His Excellency The Governor-General has entrusted to me the pleasant task of welcoming you to historic King’s House!

Unfortunately, your Patrons Their Excellencies The Governor-General and the Most Hon.  Lady Allen, are engaged in matters which prevent them from sharing in this moment.  They asked that I convey their regrets and mine is the honour to deliver this address on the Governor-General’s behalf.

“As Patron of Girls Brigade Jamaica, I am pleased that Girls Brigade Month will be observed in March under the theme: “Grasp the Vision, live the Mission – Expectant.”

Our young Brigaders make me hopeful that like others who have passed through the ranks of the Girls Brigade of Jamaica they too will do something that will make them and your country proud.   But as the theme suggests, you must first grasp the vision and set yourself on a mission to accomplish that greatness.  Your families expect the best of you and you owe it to yourselves to strive for excellence.

Jamaica was recently acknowledged as the place with the highest number of women managers per capita.  Going forward, I am confident and expectant that Brigaders will be in the vanguard as our nation strives to make Jamaica a place of choice in which to live, work, raise families and do business.

Before Girls Brigade was founded in Ireland in 1893, women were less engaged in contributing to social and economic activities than they are today. Brigade Founder Margaret Lyttle envisioned empowering young girls to discover their potential as women of purpose.  Now, more than one hundred and twenty years later, millions of women including our own Mayor of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, Her Worship Mrs. Angela Brown Burke, are the beneficiaries of Girls Brigade’s life enriching activities.

As Brigaders you must believe like Margaret Lyttle, that nothing can stop you from realizing your true potential and achieving your dreams.  This is what the Governor General’s Programme for Excellency encourages each year through the ‘I Believe’ Initiative and the Governor General’s Achievement Awards. Jamaicans, in particular our young people who accept the mantra that “there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica,” are creating pathways through which they are enriching the lives of others.   I commend those young people who are making a difference in their schools and in their communities.

We live in an age when it is becoming increasingly challenging for traditional youth organizations like the Girls Brigade to excite the imagination of our young people.  The social media revolution seems to have overtaken our youth groups as the forum in which lasting friendships are made and values are learned. Youth groups are no longer ‘trending’ and unlike social media, they do not enjoy the company of hundreds of followers and fans, or receive thousands of hits, likes and reposts.  Yet these are superficial relationships at best, or dangerous at worst. We have seen news items about how youth have succumbed to negative influences on social media and some have even ended up as victims of crime.

On the other hand, the relationships and networks which are fostered through the work of youth organizations like the Girls Brigade help to strengthen our communities and the nation as a whole. When we promote the increase in membership of the Girls Brigade, for example, we are ensuring that Jamaica is destined for a positive future.  Jamaica is being enriched by the Mission and Vision of the Girls Brigade and I encourage each of you to try to get others on board.

As many of you would have noticed, various youth organizations have had to curtail their activities due to constraints related to funding and the ability to attract suitable mentors.  I therefore encourage Jamaicans to volunteer to serve as mentors and to contribute to the Girls Brigade’s annual tag drive.  In addition to assisting them with their ongoing activities, your donation will help the Brigade to host a successful fellowship camp for Brigaders from the Caribbean and the Americas later this year.

I pause here to applaud the initiative taken by youth groups to work together as one umbrella organization in order to support each other and strengthen the overall youth movement in Jamaica.

In closing let me thank National President Mrs. Valrie Cyrus and her team of leaders and mentors for their dedication to nurturing the next generation of Jamaican leaders.  I also commend the teachers in our schools for their commitment to mentoring and nurturing our young girls with values that will form the cornerstone of their development.

It gives me great pleasure to launch Girls’ Brigade Month and the annual tag drive. May God bless you all!