I am very pleased to be with you this evening in the coolest and happiest parish of Jamaica. Regrettably, Lady Allen is unable to join us and has sent her regards for a wonderful function.
This annual fundraising dinner for which we are gathered makes my visit even more satisfying, knowing that this year’s focus is to assist with the improved mobility of your citizenry, particularly the elderly.
At the outset I wish to congratulate Mr. Lustan Letts, his teams, volunteers and the energetic young people for the high level to which they have taken the operation of the Manchester Branch of the Jamaica Red Cross and the high esteem in which it is held. The committed and generous service you give, makes this Branch (of the Jamaica Red Cross) the most active and impactful in the island, and it is worthy of your many accolades!
I have learnt that you are credited for:
• Having the highest number of trained emergency first responders working in any one parish outside the Corporate Area.
• Being the branch with the largest ‘youth link’ membership in schools within any given parish (with deCartret College holding the position of most outstanding Red Cross Youth Group in the country).
• Having one of the most efficient ambulance services in the County of Middlesex
• And best of all, that you have recently copped 26 trophies in Red Cross Competitions.
The story is told of two beggars sitting on a pavement in Ireland. One was said to be holding a large Cross and the other a large Star of David.
Both were holding hats to collect contributions. As people walked by, they lifted their noses at the beggar holding the Star of David, but dropped money in the other beggar’s hat who was holding the cross.
Soon one of the hats was nearly full whilst the other hat was empty.
A priest who was watching, approached the beggars. He turned to the beggar with the Star of David and said, “Don’t you realize that this is a Christian country? You’ll never get much contribution in this country holding a Star of David.”
The beggar holding the Star of David then turns to the beggar holding the Cross and said, “Jamie, look who’s trying to teach us Marketing.”
The point Ladies and Gentlemen, is their remarkable ability to maximize on diversity and collaborate for a common cause – the cause to alleviate human suffering and protect human life and dignity.
The work of the Red Cross is always done with the purpose of helping those most vulnerable in any situation, whether it is a national disaster, a conflict, or assisting the needy in our society or providing services at functions or training. “The wheelchair vehicle service” for which they are now seeking your support, not only will help to alleviate the stresses being experienced by those persons with mobility challenges, but will also help to create employment for the operators.
Caring for the Elderly
Caring for the elderly and challenged, is at the heart of a civilized society. Aging isn’t just a biological process — it is also a cultural one and different cultures have different attitudes and practices around aging. These cultural perspectives can have huge effects on our experience of getting older. That’s probably why David having seen the conditions of the vulnerable, begged God, “Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth.” Psalms 71:9. To care for those who once cared for us is one of the most valued responsibilities entrusted to us and at the heart of what makes us human. This ‘duty of care’ which is being demonstrated through your commitment to volunteering (via the Red Cross and with this fundraising initiative, in particular,) is a positive reflection on your understanding of our relationship to each other.
Tort: Donoghue vs Stephenson (1932)
There is a landmark negligence case in British Law, studied by 1st year law students in Britain and the British Commonwealth, which I am compelled to share with you:
On Sunday 26th August 1928 May Donoghue sat in a café with a friend. The friend ordered and paid for some ginger-beer, which came in a bottle made from dark opaque glass. Donoghue drank some of the contents, then her friend proceeded to pour the remainder of the contents of the bottle into the tumbler when a snail floated out of the bottle.
Donoghue claimed on the manufacturer, having suffered from the sickening sight of the impurities as well as shock and severe gastro-enteritis. She argued that the ginger-beer was manufactured by the defendant (Stevenson) to be sold as a drink to the public; that it was bottled with a label bearing his name; and that the bottles were then sealed with a metal cap by the defendant.
Donoghue’s lawyer, claimed that it was the duty of the defendant to provide a system of working his business, which would not allow a snail to get into ginger-beer bottles, and that it was also his duty to provide a system of inspection of the bottles before the ginger-beer was filled into them, and that he had failed in both these duties and had so caused the accident.
The ‘neighbour principle’
The case went all the way to the House of Lords (Appeal’s Court) where the Law Lords ruled for Donoghue. It was the speech of Lord Atkins that was most influential and is rehearsed and practised to this day.
“You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law is my neighbour?
The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.”
This ‘neighbour principle’ was, and to a certain extent still is, the foundation of the modern law of negligence. We, therefore, have a duty of care to those who are in need of our help.
“Care” cannot be legislated, but emerge from a deep intensive love for others.
I am not one who wears my faith on my sleeve, but doesn’t Jesus himself speak to loving thy neighbour as thyself?
We are cognizant of some of the stark realities and the social malaise which we encounter daily in our society, but you stand as tall beacons of hope for the less fortunate for whom you are making a positive difference. As an extended Jamaican family we need to revalue ourselves, and this must begin in each and every home. It was once said that volunteering is an act of heroism on a grand scale. It does more than help people beat the odds; it changes the odds.”
As you embark on this epic journey of changing the odds for the elderly and those with mobility challenges, in Manchester, your ‘duty of care’ is magnified, recognized and worth of commendation. I know that volunteering can be a daunting undertaking, but there are tremendous benefits to be had from it.
• Encourages good citizenship and provides people with an environment where they can learn the responsibilities of community. (As you have so ably been doing through the First Responder Training, and First Aid Presentations throughout schools and business within your parish)
• Volunteering also promotes trust and reciprocity and is pivotal in establishing values. (Values such as those resulting in ‘Manchesterians’ earning the designation of being the most educated per capita in Jamaica).
Let us return to our traditional African concept where care is shown for the challenged and respect is shown for the elderly, as we strive to play our part in nation building.
Several of your activities reflect elements of my own I Believe Initiative, which as you may know is predicated on family values, education and youth empowerment. With this initiative we are unflinching in our commitment to fix what is wrong with Jamaica.
Jamaica needs you now…
Benefits of the Wheelchair Vehicle Service
It is found that people are at home stuck and taxi drivers are less inclined to transport them as this will require lifting them into their vehicles. For them this process is time consuming and affects their overall daily income. So you see, our elderly citizens feel a bit rejected and dejected in many respects.
Obtaining this wheelchair vehicle service will also help to create a better psychological effect for the residents who may be accustomed to an ambulance providing this service. Your support for this fundraising initiative will help give a sense of independence to persons who would like to get to church, sporting activities and community functions. The service will also help those World War II veterans, resident at Curphey Home, who fought for us to be who we are as a people today.
Turning Concerns into Actions
In every community there is work to be done. In every nation there are wounds to heal. In every heart there is the power to do it. Your organization’s spirit of volunteerism has ignited a flame of hope burning in the hearts of the many people you assist. Whatever you achieve at the parish and community levels impacts the entire nation.
So too, can your vision of providing the first wheelchair mobile service be realized.
We depend on the business community and other members of society to support these worthy causes. Be reminded of the universal law of reciprocity – if you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.
Assuredly, there is nothing dearer to a man than wisdom, and through age wisdom undoubtedly comes. The Romans made use of their elderly and invests faith in their wisdom and experience.
Therefore, for the good of our country, let us continue breaking down what divides us and we want Jamaica to be a country where every community is involved in caring for the challenged and elderly. Improving the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the powers of humanity is a great formula for immense satisfaction.
I encourage you to make your pledge to assist this worthy cause.
May this be an occasion which helps us all to open the floodgates of love, compassion, care and respect which will enrich the lives of us all.