The 'magic' of JET: 25 years and counting
AFTER 25 years in operation and countless challenges - from vicious public rhetoric to financial woes - the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) betrays no sign of faltering.
This elicits a sigh of relief from Founder and Chief Executive Officer Diana McCaulay as she takes stock of their quarter-century of work to preserve Jamaica's natural capital for its people.
"I am proud of JET the institution. Whether it goes into the next 25 years will depend on a new board and staff, and so on, but I think it has got a good start," she told The Gleaner.
"That is what we all hope for. It would have been a failure if the minute I left, it collapsed," she added.
Five years ago, McCaulay revealed she had learnt to manage her expectations of the yields from JET's efforts while refocusing on their being able to continue their work to realise incremental change.
Today, she happily reports on the achievements, ever mindful of the hurdles still to scale.
"We have a succession plan for me. We have continued to grow our endowment fund. We own property. I have done a lot of training for staff. Most functions in JET, I no longer do," said McCaulay, who now concentrates on fundraising and advocacy.
Meanwhile, at a time when non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have to go to bat to stay open, JET marches on, as though by magic.
But "there is no magic", according to McCaulay.
"There is a certain amount of personal sacrifice. Plenty times, JET has not been able to meet payroll and I had to cut my pay," she told The Gleaner.
Still, McCaulay admits she has had some advantages, including hard-working and committed team and board members.
"I have a background in business - a first degree in management, and that gave me some skills that not everyone in an NGO would have access to. Also, I am a goal-directed person. As soon as I get successful funding, I apply for the next," she said.
She has also leveraged personal contacts - a move she recommends to all NGOs grappling to remain open.
"Although people say, 'you have all these contacts', I have a certain set of contacts. But we all have a set of contacts. And there are many different ways people can make their contacts work for them, but it takes sitting down and strategising," the JET boss said.
"It takes accountability as well. People will not give you money unless you demonstrate that it is being properly managed," McCaulay noted.
From all indications, the sacrifices and effort have been worth it. JET counts among its successes the legal battles waged for conservation; the growth of their annual coastal clean-up; its Schools Environment Programme; and the recent 'Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica' anti-litter campaign.
In addition to successful institutional strengthening, the environment forms part of national discourse, though McCaulay thinks there is some way to go in how the issues are reported by the media.
"The environment is now a topic on the national stage; I take a lot of pride in that. When I first started this work, that wasn't so. We have not been the only ones to do this, but we have worked steadily at it," she said.
Still, despite the successes, McCaulay feels caught between satisfaction and frustration.
"I am caught between feeling satisfied that there is a place people feel they can call and an organisation with staff who will try to take action on their behalf. But I am frustrated and saddened by the lack of effectiveness in the action we might take because we are not regulators," she said.
"We have educated, used the law, gone to bat for people who have environmental problems, try to bring about improvement in the system and there have been a few. But the Government have not done their part and it crosses both political parties," McCaulay added.