Commentary

How to skip the Jamaica Customs nightmare when sending to your favorite charity

Written by Leo Gilling

Over the many weeks of summer we have seen several news stories about good Samaritans returning to Jamaica with school supplies wanting to give back to their communities and schools.  The problem is, these stories showcased good intentions hijacked by the appearance of bureaucratic red tape and reportedly inefficient processes which resulted in what seemingly appeared as failed/ disaster missions.

The clearing of school supplies at the Jamaica Customs department was reported as the primary point and source of discontent among the Good Doers  as a myriad of obstacles were reportedly encountered. These  included: exorbitant custom duties, long waiting time, misplaced shipment papers that delayed the clearing of goods that had arrived  on time, allegedly blatantly rude and disrespectful custom officers and in one instance it was reported that a staff left for lunch in the middle of  processing goods. Other complaints included incomplete instructions from the ministries, example; does the donor need a broker or not? The stories go on and on with lasting frustrations.

There is another and better way.  

Friends, donors, contributors, organizations for children’s welfare and education in Jamaica, there is an easier way that eliminates frustration at airports and the stress, hassle and duties of customs. Purchase in Jamaica.  Buy Jamaican. The supplies (books, pens, bags, pencils, eraser etc.) are all available in Jamaica and can even be purchased from the comfort of your home. There are several cash & carry stores that offer similar and sometimes better alternatives for our gifting activities.  Use these channels. The stores are willing and in fact begging for the Diaspora to do business with them.  

If it is really necessary for you to bring goods in the country, first familiarize yourself with the rules of the new charities act and policy changes in the customs department. Also, remember that a customs officer sits several flights and thousands of arriving passengers coming through the airport minute by minute and he/she is human. A little smile goes a long way; sometimes. 

From this perspective I can see so many benefits if you buy the supplies in Jamaica.

You will:

1. Contribute to the Jamaican economy 

2. Keep persons employed and may even contribute to increasing employment if you buy enough 

3. Reduce your stress levels by bypassing the customs issues

4. Establish relationships with local businesses 

5. Keep the manufacturing/distribution chain alive and well

In my research here are some stores that are high on the list of places to shop for school supplies:

1. Kingston Book Shop

2. Sampars Cash n Carry

3. Pricemart

4. Sangsters Books, sangstersbooks.com

Please use them and tell us about your experience.   

Happy giving.

About the author

Leo Gilling