Tag Archives: Jamaica

Social Development Insight ~ The pretence of ending poverty


Last Friday I was on my way to downtown Kingston for a meeting and noticed a black dog running at the side of the road. It was carrying a prize in its mouth. As I drew nearer I realized the prize was the carcass of a rat. The dog in its hunger was tearing it apart rapidly.

Something in me sank. I remember looking around at some of the inner-city communities I was passing through and feeling a sense of helplessness. Days earlier just close by there had been a shooting at the entrance of the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH). http://rjrnewsonline.com/local/man-shot-at-entrance-to-kph, Fast forward another 10 minutes and I’m looking at an elderly woman, unwashed, uncared for – sitting at the side of East Street staring intently at her skin and digging away at her flesh. One can only attempt to guess what is haunting her mind.

Shortly afterwards I am sitting in a cool trendy boardroom preparing to start a meeting. I am numb and haunted. Those images are re-playing in my head. I am not the only one. For another 45 minutes the four of us sat earnestly reflecting on development challenges facing Jamaica. Like development, some of these issues are deep-seated, complex, multi-faceted. They require original, out of the box critique and action. They require resolve. These are problems that have been years in the making, a melange of culture, history, politics, leadership – or lack thereof – etc etc etc. They require political will, not politicking.

A few things about our approach to social development in this country (and the rest of the Caribbean!) must change:-

  1. Social development is not a competition. It is not a competition for media attention. It is not about trumpeting the glory of one over the other. It is a battle to the death for the lives of innocent children, young people, women & men in our communities. For a child to reach the age of 5, live in depressed circumstances, experience trauma, be hampered in attending school etc – then it is almost too late. NGOs, CBOs, Private sector, church bodies, Government agencies – this is not a competition. Let us co-ordinate/ link our efforts!
  2. Social development is not a business. The only business we should be running is the business of running ourselves out of a job. This would mean that the challenges we have thrown our money and efforts at, are improving. Not regressing. This is not about setting up an NGO, agency etc for the purpose of receiving funding to pay ourselves to “eat a food”, “pay a bill”, “live a little”. With that attitude we’ve already lost.
  3. Social development is not an opportunity for “slave master” tactics or political advantage. With all due respect constituency leaders, MPs, Ministers, Parish coordinators etc this is not about gaining a little mileage through “handout leadership”. I want “hand-up leadership”. This is not about ensuring our friends in high places receive the funding & the projects etc. It is a about the people. The children, the young girls & boys, the women & men in our communities.
  4. Social development is not about a quick fix. Problems that have been years in the making, will not suddenly go away by a 6 month or 2 year project. In the pages of reports that cite the numbers of beneficiaries reached, trained, served etc this does not mean that their lives have improved one iota. We need to start thinking more long-term with our interventions. Aid agencies, it is time you recognize this. Stop baiting the development sector with your carrot money and sending people scampering to meet your rules. Are you sure you know the full face of the problems? Development is not top down. We speak participation, but it seems we are really referring to tokenism.

I want to know your thoughts. Send me your opinion, let’s talk. Nothing changes when we sit silent.

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Goodbye World ~ from the Children who were …

borrowed image (no copyright infringement intended)

My heart is crying on account of the recent deaths of so many young children this weekend in Jamaica. It is overwhelming. I send out my condolences to the grieving families.

I also grieve on account of the stories of young men being arrested for various criminal activities; stories that aired on the use and abuse of under-aged girls as sex workers etc etc etc.

I call for us in Caribbean society to start looking at a more intelligent way to create a more positive environment for our children. This means Governments & Civil society listening to each other, people in communities uniting to support each other to be better parents and individuals across socio-economic lines find ways to empower each other. Parenting, child-rearing, moulding our future leaders is a collective responsibility best achieved as a joint effort. This is a battlefield where ironically we should all be on the same side. Negative perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, practices etc – those are the enemies.

Am I naive to think that it is not too late for our nations’ children?

When I Grow Up

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One Saturday in the Blue Mountains/ Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29)

Wishing you a fresh, uninhibited Saturday from Island Vignettes, Jamaica.

I took this photo during a Saturday hike into the Jamaica Blue Mountains.

