Hampden Infant School finished

What a great day. Guided by our team of Jamaican-based construction workers, we have finished the building.

It was a hot but fulfilling end to our week. And a time to give thanks.

– to the Jamaican crew, who work all around Jamaica, out of reach of their families, living rough, to help Food For The Poor volunteers to finish these schools

– to the Canadian High Commissioner Laurie Peters and her staff who came up to help us. The Canada-Jamaica relationship is broad and deep and Food for the Poor Canada is an important “people to people” embodiment of this.

– to the Principal, teachers and students of Hampden School who accommodated us while we worked

– to Supermodel Stacey McKenzie and her team from Sunwing Foundation and Royalton for assisting with the day…and the work that they will do with children at a number of For For The Poor built schools next week.

– but especially to our band of volunteers who contributed and raised the money to construct the school and paid for their travel and accommodation to join the school build

It really does take a village to build a village.

This school build marked our 10th Anniversary. It was the 28th School built by Food For The Poor Canada in the past 10 years. In this time we have also built 80 homes in Jamaica and Haiti. We have shipped tens of millions of dollars worth of medicines, medical equipment, food and educational supplies, supported numerous livestock projects, and provided emergency relief after natural disasters.

We are tired, but proud of this effort. If you want to learn more, please be in touch with us.

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Pad✅; framing✅; walls✅ …windows; roof; and painting to go

This week we are celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Food For The Poor Canada with the construction of Hampden Infant School in Jamaica.  Originally built by slaves, the school is overcrowded and unable to fully address the needs of the infant department.with this build we are constructing a new school building that includes three classrooms, a playground, a water catchment system and a kitchen.

Our volunteers are a diverse group…Canadian lawyers , construction sector, engineer, doctor, coroner, teacher, accountant, children, wealth management, marketer and non-profit specialist and yours truly, retired diplomat.  We have all contributed and raised funds to make this build a reality.

Today was hot, man.  But we pushed through it with the help of the excellent crew from Food for the Poor Jamaica.  Most of our effort was on the walls and constructing windows today.  When I was taking a rest break I managed to get some photos…the original school, the work site, and of course the kids…playing cricket at recess and others gathered around chatting to us.  I hope you enjoy them.

If these short pieces on our work in Jamaica (and Haiti…we work there too) pique your interest, please get in touch. We would love to have you join us on a build in the future.

We all want to leave more than footprints in the sand

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Finishing up the build at Accompong, St. Elizabeth Parish, Jamaica

I’m getting set to leave the snow that still holds Ottawa in it’s grip and make a return to Jamaica.  My brother and I are joining a Food for the Poor Canada FFTP trip to help build an Infant School in Hampden, Trelawney.  This will be my third school build with FFPC, and Eric’s first, although he has been involved in making some medical equipment donations in the past.

If I am not too exhausted (or haven’t hurt myself with a hammer or power tool😊) I will try to post some photos and impressions next week.  There is a world famous Hampden Rum Estate just down the road from the school build…so that will require some time as well…

But whether or not I can get to posts next week, I want to take a moment to introduce you to FFPC.  We would really welcome anyone who reads this to join us in working to help build Jamaica and Haiti, the two countries where we have our focus.

AT FFPC we are in our 10th year of operation.  Since then, with generous donations of money, time and goodwill from our supporters we have

  • built 27 schools,
  • 65 homes and
  • shipped 60 containers of food, medicines, educational supplies and emergency supplies.

Here is an excellent video that celebrates this accomplishment.

Last year alone, Canadian donors built 5 schools, our largest number so far.  We shipped 8 containers of food, medicines, and school supplies to Haiti and Jamaica providing over 3 million meals and saving lives with $800,000 worth of medicines.  We shipped two containers of lumber and zinc to Dominica after Hurricane Irma to repair and rebuild 200 homes.

Our plans for the next little while have us focussing on building a sustainable community in Haiti with 30 houses, a community well, solar panel street lights and a chicken farm.   Donations and Involvement from you will help us to build this community even more.

