MANDEVILLE, Manchester - The private voluntary United Way of Jamaica launched its central region 2013 campaign recently with a call for increased financial support and volunteerism in Manchester, Clarendon, St Elizabeth and St Ann.
“We are here to fan the United Way flames in the region,” chairman of the national board of governors, Ian Forbes, told a breakfast meeting attended by business and community leaders at the Mandeville Hotel.
Forbes urged stakeholders in the region to surpass past achievements “because you have the capacity to do so…”
United Way of Jamaica, a 28-year-old group linked to the global charity United Way Worldwide, has mobilised over $1.5 billion in Jamaica since its inception in 1985, organisers say. They say that money raised by the organisation has positively impacted the lives of more than 800,000 Jamaicans in a range of areas, including education, income generation and health.
Wendy Freckleton, regional chair of the organisation since March, said that there is a $5-million minimum target for the year to meet needs in Manchester, Clarendon, St Elizabeth and St Ann.
“We will continue to talk about United Way. We will continue to fulfil the pledges that have been made by the United Way. We will continue to ensure that persons volunteer. We will endeavour to meet our target…,” she said.
Winsome Wilkins, chief executive director of United Way of Jamaica, said the priorities of the organisation are aligned to national goals. She said target areas include early childhood education, youth unemployment, crime and violence, disaster management and response mechanisms, and financing of social development programmes.
Wilkins said that over the years the organisation’s investment at the early childhood level focused on making the school environment more secure and conducive to learning. In a number of institutions, Wilkins said, security fencing was installed, canteen and recreational facilities have been upgraded, resource centres renovated and a number of basic schools were equipped with fire safety equipment.
With the knowledge that only about 20 per cent of early childhood educators are trained, the United Way head said that her organisation will now be concentrating on training in this area for the next five years.
“Now I understand why (it is) that our children are not doing well at primary school and when they go on to high school and further on. They are not prepared for their primary education. The foundations that should have been laid have not been laid. ...We have a fundamental issue that we need to fix,” she said.
Those who had high praise for the organisation were a representative of May Day Basic School and May Day Citizens’ Association, Astley Smith; Dr Auma Folkes of Hope Village Early Childhood Institute and the Williamsfield Skills Training Centre; and budding entrepreneur Omar Beek, who is currently benefiting from subsidised training in computer repairs at the Skills Training Centre.
Kenneth Gordon, “a quiet giant” who has volunteered for 27 years in the region, believes that organisations that were assisted by the United Way should feel a sense of responsibility to give in return.
“The greatest honour that a person can get in life is to serve his fellowmen. ...If United Way helped you and your business is doing good, then you should turn back and help somebody else, help us that we can help somebody else. It is the principle of one hand wash(ing) the other,” he said.
“(United Way) is not another charity, it’s not another organisation… It’s a partnership for sustainability,” added Wayne Wray, campaign cabinet chairman of United Way of Jamaica.