Food for the Poor: 34 years and growing stronger
It could be easily argued that Food For The Poor (FFP) has surpassed the expectations of Sam, Ferdinand, Robin and Joe Mahfood in a mere 34 years since it was started by Ferdinand in 1982. He then brought his siblings - Sam, Robin and Joe - on board. FFP-Jamaica was incorporated in 1983, and today, it is among the largest international relief and development organisations, and certainly Jamaica's largest.
In an interview with The Gleaner, FFP Chairman Andrew Mahfood, nephew of the founder, said that at the start, his uncle deliberately included his three brothers.
"When he migrated, he felt a greater calling to serve the less fortunate. [He] met with the family, who agreed to support him, got the initial warehouse space from Wisynco, and with aid from the United States, it has mushroomed," Mahfood said.
Now FFP is based in 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, St Vincent, Guyana, Haiti, Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
They began by distributing food items only through churches, but have now expanded to address housing, education, health care, fishing, prison ministry, agriculture and social outreach needs.
Among FFP's recent accomplishments was the February sourcing of 6,000 bottles of paracetamol and 19 portable fogging machines through its head office in Miami to assist the Ministry of Health with its preparation for the Zika virus.
But to further explain the basis for the charity, Mahfood put it thus: "To get out of poverty, people need a house, access to health care, education and a source of income, so at Food for the Poor, we are trying to help them make it out."
Executive Director David Mair is proud of the many areas of FFP's focus, particularly the prison ministry and the housing construction.
"Under the former, every Easter and Christmas, we identify inmates who have committed minor offences and pay their fines so that they can be released," he said.
Mair added that they assist the former convicts to find gainful employment, particularly through the Fresh Start programme that provides assistance for those who wish to set up welding, carpentry, farming and other businesses.
RECORD NUMBER OF HOUSES
A record 842 houses were constructed in 2015. Mahfood said the housing solutions have improved considerably from single-unit to the present two-bedrooms with kitchen, bathroom, living and dining room.
"We also equip each house with a 400-gallon water tank and solar power to carry three light bulbs and charge a phone. There is also a gutter attached for water harvesting, as in many cases, the houses are located in areas that are so remote, there is no access to public water and electricity," Mahfood said.
As for the next 34 years, Mahfood hopes there will be no more need for FFP because poverty would have been a thing of the past.
"Our job is not complete until all the poor are uplifted or I might have a more serious question to answer," he said
For the immediate future, FFP plans to work more closely with the Government to find ways to get the desperately poor into sustainable activity and provide opportunities to improve their long-term security, health and education.