Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Lorraine J. Smith grew up in Wynter’s Pen and is a graduate of St. Catherine High School. Recognized for her dedication, achievements, and transformational leadership in social services, Lorraine support various churches, schools, and other organizations within Jamaica and across the Diaspora. She is currently an Adjunct Lecturer at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology in Jamaica, sits on the board of St. Catherine High School, and serves as the NE Co-chair with a focus on mental health within the health sector. She also volunteers with the Jamaican Embassy in Washington DC and provides early childhood education, counseling, and mental health support to the community where she grew up and beyond. As a recipient of a service award from the New York Consulate General of Jamaica, Ms. Smith’s background also includes serving as an outpatient therapist at Millhill Child & Family Development, as program director for Senior Star AMDC, and for Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey. Through her company Solutions for U LLC, Lorraine supports individuals with disabilities and Jamaicans transitioning to the United States, equipping them with educational and health resources and support so they can thrive. Lorraine Smith is the author of “Through The Tears, I Rise,” a memoir that helps the reader to unlock the secrets of survival through the lens of her own life. Lorraine resides in Douglasville, Georgia, and is very big on self-care so in her downtime enjoys walking, horseback riding, cooking, interior decorating, and traveling.
What is your connection to Jamaica? Have you been involved in the Jamaica Diaspora Movement or Jamaican-related organizations before?
I was born in Kingston, my parents moved to Wynter’s Pen, Spanish Town when I was 5 yrs. old. Later I attended St. Catherine High School where I currently serve on their board. I have been supporting Jamaica through my local community ensuring that the local Early Childhood Education School has what is needed for their students and teachers. Particular focus was given to students with disabilities and training was provided to teachers. This has been ongoing. For the last 3 years, I’ve been part of the Northeast Diaspora, where I served as one of the Co-Chair in the Health Sector and covered mental health for the 14 states in the north. In that position, I served Jamaicans in the United States and in Jamaica individually and collectively through counseling, case management, assisting with cultural transition (migrating from Jamaica to the US) crisis management, homelessness, and education. I have worked on several projects with organizations, churches, and schools. I was a part of the historical medical mission of the Savanna-La-Mar Hospital, provided telehealth counseling to a group of women at the Jamaica Cancer Society, provided Hotspot through the Digicel program for students, and promote the quality of life for individuals with all types of disabilities.
If elected what will be your main goal in this role for your constituencies?
De-stigmatize mental health, making the topic more culturally relevant and services more accessible.
Collaborate with the Diaspora to strengthen academic support to reduce learning loss across Jamaica.
Creating economic opportunities within the distribution chain throughout the diaspora.
Develop pathways for more effective engagement between Jamaica and the Southern Diaspora.
Upskill and leverage technology and partner with companies that are interested in supporting the Jamaican labor force.
Many in the Jamaican community abroad don’t know much about the Jamaica Diaspora movement and its goals. What will you do to change this perception and get all Jamaicans in the Diaspora involved?
I believe in order to change the perception of the diaspora, we will need education about what is the diaspora. Most believe that it is an organization for the elite and that is far from the truth. Diaspora engagement begins with simply being present with folks, listening, responding, and being authentic. Being present doesn’t only mean physically face-to-face as we have now learned but it is that people should know who their representative is, interact with that person, and have the opportunity to reach out and speak with them should they have the need to do so. This should be the same across all 13 states, not just one.
Recently there have been some who have expressed concerns about the lack of funding for The Global Jamaica Diaspora Council and if the position has any power without direction from the Jamaican Government. Do you have any thoughts on this?
We do understand this is a volunteer position. Serving does come with personal sacrifices. If one decides to serve then you have to look at everything that is laid out before you. I realize that it can be costly.. as I have been a part of the team for the past 3 years. I do believe that the position has the ability to harness decision-making abilities, have inputs, and be a part of the discussions and policy changes through the work that we continue to do.
Is there a goal that you believe the global Jamaican Diaspora can rally around?
There are several goals that we can identify that Jamaica Diaspora can rally around and that is improving our healthcare….we have different organizations that have been doing their thing. I believe if we come together as we did for the medical mission and tackle the issue of emergency medicine, critical care, and mental health we will be a diaspora that has made history and one that should be super proud of ourselves.