Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Gout de France & Deaf Empowerment


Mrs Valerie Facey - Volunteering for the Jamaica Association for the Deaf for over 60 years.

With Claudia Gordon - Jamaica-born first deaf Black Attorney-at-Law in the US and great mentor for Jamaica's deaf youngsters.

On the first day of Spring, March 21, French Chefs the world over celebrate 'Gout de France' (Taste of France) and Jamaica continues to participate.  This year, the gracious couple, Ambassador of France Jean-Michel Despax and Madame Line Despax hosted the event at their residence, with all proceeds going to the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD).  The memorable feast was created by Michelin 3-star Chef Marcel Ravin of Monaco, supported by Jamaica's own Oji Jaja. Kudos to organizers, lead by the longest serving volunteer for the JAD, Mrs. Valerie Facey.


I also caught up last week with Jamaica-born Claudia Gordon, who is the first Black deaf woman lawyer in the US. She was head of the Obama White House division for disabilities, and is now a Legal Counsel with Sprint.  This passionate mentor of the deaf is encouraged by their increased integration in the workplace, citing Deaf Can! Coffee as a major success. She looks forward to a greater understanding by Jamaicans that the deaf have their own language and hopes that more emphasis will be placed on empowerment.


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chief Justice Brian Sykes, St George's College Class of 1977

By Dr Lloyd Tenn 

Chief Justice Brian Sykes was sworn in February 16, 2018 after a brief period of confusion within the Government.

Justice Sykes is highly respected within the legal circles. He was a Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, acted as a Puisne Judge and was called to the Supreme Court Bench in 2006.

At St. George's College, he was known to be a hard worker, producing quality work consistently. He always had insightful views in discussions in and outside of the class room.

Sr. M. Theresa Jackson RSM - fiercely, dedicated Jamaican

The Ministerial History of

Sr. M. Theresa Jackson, RSM  
R.I.P. March 9, 2018

by Sister Susan Frazer - Administrator, Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica

Sister Theresa (affectionally known as T.J.) has had a colorful and varied religious life with 90% of her ministry spent working for her Church, which she dearly loved.

Before beginning her long ministerial duties in Church work however, T.J. also spent time in the following areas:

  • Child care at Alpha Boys' School and St John Bosco for a total of 11 years

  • For a short time at Holy Trinity as Assistant Sec/Bursar with Sr. Philomena who was then the Principal

  • As Financial Manager of the Sisters of Mercy and as Administrator in the Alpha Business Office for a total of 7 years

  • Terry was also actively involved in issues of justice through her membership in the Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) to promote peaceful and fair elections in Jamaica

Throughout T.J.'s life, she remained involved and very committed to the life and work of our Sisters in Central and South America through the Latin American Caribbean Conference and support our sisters in CASA (Central and South America).

In 1974 Sr. M. Bernadette Little, the Mercy Superior at the time, volunteered T.J. for what became known as the Rural Lay Leadership Training Team as the Sisters of Mercy's contribution to the Church.  Terry was thrilled.

Terry's involvement in the Lay Leadership Programme caused her to live in a variety of locations throughout Jamaica.   Port Antonio, Linstead, May Pen, Morant Bay and Kingston. In 1980, not finding a Pastor who was willing to work with the Team, Archbishop Samuel Carter, SJ., decided to disband the Rural Team.  

In 1984, after working in a variety of other situations still within the Church community, Terry, along with several other religious from other communities,
Sr. Maureen Clare who is here being one of them, designed a programme on the model of the Laity Training of the Rural Team at St. Michael's Seminary and began with the first group of about 80 participants from Urban parishes.

In 1993 Archbishop Carter approached Sr. Theresa Lowe Ching, the then Superior, to ask if T.J. could be released to take charge of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre which he was just about to open on the grounds at St. Michael's Seminary.   So, with Sr. Theresa's approval in September of 1993 she assumed the role of Director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre and Coordinator of the Laity Training Programme run by St. Michael's Seminary.

During the years there were many changes of Archbishops.  Following Archbishop Carter came Archbishop Edgerton Clarke, then Archbishop Lawrence Burke, SJ., Archbishop Donald Reece followed by Archbishop Charles DuFour.  

After many wonderful and fruitful years in Laity training and Pastoral work, it was to Archbishop Charles DuFour that she handed in her resignation in July 2015 after 22 years as Director of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Centre and 32 years with the LLTP at St. Michael's and later, in 1993 as Coordinator of CAREP.  

