Reflections on 2015 Diaspora Conference “Day of Service”

The Day of Service aspect of the Conference was a great success, from the perspectives of both the Diaspora participants and the recipients in Jamaica. The 2015 Day of Service, a plan that encourages the diaspora delegates to engage in community programs during the conference, was an improvement on the program which was first introduced at the 2013 Conference for the time. This year the collaboration between the main Diaspora regions (USA, Canada and the UK) were more evident and vibrant.

In Education, the representatives from the UK and the USA combined to deliver their services in: mentor-ship, career day talks as well as engaging in early childhood fact finding, and other interventions. Spot Valley High School in Montego Bay benefitted from student and teacher mentorship, teacher empowerment and career day activities. Dr. Lorna Corke and Douglas Morgan led an 8 man team to Spot Valley where they were welcomed to the school with performances from the talented students and teachers. “Cross talk” and enrichment exercises left a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment on the sides of both the Diaspora and the recipients. The UK team members were later shuttled to the Sam Sharpe Teachers College to participate in the early childhood workshop, coordinated in a joint activity between the Early Childhood Commission, the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), Sam Sharpe Teachers College, Union of Jamaican Alumni Association (UJAA) and Jamaica Impact (JAMPACT).  I take this opportunity to thank the JTA for providing transportation, allowing us to be shuttled comfortably to the event.

State Minister Arnaldo Brown from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Sharon Folkes Abrahams from the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce were in attendance. Professor Neville Ying from Jamaica Diaspora Institute, Dr. Joan Reid – Early Childhood Commission, Dr. Dennis Edwards – Jamaica Red Cross, Peter Rose Rock House Foundation and Dr. Asburn Pinnock, Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College all joined the workshop and shared lunch with the principals, teachers, students and parents from the early childhood schools in and around Montego Bay.

An energetic and vibrant discussion ensued in each of the sessions held under the themes: “Strengthening Capacities for Improved Learning.” The titles of concurrent sessions were “Trauma and learning; and “Strategies for Effective Parent Engagement” which lasted just over an hour, were truly informational and engaging .  At the end, a testimony by Barbara Barrett, a teacher in the early primary sector, described her experience as fulfilling and she has now left with an appreciation, as a primary school teacher, “to not take for granted a child’s prior experience”.

Major contributors to the execution of this activities included LesleyAnn Samuels and Karlene Largie of Union of Jamaican Alumni Associations (UJAA) and Akelia Lawrence-Maitland also from the New York area.  The collaboration with the Canada and UK teams are admirable and appreciative.

Coming out of both of these Day of Service activities, I am looking forward to many more early childhood engagements, convinced that the interventions have made an impact, as was made clear also by the Managing Director of Early Childhood Education, Dr. Joan Reid.

The Diaspora Education Task Forces remain committed and ready – in the service of our Nation’s children. One love. ……… Diaspora Education Task Force Chairperson (USA