It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost nine years since I stood on the podium of the 5th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference held in Montego Bay and announced my commitment to the education sector. I recall Professor Neville Ying asking me to wrap up the final sessions that afternoon. I promised to find a platform that would encourage educators in the Diaspora to help build capacity in our homeland.
By August that same year, I convinced six individuals to buy into my dream of building energy around education in the Diaspora that would take “brain drain and convert it into brain gain” for Jamaica. August 2013 was the birth of the Jamaica Diaspora Education Task Force (JDETF)
The Diaspora responded resoundingly, and within a year, JDETF hosted more than two hundred individuals on weekly conference calls. The individuals by such numbers wanted to improve conditions in their homeland. Attending meetings was accessibleby conference calls, and they were excited because of this new concept for Diaspora engagement.
The early success of the education task force also caught the attention of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), The Ministry of Education (MOEY), the USAID, the Union of Jamaica Alumni Associations (UJAA), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade (MFAFT). Nine months into the life of the education task force, the partners above collaborated for the first-ever Advancements in Education four-day summit held in Montego Bay and Kingston. Close to 1000 teachers were in attendance at this inaugural summit held in partnership with the JTA.
After the two summits in Jamaica in 2014 and 2016, the JDETF changed the venue to conduct subsequent events in North America. Educators from Jamaica now make their way annually to the USA to attend the education summits that feature workshops, training, schools and university tours, and other exciting learning opportunities. This year the conference moves to New York and is hosted by the Union of Jamaica Alumni Associations (UJAA) from March 21-25. Two previous face-to-face summits were held in Florida and were hosted by the Broward Alliance of Caribbean Educators and the Broward College, respectively. And during the pandemic the Summits went virtual and were the highest attended summits yet with over 6 thousand teachers joining virtual sessions.
Loma Linda University hosted the annual EXCEED teacher development program, another successful and significant partnership developed through the JDETF. Teachers travelled to their California campus to attend the yearly one-week workshop on using devices to teach in the classroom. This program ran yearly from 2014 through 2019, long before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The success of the education task force has led to the development of many other Taskforces: Agriculture, Technology, Immigration, and crime, to name a few. The formation of the successful JET-UK in London (Seymour Mattis) and JMED in the Middle East ( John Warren) is an excellent example of the task force model. As of 2019, the Taskforces, now 15, have formed a network, the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network (JDTAN.)
Recently, JDTAN further divided education into four task forces, Special Education, Early Childhood Education, Primary & Secondary, and Tertiary, to deepen the engagement with the education sector in Jamaica. The chairpersons are experts who lead all task forces in their fields. Leaders that have chosen to put their abilities and strengths into “action” for Jamaica.
The taskforce model is a proven way to engage the Diaspora in service to Jamaica. Providing a mechanism for individuals to give back seamlessly, explore the strengths of their talents, and collaborate for development.
It’s great to see the growth and the success of the task force model. The first meeting in August of 2013 started with only six registered individuals in the USA. Today Taskforces in the Jamaica Diaspora Taskforce Action Network have recorded more than eighteen hundred Jamaicans across forty-five countries. The list grows every day. The 15 task forces cover seventeen sectors. They are very active, assessing needs, goal-setting, strategizing, and executing. Forty commendable leaders serve with pride and have committed to advancing Diaspora engagement across the globe. The projects are too many to list, but the impact, collaborations, friendships, and learning opportunities are testament to the participants’ good. Since 2019 alone, over thirty thousand Jamaicans have benefited and participated in Taskforce programs and projects.JDTAN task forces have also partnered with more than one hundred organizations, institutions, businesses NGOs and Ministries for successful interventions.
The announcement of the upcoming 9th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in June brings back memories of the start of task forces. At the 2019 Diaspora conference, the education task force conducted forty-two projects across Jamaica. This year we intend to increase that number, and we hope you can join us in giving back. To join us, please complete this form: Joinataskforce.jdtan.org.
In recognizing the journey, it is essential to acknowledge a few of the people who were part of the initial meeting of the JDETF in August 2013. Dr. Hansel Fletcher – California, Miss Karlene Largie – New York, Mrs. Akelia Maitland – New York, Stacy Smith – California.
We welcome your participation in JDTAN: “A vision of growth for a better Jamaica.”
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at:
Photo – Deposit Photos