This special spot called Jamaica

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, February 04, 2013

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AT the Jamaica Football Federation's office last Thursday, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller moved the audience with her concern for our sportsmen and women, and her call for national unity. She wowed them as she ended her speech with the words of Jamaica's theme song for our 1998 World Cup Campaign: "Rise up - stand like the brave!" The JFF received significant support from Coca-Cola and their local partner Wisynco for their national campaign, Jamaica being singled out for this level of sponsorship joining such football greats as Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Mrs Shermin Peters, a Coca-Cola senior executive remarked, "Your prime minister is wonderful. I'm not Jamaican but her message moved me, too."

Earlier in the week, the global information technology company GTECH handed over a fourth computer lab in their 'After School Advantage Programme' to the SOS Children's Village. As the children danced their thanksgiving and showed how adept they were with the use of the facilities, Vice-President Michael Mello said how impressed he was with their discipline and good manners. Dedicated SOS Chair Marjory Kennedy took the visitors on a tour of the Village, comprising various well-kept 'homes' led by 'house mother' and 'aunt' who give loving care in a family setting.

Mr Mello, who had been travelling throughout Kingston, remarked on the attractiveness and sophistication of the city. "You always hear about the resorts of Jamaica, but Kingston is very nice, too," he said. This must be music to the ears of Nicola Madden-Greig, who heads the planning committee for the 'City of Kingston Run' to be held in March it is routed through Devon House, King's House, past the Bob Marley Museum, Hope Gardens, Papine, and UWI Mona Bowl where Usain Bolt trains.

I had to meet a business colleague ,Maria Mulcahy, from Ireland at the new Digicel headquarters in downtown Kingston. Maria, who travels the world, working with teams on the many outreach programmes sponsored by Digicel Chairman Denis O'Brien, kept referring to the beautiful waterfront environment. As she looked at palms swaying in the breeze and the glistening waters of Kingston Harbour, she exclaimed, "What a beautiful setting - it's fabulous!"

We were greeted by receptionist Debbie Williams, who was delighted with her new surroundings. Many years before, Debbie had joined the company as an office attendant. Her enthusiasm caught the eye of her employers who sent her for further training, resulting in a series of promotions. We proceeded to the adjoining building where the corporate cafeteria is open to the public with offerings from the brisk staff members employed by Island Grill and Jacqui Tyson.

How blessed we are to be placed in this special spot called Jamaica! Our landscape and the intelligence of our people have endeared us to the world.

It is no wonder then, that the German manufacturers of the famous Volkswagen brand would choose our lingo and our music composed and sung by the great Jimmy Cliff for their 'Be happy' campaign. At the JFF event, PM Simpson Miller applauded the advertisement, which she said reflected "the resilience, dynamism and cheerfulness of the Jamaican people". Clearly, the critics don't share our infectious Jamaican humour and don't know that there are white Jamaicans, as expressed in our national motto, 'Out of many, one people'.

Kudos for Sister Bernadette

Scores of 'Alpha girls' returned to our alma mater last Tuesday for the launch of Sister Mary Bernadette Little's book, The Story of Alpha - You Did It Unto Me. Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites, husband and father of Alpha graduates, hailed the legendary Jamaican nun and the work of the Sisters of Mercy for over 150 years in Jamaica, reminding us that access to education was the true liberation of our oppressed ancestors.

"The Roman Catholic Church established itself in the instigation of popular education," he said, describing this "recognition of our baptismal mandate as sharing in co-creation the liberation of God's finest creation, the human mind."

We marvelled that this brilliant Jamaican lady, Sister Bernadette embraced this mandate so energetically, challenging us to demand only the best of ourselves. Alpha Academy Principal Mackran Singh lauded the 'expansive wordscape of Sister Bernadette's history, covering almost 300 years, two world wars, the Morant Bay Rebellion, Independence and the democratisation of education."

There was a hush over McAuley Hall as Sister Bernadette stood at the microphone, sending us back to our high school days when that regal presence would call us to rapt attention. She told us that she began a journey from rural Jamaica over 70 years before "that ended with my life being inextricably bound with that of the Sisters of Mercy."

She pointed out that 10 years before the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy to Jamaica from Bermondsey, England in 1890, "mercy was here" in the missionary work of three Jamaican creole women, Jessie Ripoll (related to the husband of the recently departed educator Dahlia Repole), Josephine Ximines and Louise Dugiol. In three months, the three Jamaicans were admitted into the order.

"It is fascinating, intriguing and edifying a story that had to be told," said Sister Bernadette. She thanked the various benefactors, led by the family of Sister Marie Chin, whose amazing generosity made it possible to publish a book, which has already been a lead seller on Amazon. It has global appeal as no doubt, the Irish will be proud of her moving account of the visionary Catherine McAuley, who founded the Sisters of Mercy in Ireland in 1831.

Jamaica's musicians will enjoy her description of the legendary Sister Ignatius Davies who 'mothered' so many of them at Alpha Boys' School. The hundreds who benefitted from the teaching and skills training of Sister Mary Benedict Chung will identify with the chapter dedicated to her.

It is a story stirringly told by a historian of shining mind and spirit. Grace Baston, former Mercy sister and Alpha Principal, now Campion College Principal, says of the iconic Sister Bernadette: "Rarely have I come across someone in religious life who is so undeniably focused on the eternal values of the Kingdom to come, and at the same time so passionately engaged in this business of living this earthly life to the full."

Protect our children

In the same week we were remembering the nurturing centres of SOS and Alpha, we lost two children to unspeakable violence. Shariefa Saddler, a 14-year-old student of Haile Selassie High and four-year-old Rushaun Burford of Allman Town, lost their tender lives in separate incidents. Shariefa was abducted from a bus stop in Olympic Gardens on her way to school, her bruised body later found in the area. Rushaun was killed by an irate gunman who had a dispute with a family member over water.

We need well trained citizens who can inspire fellow residents to be watchful of our children and to assist with on-the-spot mediation. We cannot continue wasting our promising young lives.




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