By Derrick A Scott
The Chicago Concerned Jamaicans (CCJ) has contributed just over US$700,000 towards education in Jamaica over the past twenty-five years.
The funds were used to furnish students books, computers and scholarships, and to improve libraries in Jamaica. CCJ President, Valerie Richards made the disclosure in Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday October 27, 2012.
She was addressing at the organisation’s 25th anniversary and Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. In its quest to provide financial assistance, the organization was determined to help talented students with resources necessary to pursue opportunities in higher education, Richards said.
She pointed out that although the organization was established in 1988 to help provide relief to victims suffering from the disaster created after Hurricane Gilbert, it saw the need to change focus to assisting Jamaican students with education.
Richards further disclosed that this year, the CCJ will provide scholarships to forty-four high school students throughout the fourteen parishes: five of the students are in the sixth form and four are currently enrolled in a tertiary institution.
Those scholarships, valued at US$40 thousand, will provide full scholarships to Joseph Wilson, a 3rd year medical student at the University of the West Indies, and to Nicholas Welsh, a 2nd year student pursuing a degree in bio-engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
The CCJ President pointed out that many students who have benefited from CCJ support over the last 25 years have not only graduated but are now making invaluable contributions to society.
She noted that without this financial support those students would likely have not been doing as well as they currently are. Jamaica’s Consul General to New York, Herman Lamont, in his address lauded the CCJ for its commitment to education and philanthropy.
He stressed that the role that the organization has played in supporting education by providing the various scholarships, educational materials and equipment have not only helped to improve the quality of education in the schools but also helped students to go further.
Lamont argued that CCJ support for education has helped to equip the next generation by helping to provide a better quality education for the students.
He reiterated how much the government of Jamaica recognized the importance of the Diaspora and has sought to strengthen it with the formal establishment of a Diaspora board and bi-annual conference.
He reported that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in her budget presentation reiterated her commitment to the overseas community, announcing that an inter-ministerial committee on Diaspora affairs, involving all relevant government ministries and agencies, will be created.
This committee’s mandate will be to ensure that linkages are in place for overseas-based nationals to be more fully involved in the island’s affairs.
For his part, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Stephen Vasciannie, sent a message congratulating the CCJ for remaining steadfast in its commitment to nation-building, particularly through its many successful projects in key areas of education.
Ambassador Vasciannie praised the CCJ for its support as well as for its emphasis on high school scholarships, providing internet access for public libraries, and other forms of vital support delivered in the area of education.
Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, meanwhile, sent a laudatory message underscoring the value of the CCJ as a grass-roots organization dedicated to improving the lives of young Jamaicans through educational gifts and donations.
“Your focus on providing opportunities for Jamaican children in both Jamaica and Chicago by providing scholarships and educational materials is worthy of commendation,” said he.
“This assistance to students will no doubt have a profound and lasting impact and will truly help to uplift the various communities in which they live. You should be commended for your support and steadfast commitment to aiding the global community.”
CCJ founder Lorna Green was presented with the CCJ Award, while Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Illinois, Lloyd Hyde, received the CCJ Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding contribution to the Jamaican community in that state.
Just over 500 Jamaicans and friends of Jamaica attended the twin celebration – Jamaica’s 50th independence anniversary and CCJ’s 25 years of existence. Those in attendance were entertained by renowned Jamaican singers Lloyd Lovindeer and Oliver Burke and danced to the sweet sounds of Dub Dis Band.