We are also planning to build more schools in Jamaica to increase access to education for the youngest children.  Donations and involvement from you will help us to give these kids a good start to their lives.

And we will organize shipments of food, medicine and educational supplies to Haiti and Jamaica, again with help from people like you.

I would invite you visit our webpage www.foodforthepoor.ca   Follow us on Twitter @FoodForThePoorC and on Facebook Food For the Poor Canada to learn more about what we do.  I would also urge you to consider giving to the organization so that we can continue what we are doing.  We will welcome you to join us at future school and community builds.

I can tell you it’s the best way to go south and leave something more long-lasting than just your footprints in the sand!

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Programs…a great investigative series

During my time as Canada’s High Commissioner to Jamaica, I had the opportunity to work with Jamaican Ministers and officials and Canadian agencies and employers on various aspects of Canada’s temporary foreign worker programs.

The Seasonal Agriculture Workers Program (SAWP) as all Jamaicans understand is a longstanding and tremendously important aspect of our bilateral relationship.  In existence for 50 years, it has proven to be a significant contributor to Jamaica’s economic well-being (in the form of the earnings that workers bring back home) as well as Canada’s (in the form of reliable, hard-working labour for Canadian growers and producers).  Estimates from the Jamaican government suggest that the remittance amount received each year from the program is comparable to what Canada’s significant development assistance program delivers in the country.

The SAWP, and the other temporary foreign worker programs in Canada, are complex, and at times controversial.  Some Canadians are not in favour of the idea of giving employment to foreign workers.  Some foreign workers believe that they are taken advantage of under the programs.

Canada’s National Post newspaper, and other sister publications, have put out a special series on the various issues around these programs.  Written by  2015-16 Michelle Lang Fellowship recipient Alia Dharssi, they examine how Canada’s temporary foreign worker program and immigration system is shaping the country’s economy.

I have been working my way through Ms. Dharssi’s  and wanted to share them with colleagues and followers in Jamaica. They make a very interesting read.

The stories can be found at this link.

The videos can be found as this link

There are twitter hashtags noted in the articles for those who want to jump into the debate.

 

 

 

Nothing beats getting personally involved

Canadian donors working with Jamaica Haiti to support education, health and livelihoods.

During my time as High Commissioner in Jamaica, I saw first hand the significant official cooperation that exists between Canada and Jamaica.  Programs focussed on justice reform and citizen security; entrepreneurship; public finance; military and police cooperation; disaster preparation et.  To represent Canada in the context of the delivery of these programs was an honour.  However, as these programs tended to be large-scale and multi-year, it was sometimes difficult to really connect, on a personal level, with the people benefitting from them.

I considered myself very fortunate, then, to have been able to make a connection with Food for the Poor, in particular its Canadian arm, Food for the Poor Canada, through Executive Director, Samantha Mafood, along with Ray and Donette Chang , Thalia Lyn and a number of others.

Through this contact, I was invited to participate in a school build in Accompong, near Ray Chang’s birthplace.  Being in physical contact with the project (I helped to paint the school) and the children who were the beneficiaries, as well as the donors who made the build possible, was inspiring.  Building a school was certainly on a smaller scale than the large development projects that Canada funds in Jamaica.  However, the intangible satisfaction from being able to personally help with the physical and financial effort to touch children and their community has always stayed with me.

Joanne and I have returned to Canada now and I have retired from government service.  However, I still seek to maintain connection with Jamaica (a land we love :)) by serving on the Board of Directors of Food the Poor Canada.

The organization is on a multi-year mission to increase the contribution to helping build Jamaica and Haiti and other countries in the Caribbean.  We are focussing on education (building and equipping schools), health (providing water, feeding programs and housing as well as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and supplies) and livelihoods (i.e. bee farming).

Food for the Poor Canada has just recently updated its website presence.  I would invite you to take a look at it, it is good reading.  And while you are at it, sign up for the newsletter, and watch for what we are planning.  After doing so, if you feel you are in a position to help the organization continue to deliver its contribution to Jamaica, we would love to hear from you.