Daisy in Cinchona Gardens, Blue Mountains - Jamaica
Daisy in Cinchona Gardens, Blue Mountains – Jamaica


Read More…

  1. Memories of Jamaica Blue Mountains: https://islandscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/memories-of-jamaicas-blue-mountains/
  2. Forest Trek 2012: https://islandscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/celebrating-earth-day-5000ft-above-sea-level/
  3. Finding Perspective: https://islandscribbler.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/finding-perspective/


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Engaging the Jamaican Diaspora

So many exciting initiatives are taking place in the Caribbean and I have had a virtual information feast finding out about it all from coast to coast! I am excited to share information on a Conference that will be taking place in Jamaica  around better engaging the Diaspora population to contribute to the development of the country.
This proud Jamaican displays his merchandise. Taken at Cross Roads, Kingston
This proud Jamaican displays his merchandise. Taken at Cross Roads, Kingston

The MacMillan dictionary defines Diaspora (/daɪˈæsp(ə)rə/) as, the movement of a large group of people from their home country to other countries in the world

Statistics seem to show for instance that the numbers of Jamaicans and Guyanese living in the diaspora is probably equal to, if not more than the population living within the country. In fact the IOM (International Organisation on Migration) is currently (Guyana) or will be supporting (Jamaica) these two countries’ efforts to map the skills and investment interests within their diaspora populations. (For more on these two initiatives, please visit these two links: Jamaica to establish database of overseas professionals & Guyana Diaspora Project).

Well here is information for an upcoming fora where the Jamaican diaspora can get involved:

Looking on in Half Way tree Jamaica
Looking on in Half Way tree Jamaica

Jamaica Diaspora Conference 2013 (June 2013)

The Biennial Jamaica – Diaspora Conference, convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, is the global forum that connects Jamaicans from all over the world with Jamaicans in the home country every two years. The event seeks to strengthen existing linkages and networks, and to build alliances for Jamaica’s development and standing in the world (Extract from website).

Why, you may wonder, all this attention to the diaspora population? Well it is estimated that remittances make up some 17% of GDP and diaspora tourists may constitute some 11-15% of overall visitors. Further Professor Neville Ying, Executive Director of the Jamaica Diaspora Institute (JDI), estimates that there are possibly more than 187 Diaspora organisations that make significant contributions to Jamaica in the areas of health, education, sports, investment etc.

It is precisely because of the recognition of this value and potential that the Jamaica Diaspora Foundation and its operating arm – Jamaica Diaspora Institute was established in 2009. Visit Maximising the value of the diaspora to Jamaica’s sustainable development for more.

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From Africa to the Caribbean: A Case for South South Cooperation

Posted from Island Vignettes: Guest Feature

The population of Ghana is approximately 25 million.  The population of Jamaica is 2.8 million. Ghana – a country in Western Africa – the word itself means “Warrior King”. Jamaica – an island in the Caribbean Sea known as “the land of wood and water”. The ties between these two countries span the centuries and within the pages of the history books are characterized by the story of slavery.

Several months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of working with a young man from Ghana on several initiatives promoting access to justice for women and children in Jamaica. This was the opportunity I needed to further explore the linkages between the two territories. In this Guest post I ask Mr. Jacob Soung a few questions on his time in Jamaica and probe a bit for his perspective of life in these two great lands.

From Africa to the Caribbean: A Case for South South Cooperation

1.    What brought you to the Caribbean?

I was inspired by the decision of the Judiciary of Jamaica in their effort to establishing National Judicial Training Institute under the newly formed Agency, (Court Management Services). Intrigued by the possibilities through volunteering and with the broad aim of the Access to Justice Program of CUSO-VSO*, I took time off my schedule to join CUSO-VSO* as a South-South Cooperant.

2.    How did your work in Jamaica contribute to an improvement in delivery of social justice?

I believe that my work as Judicial Education Programme Development Advisor had significant impact on social

Contributed Photo
Contributed Photo (2013)

justice delivery. During my time I delivered several strategic documents which over the next five years will be a critical road map. Some of these included: a Training Needs Assessment to guide the training of judiciary and staff, a proposal for an Annual Chief Justice’s Forum, over twelve (12) training modules designed for the CMS and two (2) induction modules developed for Newly Appointed Superior and Lower Courts members respectively.

3.    What about the Caribbean struck you as remarkably similar to your home?

Life in Accra is not any much different from Kingston. The hospitality of the Caribbean, culture (belief in Christian faith and marriage), the peaceful/societal solidarity and politics are so similar to Ghana.  Some words in Patois are so similar to some Ghanaian dialects. Of course, like Ghana, the place abounds with beautiful ladies and a youthful population!

4.    What seemed really different for you?

I observed that in the Caribbean, people seem to be able to create huge benefits out of literally nothing while Africans, in my opinion, make very little out of the abundance around us! While Ghana is fighting for empowerment of ‘Girl-Child’ education, Jamaica is focused on ‘Boy-Child’ education. Police are friendlier in Ghana; In Jamaica, the public seems skeptical about Police Officers and Police Officer suspicious of persons. In Kingston, Police and other security officers hold their guns in readiness, you hardly see such in Accra. In that regard I feel that Accra is safer.

On the other hand, there are so many beautiful beaches with lots of places for ice cream. My experience of carnival – it was so colourful! In the banking halls, I noticed many persons receiving phone calls, this does not happen in Ghana. I find that there are many more strategically placed super markets in Kingston than in Ghana, where food can be found on many roadsides, gas stations and fast food ventures.  Interestingly, many young people I met thought that Africa is in the ‘bush’ and not as developed as it actually is.

