Food For the Poor going places
In 35 years of operation, the role of Food For The Poor (FFP) Jamaica, as well as the scope of its operations, has grown significantly as the charity continues to enable and enrich beneficiaries within and far beyond local shores.
As news of the humanitarian crisis in Haiti spread, following the widespread devastation by Hurricane Matthew last October, Jamaicans turned to FFP as a channel for their good intentions, a situation which Chairman Andrew Mahfood admits caught him off-guard.
"The Haiti relief, that was amazing. We started to get a couple calls right after the hurricane, and I am not sure if it's because of how close it came to us, but the outpouring of support from Jamaica to us, to give to Haiti, was something we hadn't seen before. Seventeen containers were shipped and J$12 million raised," Mahfood told The Gleaner.
From humble beginnings at Emerald Road, Kingston, from which goods brought into the island through the Catholic Relief Service in 1982 were distributed, the phenomenal growth of the local chapter of this charitable non-profit organisation has been consistent with that of its parent company. Food For The Poor is the largest charity organisation in Jamaica, with Food For The Poor Incorporated, located in Florida, United States of America (USA), being the largest international relief and development organisation in the USA, assisting the poor in 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries.
"We did start as Food For The Poor, giving away food, but now the objectives of the organisation are so vast - housing, medical, social outreach, education, prison ministries, water and sanitation and agriculture," the chairman explained.
He offered an explanation as to why more donors are looking to share of their bounty through the non-denominational entity. "I think what is happening is that we are connecting more with corporate Jamaica and through the good efforts of the media and the reporting on all the stuff that we do, that connection is growing. They are seeing the wide range of things that we are doing."
People flock from far and wide to the head office of Food For The Poor (FFP) Jamaica at Ellerslie Pen, Spanish Town, in St Catherine, as soon as the doors open, from Monday to Friday.
There, some 135 staffers comprising what FFP Chairman Andrew Mahfood describes as "a good team out there" attend to the varied requests for assistance.
Investigators are the first responders, whether it's a request for immediate help from a fire victim or to build a home for a family.
"Somebody has to actually go and visit the premises and say, 'Yes, we've been to the location and we've seen the conditions they live under.' So we get the picture and all of us see that it's a genuine case," Mahfood told The Gleaner.
Individuals seeking help may contact the organisation directly or through a church in their area, a pastor, justice of the peace, or member of parliament. However, FFP is working to help Jamaicans to help themselves, as well as others, Mahfood explained.
"The organisation has always felt that we have to get our recipients self-sufficient and into projects that are sustainable for them to provide an income. We believe that Jamaica provides a great opportunity for recipients to come together - either in a community and do a big agricultural project. Food For The Poor has the ability to fund those projects - put in homes, to put in, say, a community centre, to put in a place where people can go and pray, as well as schools. These are things that it can do in these communities."