I deeply appreciate your kind invitation to participate in this the 4th Biennial Convention aimed at strengthening the partnership between Jamaica and its Diaspora. I take this opportunity to welcome home all participants who are here from abroad
I want to commend the organizers here in Jamaica and the Diaspora for staging this conference and for the consistent efforts to interest and engage Jamaica and Jamaicans in the affairs of the nation. This has not been one of the easiest conventions to stage but despite the divergent views, differing approaches and despairing circumstances, you did it nonetheless. And I am proud of you. This is the spirit of Jamaica! I note and am encouraged that leading up to this conference there have been robust discussions on the issues that affect this group. But the passion and patriotism that was evident in your discussion assure us that this partnership contains at its core the essential ingredients to bind us together.
I also wish to commend the Diaspora for the outstanding work that you continue to do on behalf of Jamaica and I heartily congratulate those of you who are being recognized today with the GGDA. You encourage Jamaicans abroad to remember their homeland and do what they can to contribute to its further development. This comes at no easy cost, as you are not only faced with the challenges of living and operating in an environment outside of your own roots, but also in being ambassadors for our nation; a nation that, despite its conquests and achievements in many areas, is often subjected to certain stereotype undermining by the international community.
Yet you stand in the midst, helping to enlighten those on the outside on the heart and soul of Jamaica: the warmth, care, resilience, drive, humour, and indeed all that is right about our nation. You bear the task of educating, most difficult of all, some of those that may very well think that they know about the ways of our culture. You are also faced with fixing the damage done by the few Jamaicans who are bent on destroying the legacy of our fine people. Thank you for standing in the gap, reminding the world of who we are as a nation, and as individuals. I salute your efforts, and encourage you in your endeavours.
Following on my Inaugural Address on February 26, 2009, the Jamaica Information Service reproduced the Speech in a booklet entitled ‘I Believe’; no doubt to emphasise the theme of that Speech. I soon came to be associated with that phrase.
Ladies and Gentlemen, some years ago when I studied in the United States of America, I became impressed by the expressed patriotism and confidence of the Americans in their country. This was something I admired and wished could be abundantly evident in my fellow Jamaicans – to believe in themselves, believe that they are the best, and that they ‘can accomplish what they will’ by using their God-given potential.
Since the past two years, Lady Allen and I have travelled through the parishes in Jamaica meeting persons from all walks of life, each revealing unique qualities, hopes and aspirations. In addition to these meetings, through The Governor-General’s Achievement Award Programme, Youth Consultations were conducted in each of the three (3) the Counties – Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey. At these Consultations we listened as young people air their concerns about the economy, career challenges, present opinions on topical issues, offer solutions from their perspective, and hear what their peers are saying.
The concerns expressed largely surrounded issues of Family, Youth and Education. We discovered that some of the things Jamaicans are worried about include:
· The high homicidal violence by the gun which leads to other social problems.
· The high unemployment rate.
· The level of illiteracy, especially among the unattached youths in the 15-24 age group of which 26.2 percent is male and 7.9 percent female. This group comprises roughly 30% of the population, with a quarter of them attaining education at the Grade 9 level or below. Males outnumber females in All Age, Primary and Junior High Schools as a result of poor performance on the GSAT.
· The fact that male youth are extremely vulnerable to criminality, while female youth are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and teenage pregnancy.
· Inadequate skills training at levels to support the manufacturing sector.
· For every 100 marriages in 2009, 9 ended in divorce. The lack of adequate parenting skills and responsibility, especially among young, single parents, result in children being exposed to, and succumbing to at-risk behaviours, including a wanton disregard for the values that hold us together as a nation.
· Many persons display low levels of confidence, self esteem and despair for their future. Concerns have been expressed that if these issues are not mitigated quickly, the situation will lead to a large, disenfranchised youth population, poor quality workforce, disrespect for people and property, disregard for law and order, high crime rate, greater socio-economic challenges, and further economic decline.
The very obvious question to these findings was, how can these things be addressed as a means of fixing the grave and gruesome problems that undermine our progress?
From these conversations therefore, it became evident that the Office of the Governor General needed to concern itself more actively with this crisis situation. By December 2009, I invited a focus group of individuals from the public and private sectors to advise and look at ways in which we could support the many entities which are on the frontline working to ameliorate some of these social conditions. Out of these conversations the I Believe Initiative was created with its Mission ‘tocreate pathways through partnerships and promote programmes to restore hope, belief, and sound values in Jamaican families, youth and education.’
