ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY THE MOST HONOURABLE SIR PATRICK ALLEN ON, GCMG, CD GOVERNOR-GENERAL TO THE 5TH BIENNIAL JAMAICAN DIASPORA CONFERENCE JUNE 19, 2013 “ON A MISSION: JAMAICA- DISAPORA PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT”

“ON A MISSION: JAMAICA- DISAPORA PARTNERSHIP FOR DEVELOPMENT”

It is great to see this vibrant Diaspora group gathered here.

I think Miss Valarie Steele has summed up the sentiments of the Diaspora very well with the statement that “most Jamaicans living overseas walk around with a piece of the homeland in their hearts, most Jamaicans have not really left, we just done sleep here on a regular basis.  One of the things that Jamaicans as a whole might not realize, because of the sting of racism, unfairness and inequality, our children won’t have anywhere else to go.  They will have to come here to marry, they will buy homes, they will follow us until we are in the grave.” Some of these sentiments redound with many in the Diaspora. 

Welcome home!  It certainly does my heart good to see you all here.

Many of you were here for the gala celebrations of our 50 anniversary of Independence last year and I know that Jamaicans all across the world- especially those who were in London- were jubilant in marking that landmark anniversary.  What makes this gathering special, however, is that you are here to register your commitment to being a part of that grand mission on which Jamaica has embarked.  We are a nation on a mission to achieve Vision 2030, which is for us to become a place of choice where our people can live in safety, work, raise families and do business.

You have come home to lend your intellect and experience to the crafting of strategies to grow Jamaica. Indeed, you are here demonstrating your concern for our beloved homeland and your determination to be part of the solution to propel us towards a brighter future.

In these three days, you have listened to various presentations and you have expressed your views on the partnership between Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora.  The fact is that as we ramp up that partnership, we are acutely aware that not only is its success good for the development of Jamaica, but it is also good for the profile of the country.

The way Jamaica is perceived internationally also impacts on you in the Diaspora; it impacts on how you are stereotyped in business, in schools and colleges, and in every field of endeavor.  You have lived that fact, from the afterglow of our Olympic glory, to the shame of being dubbed as one of the crime capitals of the world.  As we have heard it said, we as Jamaicans show our prowess at both ends of the scale and make headlines for either being very good or being very bad.

It is time ladies and gentlemen to change that image and we have it in us to make a radical change.  What is beyond question is that we are a people with substantial creative energies and ingenuity, which if properly channeled, could launch us on an accelerated path of development.  We have youngsters who are making waves in the field of information technology, for example, and the international community acknowledges this.

Last year, the World Bank, in collaboration with the Government and the private sector, sponsored Digital Jam 02, which resulted in over 500 Jamaican youth being employed through outsourcing by major transnational technology corporations.  This year, the World Bank is back again, working with Government and the private sector, with Canada’s support, to host a major animations festival called “Kingstoon”.   That festival runs tomorrow and Friday at the UWI and some 3000 of our young people will be involved.

What the World Bank is helping us to do is to capitalize on the innate skills which our people have demonstrated, both in the good, such as when Jamaican youth won the 2010 Microsoft “Imagine” Cup, or even in the bad, as exemplified by cybercrimes, including scamming.  It is not that we have not recognized the urgent need to harness these skills and energies for Jamaica’s development.  The impediment usually is the inadequacy of financial resources.

Last year, without even knowing about the Digital Jam 02 technology conference, we at King’s House planned a series of youth conferences held in the three counties between September and November. These conferences were part of the 2012 programme under the “I Believe” Initiative which I had launched in May 2011. One sub-theme of those conferences was information technology, as I see this as one of the most fruitful sectors for generating well-paid employment for our young people. This year, without knowing about the plans for Kingstoon, we included in our 2013 “I Believe” programming, a series of animation workshops to be held at the county level.

Last year, the IBI established a productive relationship with ToonBoom, a major Canadian animations company, and they will be collaborating with us in these three workshops.  The main speaker at the Kingstoon launch tomorrow is: the CEO of ToonBoom.  Our first animations workshop will be held at UTECH next week.  The second is expected to be held at NCU in July and we are still hoping to locate a partner for the Cornwall animations workshop.  So you see, Ladies and Gentlemen, even at King’s House we are getting into the trenches as the IBI reaches out across Jamaica with the message that there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.

As I look around this hall, I perceive that some of you may not know what the IBI is. Briefly, the concept for this initiative was derived from my inaugural speech on February 26, 2009, when I declared a series of convictions about our country and our people.  I said then and I believe it even more firmly today that “despite our challenges, our setbacks and our despair, we are a nation which has been blessed with a rich heritage, abundant resources and the prospect of a bright future”. I stated my conviction then, as I do now, that with unity and commitment we can bring our country back from the precipice of social destruction.

