Negril chamber partners with TEF to distribute 2,000 care packages


Negril chamber partners with TEF to distribute 2,000 care packages

Observer West writer

Thursday, May 07, 2020

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NEGRIL, Westmoreland -The Negril Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), through the Tourism Linkages Network, has embarked on a food distribution drive aimed at assisting vulnerable residents in the resort town who have been negatively impacted by the shutdown of the tourism sector.

Under the initiative, the TEF is puchasing ground provisions directly from displaced farmers, as well as groceries from several businesses, while the chamber will organise and package the items. GraceKennedy and Hi-Lo Food Stores are also providing some items free of cost.

Last Thursday, roughly 2,000 residents gathered at the Negril Community Centre to collect packages under the initiative. The programme is expected to continue on a biweekly basis until further notice, and targets residents who earn from the tourism sector, but who do not qualify for the Government's COVID-19 Allocation of Resources for Employees (CARE) Programme.

“What we really want is for all aspects of tourism to be taken care of during the [COVID-19] pandemic. We want to provide food supplies for the vulnerable in the resort towns, and what we have done also is we got the produce and supplies from local farmers and local distributors and manufacturers who have been displaced by tourism's pause,” Carey Wallace, the executive director of the TEF, told the Jamaica Observer West.

He further pointed out that the agricultural sector plays a major role in the tourism industry, explaining that the project was also created with the farmers in mind.

“Tourists come here for the experiences in Jamaica, including eating our food. If they [farmers] go out of business and stop planting, when the time comes for us to rebound, there won't be any food on the table, and we will have to go to imports then, which we don't want,” said Wallace, as he sought to explain the importance for purchasing the farmers' produce.

On Thursday, people congregated from as early as seven o'clock in the morning to collect their packages. The distribution was scheduled for 10:00 am, but to prevent social distancing woes, it commenced minutes past nine o'clock.

Richard Wallace, president of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, expressed his joy in participating in the project.

“We had some challenge with people social distancing, but the police are doing a good job so far; we are very happy, things are going smoothly,” the chamber president said, midway the distribution of the packages.

He further stated that the huge turnout showed that the project was a necessity.

“I'm happy we did it, because the people really appreciate it. As you can see from the turnout, people are struggling out there, so we are happy that we are able to help the community and play our part,” he argued.

Ishana Mowatt, a resident of Whitehall in Negril, explained that as a bartender she has been unable to find a job due to the lockdown.

“It's good. Who can't afford it every week would be glad for this, and we are thankful for it. I use to bartend at local bars, but I stop now, you know everything lockdown and nutten nah gwaan. Mi send in nuff applications and until today nobody don't call. But, hopefully when this [COVOD-19 pandemic] ends, mi will get a call,” she said.

Charmaine Morris, a fisherwoman, also of Negril, also expressed her gratitude.

“It kinda help in a wah way. It nuh help fi all a di family, because more than one set a family deh a one house, but we haffi tek wah we can get. I am a fisher girl; it really rough enuh,” Morris argued.

The TEF executive director explained that the initiative will be monitored, as consideration must be given to finances in tandem with when the tourism industry will be reopened.

Similar projects are also expected to be undertaken in the resort areas of Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Portland.

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