Montego Bay: To go or not to go?

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, March 18, 2019

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We went! Our event for Montego Bay had been months in planning and then the news came about the daylight shootings. As we read the headlines, we admit to a few knots in the stomach, but the enthusiasm of our colleagues in the west was not to be denied.

Our fears were put to rest as we entered the city and saw a well-manned checkpoint. We obediently rolled down our windows, and when I looked at the youthful face of the policeman I thanked him from the bottom of my heart. It cannot be easy for members of our security forces to suit up every morning knowing the dangers of their job.

As we set up for the launch of the Western Chapter of the Caribbean Community of Retired Persons (CCRP) at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral hall and saw the members arriving — retired police officers, professionals and entrepreneurs — we knew we must never stop working for these intrepid folks who continue to volunteer for the upliftment of others.

There was Dr Norma Taylor of Unity of Montego Bay Worship Centre who arrived laden with items to make the event more comfortable. There was Shona Heron, who had organised registration and catering. There was, too, Joy Clark, who lent her talent as emcee.

The event's guest speaker was none other than a man they call The Governor of Montego Bay, Lloyd B Smith, publisher and editor of the 39-year-old Western Mirror, former Member of Parliament, and former president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce.

He described the societal challenges that have led to the erosion of law and order in our country. “We are living in challenging times,” he warned. “There is an attitudinal change in Jamaica towards the elderly which we must address.” He bemoaned the lack of respect and rampant ageism, calling for an awareness campaign to be led by CCRP and Professor Denise Eldemire Shearer's Mona Ageing & Wellness Centre.

He recalled learning at his grandmother's knees and noted the importance of family time to promote respect among generations. He said technology was threatening this, as he recently observed a family of five sitting in a restaurant together, but glued to their respective mobile devices. “There was no conversation taking place,” he said. “It seems the art of conversation is dead.”

“We have to play a serious role in mentoring, because too many do not honour their mothers and their fathers,” he declared. Smith called on us to be conscious of the vulnerability of elders and to help to protect them from dishonest folks. He said we should advise returning residents to be careful about building houses that were too large for them to manage, and ostentatious living which may attract the wrong types.

He noted the job placements being done by CCRP and said it was important that Jamaica continued to benefit from the experience and dedication of retired individuals who still had much to offer.

Smith condemned those unregistered nursing homes in which gross neglect of their residents has been reported. He said it would be therapeutic for the elderly to interact with children and encouraged the introduction of such programmes. He also called for greater compassion for people with senility or Alzheimer's disease, noting that we must end the superstition around such conditions and work to make our elderly feel comfortable and loved.

Lloyd B Smith urged his audience to do proper estate planning as this could prevent the rifts that develop in families over 'dead lef'. He also recommended the preparation of a 'living will', recording one's wishes regarding medical treatment in circumstances of serious illnesses.

Journalist and community activist Janet Silvera was lauded at the event for honouring her mother, Sarah Darling-Findlay, by setting up a foundation in her name — Sarah's Children — to support the care and protection of children. Dr Norma Taylor remarked that this was the kind of recognition that we should be seeking to give to our dedicated elders.

Kind lauding the kind

As usual, business leader Butch Hendrickson pulled no punches in his address at last week's University of Technology, Jamaica 2019 Research, Technology and Innovation Day. He appealed to our leaders to take the guesswork out of policymaking by using hard data. He appealed to students to hold individuals holding high office to standards of excellence, noting that “Jamaica cannot afford to be mediocre anymore”.

As this column has noted several times, Jamaica is suffering from a conspiracy of mediocrity. People of excellence are shunned and frustrated by mediocre managers who are afraid of losing their jobs to them. And so, the cycle of mediocrity continues; dumbing down companies who wonder how their hefty investments are taking them nowhere.

Hendrickson called out the poor reasoning that results in such cases as the recurring potholes at a section of Knutsford Boulevard, and a lack of strategic planning which leaves the authorities in conflict with poor market ladies and squatters for whom land should have been earmarked for their settlements.

He is a man who puts his money where his mouth is, having established the National Baking Foundation to support over 2,000 schools islandwide and funding countless projects for the needy.

Earlier this month, he was presented with the Gift of Hope Award by Michael and Veronica Lyn Kee Chow of Pickapeppa fame. It was really a case of the kind lauding the kind, as the Lyn Kee Chows contributed the Gift of Hope Apostolate in Mandeville to Mustard Seed Communities in 2013.

Gift of Hope houses 20 residents with disabilities, age two to 24.

The Lyn Kee Chow family have annual fund-raisers using proceeds for therapy equipment, building repairs, a new vehicle, sustainable agriculture initiatives, and care of the residents.

So great was the response of Butch Hendrickson that the Lyn Kee Chows wrote: “Your years of philanthropic giving, extensive work meeting the needs of vulnerable populations, and dedication to religious communities in Jamaica has benefited countless individuals across the island and beyond… Please know that your generosity has enabled the Gift of Hope fund-raiser to grow and provide much-needed funding both for the home and the residents who it serves.”

Sympathy for New Zealand

The world is reeling from the cold-blooded murder of 50 Muslims at prayer in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The racist killer wore a body camera to broadcast the massacre live on social media. As a result, security has been beefed up at mosques worldwide, fearing that there may be copycat incidents. We send our deep sympathy to the families of the victims and the people of New Zealand as they try to come to terms with this unspeakable tragedy.

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