Renaissance Man

Tribute to the late Lester Woolery, The Renaissance Man 

Updated from Jamaica Observer column of September 2008
By Jean Lowrie-Chin

There are such tired old clich├ęs about our civil servants, that I am always glad to celebrate the excellent individuals who choose to remain in the service because of the passion for their country.  Indeed, my late friend Lester Woolery was a renaissance man, weaving scientific terms and Virgil in riveting conversations, creating rate hybrids of roses, and making himself accessible to every friend in need.

A former director of pharmaceutical services in the Ministry of Health, Lester became the man who could source any drug from anywhere in the world.  Lester left no stone unturned to find hard-to-get prescriptions for Prime Ministers, Ambassadors and ordinary joes. You see, Lester was as passionate about people as he was about his profession. He earned the respect of friends from the British Universities he attended in the 50’s, and colleague consultants at PAHO, WHO, USAID AND UNDP.

In a tribute to Lester, his former student and colleague, Permanent Secretary for Health, the late Dr. Grace Allen-Young described his thoroughness, approachability and astounding knowledge of pharmacy.

Having worked in the efficient Canadian system with the head of that country’s FDA, Lester believed that there needs to be a reduction in Jamaica’s bureaucracy.  The Canadian system assumes that everyone is honest, and if they are found to be otherwise, the full force of the law is brought to bear against them. Lester Woolery believed that the job of the public servant is to assist commerce and to work in tandem with the private sector, not to put obstacles in their way.

After retiring from the civil service in the 90’s, Lester Woolery carefully examined the many offers he had from various companies.  The then small company Lasco, appealed to his pioneering spirit and he opened doors for most of the low-cost medications that bear their name.  Lester’s approach?  He transfixes associates with his humour and brilliance, and his awareness of cultures around the world.  He shared much appreciated books on Jamaica’s art and plants with Dr. Lulla, the head of the powerful Cipla pharmaceutical company of India.

As a humble St. James school boy, Lester Woolery won a sought-after parish scholarship for Cornwall College and later copped the “Eighty Pound Scholarship” for vocational training.  At Cornwall College, two years after him the winner of a similar scholarship was his lifelong friend, the late Professor Rex Nettleford.

Lester was a popular pharmaceutical agent for GraceKennedy who awarded him an Independence Scholarship to study Pharmacy at the University of London.  While there, he gained a further scholarship for the Masters in Pharmacy at the University College Hospital, where he studied at the feet of its famed Head of Pharmacy, Douglas Whittet.

“Those of us who won this type of scholarship had a sense of devotion and gratitude to our country,” reflected Lester. “In the Health Ministry we had a deep sense of concern for the sick, and our decisions were centred on this.”

Lester Woolery’s philosophy of substance over form and goodwill to all, whatever their political persuasion, was one that should inspire all members of government, including those in the new Opposition.

Lester was sought after at any gathering: you could not sit with him at a dinner party and not learn something new.  Here are a couple of his gems: If you want to cure the burn of hot pepper, simple rinse with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in a cup of water.  I tried this remedy and it worked almost instantly.  In your garden, if a fruit tree refuses to bear, bury a dead animal at its root.  Lester says this is an old Chinese practice.

Lester Woolery’s farm, Skyview, near the Blue Mountains, was home to some to some of the most exquisite hybrids of roses and rare birds.  He described himself as a flower friend to late prime minister, Michael Manley with whom he shared his special knowledge on horticulture, and whose farm was almost next door.  “Michael Manley instructed that only roses from his farm and mine should be used at his funeral,” Lester recalled. “And so it was.”

We marvelled at Lester’s youthfulness and attributed it to his sense of humour and his constant engagement with people and with nature.  He certainly kept the “civil” in his service to country, and we looked forward to hearing his tips on call in radio programmes, for which he attracted quite a following.  He was also a lecturer at UWI and the Kingston School of Nursing, Lester was a keen family man.  

A citation which I was proud to prepare for him read: “The excellence with which he has blazed through life has left a path so bright, and it is no wonder his children have all followed it.  A devoted father, it is to his eternal pride that he can view the accomplishments of each of his six children, who have established themselves as competent practitioners in the areas of medicine and business, and promising students in the fields of science and law.  He is a caring and witty husband to his lovely wife, Linda.”

Rest in Peace, my friend Lester!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Janice Budd - in God's garden

Below are Gerry McDaniel's reflections on the excellence and faith of Janice Budd, the late award-winning Jamaican journalist. 

*_From a Budd she grew to a  blooming flower in God's beautiful  garden_*

Yesterday I joined my media colleagues inside the Swallowfield Chapel in Kingston to say goodbye to an exceptional human being. 

In death, as in life, Janice Marjorie Budd was a uniting force in a divisive world. For two intense hours, there was no evidence of the typical bravado and egotistical vibe that characterizes most media gatherings. 

Inside that Chapel, we were all united by the stark realities of our shared humanity. We wept, we chuckled, laughed out loud...the mood moved through solidarity, sorrow, anger at the thief of cancer, introspection and personal accountability...to hope for life everlasting. 

