It’s a fact that the Jamaican Diaspora provides additional foreign currency to Jamaica. Recently again, remittances topped the equivalent of 2.4 billion United States dollars. The amounts remitted are from across the various major Diaspora regions of the USA, Canada, and the UK. To Jamaica, it means the increased gross domestic product (GDP) and additional household income for families of Diaspora living in the various parts of Jamaica. However, an increased GDP is an unintended consequence of remittances. The primary purpose of remittances is to promote development through funding food, clothing, education, and health for families left in Jamaica.
Remittances, however, are only one of the types of support Diaspora offers to Jamaica. The passion for Jamaica by its Diaspora runs deep. Jamaicans globally have a unique interest in their home country, playing their part in many ways to advance the country’s welfare. The support is not an obligation. It is for the love of people and the nation. Just as it is with the countries in Africa, Israel, Indian and Armenian Diasporas, the people know the struggles of their homeland and do what (as much as) they can reduce the financial hardship their families face.
To make things easy, individuals in the Diaspora get together in groups to partner and collaborate for developments in their country of origin, Jamaica. They form organizations and foundations to create initiatives to collectively make the most significant impact. For an individual, it is a stretch and more challenging to make the impact they want unless they have an abundance of excess income. Is there an individual out there with extra working income anyway? Probably not. That’s because they have a job, families, and obligations they must meet to maintain their lifestyle in the Diaspora. They put their efforts together with the extra time to make a strong impression. Hence, many medical missions, education camps, banquets, walkathons, fish fries, virtual workshops, presentations, panel discussions, and other activities are conducted each year.
Unless Diaspora seeks business opportunities or investments in Jamaica (a full-time job), the collective efforts, moments of interlude from work and families, remittances, and charitable giving, are the best ways for Diaspora to engage with Jamaica. Jamaica, therefore, has an obligation as it engages with Diaspora to set their expectations appropriately; listen more, understand more, and with less excitement with the noise and haste. If Jamaica is truly serious about encouraging Diaspora participation, bring the plans to the table, so those collaborative and collective efforts can become the asset sought. Many in the Diaspora will make promises they can’t fulfill, especially from individual support. They will say things for a quick 15 minutes of fame; in the paper, magazine, or writer
Jamaica should let these Diaspora individuals prove that they have a support system to live up to their promises, whatever the collective is, before engaging. Additionally, Jamaica will not have the chance to hold individuals in the Diaspora accountable. After the articles appear in the paper, the promise is dead; the individual would have accomplished what they set out to achieve; giving Jamaicans a false sense of care. What did they say about promises again?
Jamaica should be vigilant in engaging Diaspora. Hardworking individuals and groups in Diaspora do their darndest to support their schools, clinics, communities and community centers, social clubs, and needy persons. These initiatives are critical interventions to making Jamaica a better place. Most do not have time, effort, or funds to give in huge chunks, so they give their support by attending a fundraiser, giving to crowdfunding, or buying small supplies for a student. It all adds up.
Diaspora should be more responsive to the people they say they care about in Jamaica, that is, restrain themselves from feeling high and mighty. Work for others rather than for yourself. Create interventions that seek to build capacity and create hope and opportunities that “teach a man how to fish.” Jamaicans in the Diaspora are no different from Jamaicans at home. The only difference is that some countries outside Jamaica open more advancement opportunities. It doesn’t make anyone any better than the other.
Many Jamaicans give freely of their time; they are champions for their homeland. They give without wanting something in return. After all, isn’t that what giving is all about?
Photo – Deposit Photos