I say all of this because I believe that T.J.'s work with the Church was often a silent and invisible work.  She was not ordinarily front and centre, and I know she never aspired to be, but I think many did not understand or appreciate the work she was called to do.

To say that T.J. was passionate about being Jamaican is an understatement.  She was "fiercely" Jamaican and let this be known to all who would listen.

Terry stood firm in her beliefs and took seriously the maxim of our Foundress Catherine McAuley, "to have great confidence in what you do and what you think best.  State your opinion and always act with courage."

May we too follow her lead and always act with courage and confidence.

Monday, March 12, 2018


Scenes from last Friday's Launch 

Column for MON 12 March 2018 - Excerpt 

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Seniors have strength in numbers

Once again, the scenes repeated themselves last Monday – elderly folks being assisted to polling stations for by-elections. The world over, seniors take their role as electors seriously and here in Jamaica, they are an important part of every campaigner's canvas. It is high time that seniors realise their power and ensure that policy-makers give respect and reward to those who have built and continue to make great sacrifices for this country.

Thanks to the work of Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer, the National Policy for Senior Citizens was tabled in the House of Parliament on March 12, 1997 by then Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sport, Portia Simpson-Miller. (

This comprehensive policy led to the expansion of the National Council for Senior Citizens and the introduction of the Jamaica Drugs for the Elderly Programme.  Corporate Jamaica has also stepped up, offering discounts and special facilities for senior citizens.  While it is understandable that former Prime Minister Bruce Golding has described the fast-growing population of elderly as a 'ticking time bomb' for our economy, Jamaica's seniors are also realizing that there is strength in their numbers. 

At last Friday's launch of the Central Jamaica Chapter of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons, dynamic seniors, several of them returning residents, discussed the issues that require focus. They were encouraged by award-winning family physician, Dr Owen James, a Board Member of the organisation, to come together and be of one voice for the matters that affect their well-being and security.

First, there was the matter of Property Taxes, as they noted that several Caribbean neighbours offer tax relief to seniors who continue occupying their homes, acknowledging the substantial amounts paid over decades.  What a contrast to our local situation where a 99-year-old man in St. Elizabeth was hauled before the courts last month for failing to pay Property Taxes.

On the matter of security, the Central Jamaica citizens noted the valiant efforts of the Police, and several said they were members of Neighbourhood Watch groups. The returning residents are also members of Percival LaTouche's association, which has provided timely guidance to those seniors who are considered easy prey to unscrupulous persons. They expressed faith in Jamaica – Gloria and Keith Wellington noted, "We are happy to be back home, and we have no intention of living anywhere else."

The residents continue to enjoy touring, mentioning some great experiences in St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon – among them the St. John Bosco weekend entertainment spot where the school's catering trainees serve excellent food; YS Falls, Little Ochie, Jack Sprat, Black River Safari, and Milk River Spa.

Comfortable accommodation for the elderly was a hot topic. Mrs Jean Anderson is calling for developers to create complexes in Central Jamaica similar to the Women's Club in Kingston. Plans are to invite members of the Jamaica Real Estate Developers Association to their next meeting.  Dr Guyan Arscott has mentioned the potential of the 90-plus-acre property around the Milk River Spa. This spa boasts one of the richest mineral springs in the world – such developments would not only be welcomed by residents, but also provide a big boost for health tourism.

The executive members of the CCRP Central Jamaica Chapter are: Mrs Sadie Johnson, pharmacist; Mrs Sonja Allen, retired nurse; Mrs Patricia 'Pesh' Campbell, retired teacher and Mr Leighton Ritch, retired executive of Alcan. We are sensing a new and exciting phase of engagement and advocacy of and for Jamaica's seniors. 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Taxpayers must raise their voices

Excerpt from Observer column published 5 March 2018 (unedited version)

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Jamaicans have been stepping up with tax compliance, exceeding the budgeted amount for revenues and grants by 3.9 percent, with Tax Administration Jamaica (TAJ) collecting $390.9 billion for the period April to December 2018.  This was disclosed in the February 2018 bulletin from the Economic Programme Oversight Committee.

The report states, “EPOC notes the significant increase in the number of taxpayers for the period April to December 2017 by approximately 15,000 persons over prior year, as reported by The Ministry of Finance and the Public Service (MOFPS), which has contributed to increased performance in Tax Revenues.” High commendations to the TAJ. 