The experience was at once emotionally draining and liberating. 

It was *church* in the most redemptive and restorative sense. 

By its difference, it was a clear reminder of why I tend to dislike funeral. THIS was not your garden variety sad-fest. It was a rich send off for a sister sold out to Christ in her demonstrated conviction.

It was dignified and devoid of bling, drama and national hype. It was intimate, serene and sincere. 

No distraction of a body in the sanctuary, it was a celebration of the indestructability of the soul that dies in Christ. 

The lead text summarizes the context beautifully.

_1 Thessalonians 4: 13. Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15. According to the Lord's word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Encouraging it was too.
Extremely encouraging. 
... And yes, challenging. 

 I was personally challenged to step out of the way while God works his wonders. In less than 50 years, Janice Budd demonstrated what a life well lived looks like. She used her talent for good.she pursued work that truly mattered in the long haul from the the hilltop home of the Jippy-jappa - Westwood - to the world of media, cutting through public and private sectors, with brief stops in Corporate. 

Through it all she was obsessed with quality, imbued with an engaging smile and a calm and beautiful spirit. 


The road less traveled, the narrow door. She chose to abandon the default position of bullyism that marks the practice of so many journalists to adding value to our understanding of this complex little space that we share. 

In his homily, Pastor David Henry tagged one of Jan's favourite expressions, "all for God's glory".

As her brother Trevor mentioned in the eulogy, even in what could have been the depths of depression over her deteriorating condition, when asked if she questioned God about the situation. She took the high road, saying, "No enuh, I am just listening to what God is trying to teach me."

So the message was entitled... 

*Finishing strong... All for God's glory.*

In a concise and pointed message, Pastor Henry touched many sensitive points but I will share my favourite two. 

*Man cannot fix the mess we're in*
Pastor Henry who is also an attorney at law was recently tapped to be part of a team to look into the execution of the State of Emergency currently in force in sections of St. James. 

While he will apply himself prayerfully and dutifully to that assignment he reminded in no uncertain terms that none of this mess... This national crisis of runaway murders can be fixed by external measures. He then dropped a gem for all times. 

*_The only foolproof Crime Plan is to love God  and love your neighbour as yourself_*

Not surprisingly, when I shared that through social media, the skeptics came out in full attack mode. One sarcastically wanted to know if that was like praying and waiting... 

You know what the scriptures say about the message of the cross to those who have not yet surrendered... It makes no sense. (Ref. 1 Corinthians 1:18)

At the core of the brilliance of this statement by the good pastor was the message of reconciliation. It is as incomprehensible as it is revolutionary. 

Romans 5: 8. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10. For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11. Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

The other point that resonated with me powerfully was this:

*True commitment to Christ by the standards of the world requires a 'scandalous exclusivity:*
The battle is not ours. We sow in faith and God will bless. His word never returns without some effect. 

_Isaiah 55: 10. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11. so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

From yesterday's whirlwind of emotions and introspection God has graciously granted me a quiet sense of peace and hope this morning, even as I feel the gap of Janice's physical absence from us. 

I want to encourage you with this reminder. 

_2 Thessalonians 3: 16. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. 18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Have a great Sunday and an awesome week. 

Nuff Love an' Bare BlessN
Your Brother
28 January 2018

Friday, January 5, 2018





Let us give thanks for those that provide moral and spiritual leadership to the Nation.
Let us ask God to equip them and use them to lead our citizens into living Godly lives.

Let us ask God to prosper them, those that work with them and the nation through them.

Let us give thanks for those who lead Ministries, Departments, Agencies of Government and Public Enterprises,
and manage the resources of the nation on behalf of its citizens.
Let us pray that God will bless them and their teams with wisdom, knowledge, integrity and the skills necessary to
improve national well-being.

Let us give thanks for the leadership of our Judiciary and Security Services that seek to reduce crime and injustice
despite the challenges and create a safer and more lawful Jamaica.
Let us pray that God will empower them to serve effectively and that they will serve with integrity, competence and
commitment. Let us especially pray that they will, with the support of all Jamaicans succeed in reducing crime and
preventing the abuse and killing of our children and vulnerable citizens.
Let us give thanks for our young leaders and those citizens who are taking on new roles of leadership.
Let us pray that their enthusiasm will grow, their wisdom will increase and their contributions will be positive and

Let us give thanks for those who provide leadership in the cultural and sports sectors, nurturing and promoting
talent, as we express our uniqueness as a nation.
Let us pray that God will inspire their creativity and develop their abilities to inspire performances and products
that uplift the spirit of the nation and enhance the life of our people.

Let us give thanks for those who formally and informally provide leadership in our communities and homes.
Let us ask God to inspire, equip and empower them to build strong families and healthy communities.

Let us give thanks to God for the men and women who give political leadership to the citizens of our nation. Let us
ask God to help them to provide exemplary leadership marked by; integrity, compassion, competence, character and love.