Paying it forward - the COJO way - Four receive scholarship awards
Krysta Anderson, Lifestyle Writer
Last Wednesday afternoon, specially invited guests gathered in the Polo Lounge of The Jamaica Pegasus hotel for the annual Children of Jamaica Outreach (COJO) scholarship luncheon.
It is an event that many look forward to as members of the New York-based charity arrive in the island bearing gifts - four scholarships for wards of the State. Congratulations were also in order for the organisation, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
After a prayer by COJO executive Robert Desouza, it was time for a three-course meal of red peas soup, then delectable delights of fish, chicken, rice and steamed vegetables, topped off with a sweet treat for dessert. Then it was time for the real main course - the speeches.
Laudatory words to the awardees partnered with that of encouragement and upliftment echoed in the dining room. Gary Williams, chairman and founder of COJO; leader of the Opposition, Andrew Holness; Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the Child Development Agency; and Dr Maurice Smith, director of the National College of Educational Leadership, took to the stage, inspiring all with their insightful wisdom.
TRACK STARS PRESENT
Also gracing the stage were track stars Kemar Bailey-Cole and 'The Beast' Yohan Blake, both of whom have benefited directly and indirectly from the foundation.
Taking care of the smooth transition between them all, balancing with interesting banter, was master of ceremonies, talk show host, Dervan Malcolm.
When it came time for handing out the awards, Williams returned to the spotlight, highlighting the reason he even began COJO in the first place. It all started with his first job at British Airways. He explained that when he fell on hard times, it was his then boss Monica Chen who helped him out of a jam. When he was about to leave the country, the kind-hearted woman assisted him with plane fare, and she was the reason he came home.
Because of her love and compassion, he has carried on the tradition of helping others in whatever way he can. This year, he has decided to pay it forward financially to Judi-Ann Oldacre, pursuing a first degree in modern languages at Shortwood Teachers' College; Kemar Henry, studying dentistry at University of Technology; Ruth-Ann Hamilton, taking on the task of an accounting degree with the University of the West Indies; and Mackoy McNish, fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor at University of the West Indies medical school.
For more information, you may contact COJO at the website www.cojokids.org.