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is the initiative’s aim to:
- Stir hope and inspire persons to believe in themselves, their ability to do well and to support the development of their country;
- Convince Jamaicans that in spite of the social and economic challenges which we face, we are a blessed country with both natural and human resources which must be utilized for our benefit.
- Acknowledge and celebrate our achievements which are numerous for such a small nation (sports, music, arts and culture, academia among others.
The IBIis not a frivolous attempt to conduct a program for wallpaper purposes. It is not stirred by religious fervour nor an urge to say something that sounds good to people’s ear. It is born out of a serious commitment made to the people of Jamaica and becomes more urgent as we see the level of divisiveness that is making us an intractable country. It is my hope that the IBI will be a catalytic effort that can assist in decisively addressing the level of fractiousness that is so evident in our country.
We can never succeed as a nation with the belligerent attitude that we take to each other. This posture of vitriol cannot foster growth neither can we build a productive future on a diet of animosity, hate, distrust, disrespect. We will drown in the ocean of self hate and anger. We must be able to make our decisions and come to our conclusions without thunderings, threatenings and lightening. We need more collaborative efforts rather than confrontation.
The conditions that pervade Jamaican life scream at us to develop and implement a survival package in defence of our nation. Each of us wherever we function, whether it is in the political arena, the public sector, the private sector, in schools, churches, and the diaspora must get into action now for the sake of our country. We cannot live in this state of paralysis any longer. We must go forward.
We need to come together under a common theme and develop a national self concept where everyone can say this is who we are and we are proud of it. We have the ability to be welcoming, kind and courteous to each other, and so we must harness our energy to do good, for our history has demonstrated that as a people we are ‘a punch above our weight’. I don’t have to remind you of our national and international successes in many spheres of endeavours, and the future looks good. That is why the I BELIEVE INITIATIVE is unequivocally committed to unearthing the people and things that are right with Jamaica, showcase them and partner with them to fix what is wrong with Jamaica.
On May 19, 2011, the IBI was launched at Kings House. At that time we also launched our website www.ibelieveinitiative.org, unveiled its theme song, released the brochure which speaks to the scope of what the initiative intends to undertake and solicited the support of the attendees, for the program. Already the IBI has partnered with individuals and organizations to offer scholarships to students in school, addressing social needs and facilitating mentoring and other transformatory exchanges while recognizing achievements of our young people. Most of these activities were conducted from its base at King’s House.
The working committee has outlined its goal for the next two years, which covers initiatives to address the three core issues of family, youth and education. Family in its original sense is to a large extent diminished in Jamaica, but the importance of family and its revitalization where possible should be emphasized. However it is practiced, people should understand its importance for the support of each other, the stability of a nation and the transmission of our heritage. Our people will benefit from counselling opportunities and improvement of parenting skills.
The youth and the issues that affect them are a major cause for concern both by youth and adults alike. The youth initiatives will continue through the consultative conferences which will give our young people a forum to voice their concern to the nation and tap into their abundant energy. There will also be a drive to get unattached youth involved in organizations where values and attitudes are transmitted.
Education is to be seriously addressed over and above the structured provisions that are in place for the delivery of the 3R’s (reading, writing, arithmetic). There is need for a broader understanding and awareness that it involves the totality of one’s existence. Therefore the emotional, physical, spiritual and social areas are to be addressed to help us develop citizens who can function here and anywhere else in the world. The educational initiatives will also see WIFI communities established with internet access, therefore making access to education and educational opportunities more readily available.
The Diaspora is an important partner in forming alliances and expanding our network to attract investments and influencing decisions at all levels of the international community. You can use these avenues to assist the IBI, as well as with your personal commitment. We need your support to help us develop a kinder, gentler society, so you can come home to visit families, do business, vacation and reside here in relative peace and safety. By assisting the IBI you are investing with the future of Jamaica. There is no question about it, we need all hands on board. All who believe in the country – at home and in the diaspora, now is the time to seize the day, lest like sand in the hour glass it slips away never to return.
By now you would have received the IBI brochure and a commitment form, please do your part, stay in touch with us, on the interactive website, telephone, email, snail mail, however you can, let’s work together for the betterment of each other and Jamaica land we love.
Thank you, enjoy your stay here and best wishes for the future.