 5.    What are your thoughts on the future of the Caribbean and perhaps for relations with continental Africa.

Based on the similarities I noticed, Africa and the Caribbean would be better off if we initiate CARIB-AFRICA Games to share experiences. International collaboration should also strengthen the link.

 *CUSO-VSO is now known as Cuso International

Mr. Jacob Zurobire Soung is Ghanaian born and raised. He has worked with various NGOs, Private & Public sector Institutions on projects in Ghana, Canada, Kenya, Tanzania, Jamaica and Liberia. His areas of interest include Judicial Education, Social justice, Project Management, Effective Court Communication and Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanism. Mr. Soung is currently the Deputy Director of the Judicial Training Institute Accra-Ghana.

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Jamaica and the IMF: The Proof is in the Pudding

Over the past few months this lovely island of Jamaica has been abuzz with news of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and its pending agreement with Jamaica. Without intending to oversimplify the challenges, here’s a few points to sum up the Jamaican context:

  • Jamaica’s debt-to-GDP ratio is around 140% with a public debt of 1.75 trillion
  • Debt servicing interest charges are approx 130 billion and there is a current budget deficit of about 65 billion
  • GDP real growth rate ranged from approx -1.5% (2010) to 0.9% (2012) with unemployment just over 14% and 16.5% living below the poverty line (2012 est)
  • Statement by an IMF mission to Jamaica in January 2012 summed the challenges up as: “The Fund team and the authorities have a concurring view of the key challenges facing Jamaica, arising from the high public debt and low economic growth, and agree on the need for a strong policy response.”
All Rights for Image to Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper
All Rights for Image to Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper

What this has meant is a series of measures coming out of  a Staff-level agreement with the IMF. Tax, tax and more tax! A second debt exchange, increases in education tax, stamp duty, transfer taxes, taxes on dividends paid to residents. The National Housing Trust will also be paying 11 billion a year to Government coffers. This particular measure has sparked much debate given the NHT’s mandate and source of funds.

The situation is not encouraging and one is left to wonder how it will affect the most economically vulnerable in society. The working poor and those who manage to live barely above the poverty line. One cannot also forget that likely the need to review spending may take its toll on basic social services and infrastructure. Still the IMF agreement thus far seems to have addressed this (Section iv):

“This involves implementing a coordinated set of reforms to: (i) strengthen public finances, including through comprehensive tax reform, expenditure rationalization, and improved public debt management and public financial management; (ii) enhance the resilience of the financial sector through strengthened supervisory, regulatory, and crisis management frameworks; (iii) improve growth-generating efficiency through enhancements to the business environment, increased competitiveness, and strengthened institutional capacity and governance (including through a broad legislative agenda); and (iv) protect the most vulnerable and promote economic self-reliance, including through the establishment of a floor on social spending, maintaining the real value of PATH (Program of Advancement through Health and Education) benefits, and expanding re-certification and the Steps-to-Work program.” [Extract from IMF Mission and Jamaican Authorities Reach Staff-Level Agreement on Key Elements for EFF-Supported Program, Press Release No. 13/51]

I think the proof will be in the pudding – assuming of course I can still afford pudding after these reforms, measures, cuts and chops!

Cartoon courtesy www.bztoons.com
Cartoon courtesy http://www.bztoons.com

Will these measures actually work? The Caribbean Policy Research Institute – an economic policy think tank at the University of the West Indies has tested the probability of the IMF model generating the reduction of debt as forecasted. The result? It is possible but dependent on the government following the prescription and with no external shocks thrown into the mix. However the country would still have a high debt to GDP ratio so it certainly would not be the end to this historical problem.

For more perspectives see newspaper article:  “Until death do us part” and “Is Jamaica the Greece of the Western Hemisphere?”

Well one thing I know – I’ll probably be eating out a bit less and taking myself back to the kitchen. What does this mean for you? A few more culinary surprises! Keep looking out!

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The Victim Support Unit of Jamaica: Healing & Justice for All Victims of Crime

The Victim Support Unit of Jamaica does not have an established web presence and as such it is sometimes difficult to contact them. Please see below for a relevant flyer on the services provided as well as contact information for each Parish office across the island. I hope this is useful.

The Victim Support Unit of JamaicaThe Victim Support Unit of Jamaica 2

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Haunted Caribbean Destination: Can you guess where this is?

Today I want to challenge you. I took this photo more than one year ago. Now I’m sharing it with you. I also want to share the story of ghostly appearances, black magic, dead lovers and beauty that is associated with this place. Help me by guessing the place and location and I’ll finish the tale for you!

The story of this haunted manse will set your hair on edge!