The Chairman of this newspaper, Hon Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart has repeatedly reminded us that the taxpayers of this country pay for the running of our country.  This includes even the humble folks who buy phone credit – in other words, every adult Jamaican is a taxpayer. 

We should be raising our collective voices at the irregularities announced year after year, administration after administration, by the auditor general, costing the country hundreds of millions of dollars.  Last week, we learned that over half a billion dollars was invested without board authorization by someone employed to the NIS.  Further, Sports Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange raised questions about some $75 million expended by InSports. 

Can you imagine the incredulity of an honest household worker, living on the margin of poverty, when she hears that the money she ekes out to stamp her NIS card is flying about like confetti?  Can you imagine the shock of those coaches and talented school children doing bake sales and car washes to try to get to the Penn Relays, when they hear that millions have sprinted out of the sporting coffers? 

Governance is their watchword: Newly appointed members of the Executive of  CCRP Central Jamaica
Chapter with CCRP Board Directors: (l-r) Jean Lowrie-Chin, Founder & Executive Director
of CCRP, Mrs Patricia 'Pesh' Campbell, Mrs Sadie Johnson, Mrs Sonja Allen, Dr Owen James,
Board Director, CCRP; and Mr Leighton Ritch.
This is an outrage for taxpayers. Last week, I sat down with some kind volunteers to get documents together for an upcoming audit by the TAJ for the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP), a company registered under the Charities Act.  This organisation was started nearly eight years ago by my company to advocate for the elderly.  It has been run out of our office, our staff members volunteering to do administration. Happily, we have been careful in our record keeping, providing financial statements at our bi-monthly board meetings, and keeping detailed minutes.

If only these multi-million government agencies were as meticulous as our tiny organisation which has assembled independent board members who pull no punches when it comes to governance.  We do this because we have chosen to serve and if our objective is the welfare of our members, then we must do everything in our power not to jeopardize the reputation of the organisation.  Our board members receive nothing for their service, not even travelling expenses.  We cannot afford expensive weekend retreats at luxury hotels because every cent we get from our modest membership fees must go back into service.

The technology exists to ensure that multi-million-dollar government agencies are professionally run. We have heard too many discussions about but no implementation of a digital platform on which Ministries and their Agencies would report and communicate, optimizing accountability. We have heard of the multiple and expensive trips to study the Singapore model, and yet these sinkholes of waste and corruption continue.

The Jamaican taxpayer must demand more of the authorities. One social media commentator has predicted that the NIS matter would come to naught as people would close ranks to protect their own wrongdoings.  Let us hope this will not happen.  Let the media, working their own long hours and paying their own high taxes, follow this and other such matters, until these ‘clever’ operatives understand that there will be no place for them in an efficient, professional administration.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lady Allen receives distinguished Haitian Josefa Gauthier

Most. Hon Lady Allen flanked by Digicel Haiti Foundation Chair
Mme. Josefa Gauthier and Digicel Jamaica Foundation Chair
Jean Lowrie-Chin 
Another high point of hope last week was a tour with my colleague, trailblazer and former Haiti Government Minister Josefa Gauthier, Chairman of Digicel Haiti Foundation (I chair the Digicel Jamaica Foundation). We made a courtesy call on Lady Patricia Allen, wife of Governor General Sir Patrick Allen. Lady Allen, an accomplished nurse educator in her own right, shared her thoughts on Haiti’s brave history and the continued struggles of her people.

Lady Allen noted that when she taught at West Indies College (now NCU), there were some 30 Haitian nurses and so she developed an interest in the country and her people. She said she was deeply saddened at the devastating earthquake and admired the resolve to the Haitian people to rebuild their country.

“She is so knowledgeable. What a beautiful and caring lady,” noted Josefa, as she recalled Lady Allen’s conversation, indicating her involvement in several health and education programmes.

We were conducted on a tour of King’s House, by Maxine Francis and Anya Edwards. It was rebuilt after the 1907 earthquake, and Josefa remarked on the similarity of the architecture with Haiti’s presidential palace which had been destroyed in the earthquake. She was impressed to learn that Their Excellencies grow most of their own food right there in the beautiful gardens at King’s House, as they are vegetarians.

A lovely surprise for me was the King’s House Museum, curated by my longtime media colleague, Joy Scott.  We saw treasures from the days of Queen Victoria to the present and were enthralled by Joy’s well-researched narrative. A thought – photographs and reproductions of those pieces for stationery and souvenir items could raise good funds to expand the museum.