A very Good Afternoon to you all!

President Manley would have already conveyed my apologies at not being here earlier, but you would understand that there are times when the best laid plans are upset by other events.  Despite the obligatory agenda change, I insisted on being here to join with you in celebrating our Back2Life project of the Rotary Club of Kingston.  There is a simple but popular saying:  “Where there is life there is hope.”  The Back2Life project is that channel of hope for the boys at the Rio Cobre Juvenile Centre.  Therefore, I am here to declare my support for your efforts to ensure its continuity for years to come!

I remember very well the launch on July 7, 2012 when I was very pleased to have endorsed the project with the stamp of approval of the “I Believe” Initiative.  The service-minded men and women of this Club pledged to make a difference in the lives of the approximately one hundred boys at the Rio Cobre Juvenile Centre and so reduce recidivism through mentorship, supporting their rehabilitation, and equipping them with skills for their re-integration into society.

Almost a year later, this young plant, Back2Life, has taken root, but it needs further nurturing and nourishment if it is to grow into a sturdy plant.  The project’s journey over the last year has revealed that the “nourishment” required is continued commitment, especially through an increase in the number of male mentors.  I commend the Rotarians who regularly devote time and resources to this project and encourage all others to get involved.

This is too valuable an initiative to flounder!  Let us work to ensure that the “Rio Cobre experience” is enhanced and replicated in all the island’s correctional centres.

I am excited about this project because of:

1.   what Back2Life represents,

2.   what it has been able to accomplish so far,

3.   its potential to significantly impact the lives of so many more of our young men across the nation and

4.   because it is my Club’s project.

Back2Life is another example of using “what is right with Jamaica to fix what is wrong with Jamaica”.   This is the mantra, as you know, of the “I Believe” Initiative which I launched in 2011.  The Back2Life project also focuses on one of the three pillars of the IBI, which is the motivation of youth towards excellence.  It was therefore “a natural fit” for endorsement by the IBI.

Lady Allen and I recently visited the Rio Cobre Juvenile Centre and my interaction with the boys, reinforced in my own mind that our young men who have strayed can be put back on the right path.  They need our help and guidance!  It is incumbent on us to do our part in their rehabilitation.  Let me add here, that well before the launch of the Back2Life project, Lady Allen had been supporting the education of the boys at Rio Cobre and in fact two of them matriculated to tertiary institutions.

From as early as the conceptualization of the Back2Life, the Kingston Rotary Club envisioned that this project had the potential for expansion right across Jamaica.  Thus the intention was always to hand over the project to a Foundation which would ensure its continuity and sustainability.  It would also provide the “blueprint” for implementation in other juvenile centres and penal institutions.

To this end, the Back2Life Foundation is soon to be a reality; the process is already very far advanced.   Like all of you, I anticipate the completion of the requisite procedures for the registration of the Foundation as a charitable organization.  I want to specially commend President Manley and his able team and thank them for leading the vision thus far.

Let me thank all those who have agreed to serve on the proposed Board of Directors, motivated by their belief in the merits, as well as the potential of this great project. I thank the Honourable Steadman Fuller, Custos Rotulorum for the parish of Kingston, for accepting the invitation to chair the Foundation.   I am very pleased about this as I have every confidence in your vision and ability, Custos Fuller, to effectively lead this foundation!

My fellow Rotarians, you have once again demonstrated to the people of Jamaica your deep level of commitment to the Rotary’s motto: “Service Above Self”, and to your country.  You have shown that each of us can and must play a role in Jamaica’s growth and development.  The challenges facing our nation are not at all insurmountable, but they require our commitment, determination, discipline, hard work and belief in ourselves and in our people.  I believe that we who speak the same language of service, loyalty, integrity and good neighbourliness must become more visible, to the end that ours will become the profile which defines Jamaica and propels its advancement.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Rotarians,

Please accept my very best wishes for all your future undertakings.  And a good afternoon to you.

Thank you.