The IBI’s mission is “To create pathways through partnerships and to promote programmes that restore hope, belief and sound values in Jamaica’s families, youth and through education.” We emphasize the inculcation of the core values for living in peace, safety and prosperity and this demands motivational talks and meetings across the country, as well as programmes for mentorship.  Clearly, we cannot do this on our own, hence the importance of forging partnerships with like-minded groups and organizations.  One example is our partnership with Kingston Rotary club in their Back2Life project, which strives to reduce recidivism among our youth at correctional institutions.  Currently, their pilot project is at the Rio Cobre Correctional Centre where through mentorship and support for skills development, they are preparing young men for re-integration into society and for living an honest, productive life when they are released.

We know that a serious aspect of our problems in Jamaica can be traced back to the homes, where poor parenting has spawned dysfunctional children who become angry, violent youth ready for recruitment into criminal gangs.  The IBI therefore gives priority to its programme for imparting parenting skills and in this we partner with the Jamaica Parenting School and Mrs. Faith Linton and Dr. Barry Davidson of the Family Life Ministries supporting community and development strategies.

This leads me to another aspect of the IBI: that of supporting community development strategies through our designation of communities as “I Believe Villages”.   What this means is that we find communities where the people themselves have diagnosed their problem, have prescribed their own solution and are working at implementation. They volunteer their labour and their resources; they network with the private sector; they reach out to the Diaspora and also to faith-based organizations overseas.  The IBI seeks to show these communities as examples to be replicated all across Jamaica.  In these IBI Villages, rather than be sitting idly or angrily bemoaning their lot in life, people are putting their shoulders to the wheel, as those of us from poor rural villages have always done, striving to do better.

We have designated two such Villages: Petersfield in Westmoreland, through their Association of Clubs, and Spring Village, through their Development Fund.  Our efforts now are bent on raising funds to help them implement their development strategies.  Spring Village needs help to complete their Medical Centre and Petersfield seeks to expand their facility for capacity building and income-generating activities.

Now ongoing is the IBI “Summer of Service” competition in which we have challenged young people who are matriculating to any of our top three universities this year, or are in their first year of undergraduate studies, to volunteer their time and talents to do some worthy projects this summer.  The winners will receive university scholarships or educational grants. Results will be announced at our National Youth Conference to be held in October, though, of course, the winners will be privately informed early in September.

I invite you to visit our IBI website at www.ibelieveinitiative.org and there  you will learn more about what we are doing as we seek, in collaboration with our partners, to change Jamaica for the better, one life at a time.  Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter.  But let me encourage you to be a part of this initiative.  You can adopt the “I Can” principle of the IBI and be a positive force within the Diaspora communities where you live.  You can determine that rather than constantly be bemoaning the social tragedies in Jamaica, you will do something about it!

Already many of you are working with your primary or high school to give the children a better chance in life. Many of you are contributing hospital equipment and supplies, or in other ways, are giving back to Jamaica.  This is evident by the fact that you are here. You believe in Jamaica and that is why you are here.  This is especially celebrated today by our recognition of three exemplary Diaspora citizens, whom I have the pleasure of inducting into the Governor-General’s Diaspora Hall of Fame! Gentlemen, congratulations on being the Awardees for the 5th Biennial Diaspora Conference!   I commend you and hope that your example will become contagious right across the Diaspora.

I want to encourage all of you to spread the I Believe message and get more people on board in this urgent mission for a better Jamaica.   Within your various Diaspora groups you can establish IBI teams who will unite their resources to grant scholarships to needy, deserving youth; or to provide life skills and sustenance for at-risk youth.   You might even wish to adopt one of the IBI programmes for implementation in your home community be it in Spanish Town or Albert Town, in Golden Spring  or Beeston Spring. Write me and tell me about your dreams for your communities and how you plan to bring them to fruition.

For those of you who reside in the USA, you will be interested to know that the IBI has established a partnership with the “American Friends of Jamaica”, an organization established by a group of former US Ambassadors to Jamaica.  This partnership allows you to contribute to IBI activities by making tax deductible, earmarked donations to the AFJ.  This means that your community project could be designated an IBI activity and your financial contributions through the AFJ will benefit from tax relief.

I am inviting all of you, if you have not yet done so, to register as a “Friend of IBI” so we can keep you apprised of our activities.   Let us work towards a mutually beneficial relationship as together we strive to make Jamaica the magnificent country we are destined to be, increasing  in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, as we play our part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race!

Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for coming home and do enjoy your stay.

Thank you!