Since this is ISLAND VIGNETTES, you know there must be more stirring in the pot than the stew! Not only will I share the story with you, but I’ll also tell you a bit more about how life at this once bustling home seems so inextricably intertwined with the social development of the country in which it resides. Help me do it, guess the destination!

Looking forward to your responses:)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

Today is a day of renewal for me. Today is the day I allow my mind and body to drift deliciously from slumber to wakefulness. I allow my ears to appreciate the symphony of birdsong outside the window panes. Today there is no urgency in my step. I have captured time and made it my slave. For today only. A fresh cup of tea is fully savoured.

It is Saturday. Today I get to unwind and push sad statistics and stories to the furthest recesses of my mind. Working in Development can take an emotional toll on the mind and body. All the more reason to appreciate an opportunity for renewal.

Early morning in Hope Gardens, Jamaica

The Place

The place is Hope Gardens, Jamaica. Started as an experimental garden in 1881, transformed into a lush, manicured oasis complete with all manner of exotic plants, Hope Gardens has been through times of neglect and care. I was fortunate to capture this moment at approximately 6:30am.

I was lost in a dream made up of soft, green carpet and blue cotton candy sky. Floral closets and palm fronds cast long shadows across the grass in the morning light and a slight breeze skipped playfully through the foliage.

I inhale. Then I exhale. For now, that is enough.

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Surviving Hurricane Sandy: the Tale, the Scare, the Humour

I survived Hurricane Sandy’s fury. Many of the trees in my yard, a friend’s roof and hundreds of acres of agricultural crops in Eastern Parishes of Jamaica did not, but I did!

So why exactly did I consider this “blog-worthy”? Well, I did it completely on my own. No friends, no family. Just me. I now feel tremendously proud of myself. The fact that the neighbourhood escaped being treated to the sight of a scared, screaming woman running down the streets, suitcase in tow and bible in hand, is an accomplishment. So here’s a toast to me!

Emergency supplies for Hurricane Sandy

Perhaps I should start with giving you the anatomy of the usual response to the threat of a hurricane or storm – at least when in Trinidad!

  • Stage 1 – Denial. During this stage plans for the evening continue, after all the skies are still blue. A visit to any of the famous nightspots eg Smokey & Bunty in St. James (the city that never sleeps), would reveal die-hard patrons enjoying their usual fare and issuing the battle cry – “No storm not coming here cause God is a Trini!”
  • Stage 2 – Realization. During this stage, it suddenly hits everyone that a hurricane or storm might be a looming reality. Usually it is triggered by an announcement that the island is on Storm watch or warning. Chaos ensues. No transportation to go home, traffic jams, empty supermarket shelves, nailing of roofs right up to the point that the storm shows up!
  • Stage 3 – Religious Fervour. The bibles come out. Whether dusty or shiny, they show up. The prayers start in earnest.

    Once in the Caribbean, a necessary tool for survival
  • Stage 4 – Dark skies, a spattering of rain, some winds, orange skies.
  • Stage 5 – More praying.
  • Stage 6 – Rain eases and skies clear. Seems like the storm is going away. Wow God must really be a Trini! Little or no acknowledgment of persons in Tobago who were badly affected or persons in Central who lost roofs to heavy winds or cyclones. All is back to normal.
  • Stage 7 – The Question. To go to work or not to go to work. That is the question.

So much for the Trini experience. My Jamaican experience was different. Jamaica’s location makes it a likely target during the hurricane season and as such the warnings are taken much more seriously. I must commend the Government of Jamaica for their quick pro-active action of immediately closing the airports and calling a curfew. The police were out actively dissuading those who thought it was a lovely time to be out in the streets taking photographs. (Ok, I admit – I was tempted to head outside too!)

A quick scan of Facebook revealed an outpouring of advice, well wishes and prayers. One friend was planning a slumber party while another thought it was the perfect night to sip on Appleton or throw a party. Everything just seemed too quiet or boring. This was Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning dawned with a stillness and cosy feeling of rain against the window panes. What a deceptive feeling. By 11:30am, there was no longer any electricity. The wind was whistling, howling and toppling trees in my yard. It threatened to take a few of my window panes too. Outside the skies grew black. Water started to leak through the roof in places that it never did before and the poor roof was simply struggling to stay put.

I rushed to set up camp in the middle of the flat, things were simply getting too scary. Well I’ve now discovered that one of the best antidotes to this is cooking. I got creative and experimented with the emergency rations. I ended up with curried rice, lentil peas and mango chutney! I’ve named it….“Curry a la Sandy”!

Sandy a la Carte – an experiment with my emergency rations 🙂

Crash! The noise was deafening and I heard a small scream in the distance. I…

To be continued! Stay tuned for Part 2 of Surviving Hurricane Sandy: the Tale, the Scare, the Humour!