Thu | Feb 20, 2020

US-based J’cans have big wishes for home in new year

Published:Sunday | December 29, 2019 | 12:52 AMKaryl Walker - Gleaner Writer
Hugh Meikle
Melford Spencer (left), Goldburn Simpson (centre) and Linval Witter, farmers in Red Bank, St Elizabeth, pack vegetables for market. Jamaican Dr Claudette Simpson, who lives in the United States, is hoping to see Jamaica take bigger steps towards enhancing its own food security in 2020.

Jamaica remains a powerful voice on the world stage, despite the many economic, political and social woes that beset the country throughout this past year. With that in mind, Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora are hoping that, come 2020, things will take a turn for the better.

Among those with high hopes for the island in the new year is Hazelle Rogers, mayor of Lauderdale Lakes in South Florida.

Rogers, 67, is a former Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives and was born and raised in the pearl of the Caribbean. She remains firmly rooted in her commitment to the land of her birth.

Her focus is on job opportunities for the young Jamaicans at home and abroad.

“I wish for engagement of our young people. We should look to find more employment opportunities to help the young people not only in Jamaica but in the diaspora,” Rogers told The Sunday Gleaner.

Jobs for young people in America were once a dime a dozen but, in recent years, older persons have been forced to cling to low-paying jobs that used to suffice for tertiary-level students seeking to earn extra cash as they go about receiving a higher education.

“We now have seniors working longer hours to make up for their retirement. I would not even say social security. The young people? We have to train them, we have to trust them by giving them a job,” Rogers said.

Hugh Meikle is a real estate agent and titles broker. Meikle attended Kingston College and visits Jamaica every year, if even to take in the memories of when his beloved alma mater used to rule at the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association Boys’ Athletics Championships, popularly known as ‘Champs’.

Meikle would love to retire in the place he knows as home but, similar to many Jamaicans in the diaspora, he is wary of the high crime rate and how it especially affects returning residents.

“I would love to see returning residents able to go home and live without the hassle and worry of crime. A lot of us want to return for good, but crime is a hindrance,” Meikle said.

Dr Claudette Simpson holds two PhDs. She has been working in South Florida for more than a decade but has invested in her homeland and remains committed to seeing Jamaica rise like a phoenix from the ashes.

Skilled farmers and fertile soil

Her pet peeve is realising the dream that the country, with its fertile soil and skilled farmers, take the business of feeding itself by the scruff of the neck.

“As a daughter of the Jewel of the Caribbean, Jamaica, my vision for the island is to see her take her place in history once again, this time dominating agriculture and commerce like never before. It is said: ‘He who owns the food, rules the world’. I would love to see the initiative manifesting in 2020 from Jamaica House to our house. We have the land, the factories, the radio stations, TV networks, newspapers, Internet and social-media platforms to sweep Jamaica and the world with this challenge. We have the ability to shake the world and shift its axis with ‘products of Jamaica’, producing and taking back our territories in the realm of agriculture and commerce. Producing, branding and export should be our dominant force,” Simpson said.

Alwyn Walker is the owner of Maryland-based business, Access Audi Visuals. A few years ago, Walker ventured back to Jamaica to attend the funeral of a relative. While at home, the Wolmerian was astounded by the prices charged by hotels on the island’s north coast.

He was also taken aback by the fact that most of the hotels were owned by foreign entities.

“I would love to know that when I come to Jamaica and check into a hotel my money is being spent with Jamaicans and the money is not being filtered out of the country. The prices are exorbitant so some of that money must stay in the country. We all love Jamaica but the place needs to improve. Too much crime and murders. It is very frightening when we see the news that comes out of our beloved country,” Walker said.