By Din Duggan
This is Part Two from an excerpt of a speech I delivered to HEART Trust/NTA career development officers (CDOs) at their retreat in Ocho Rios recently. The speech sought to inspire the CDOs to recognise and embrace their critical role as stewards of Jamaica's most precious asset - its people.
I recall, as a young law student in Washington, DC, being astonished that a significant number of the black students in my class were Jamaicans or of Jamaican descent. My sister, a doctor, could say the same of her medical-school class in New York. My mother works alongside countless Jamaican nurses in Atlanta. Indeed, some of the most capable nurses in America are Jamaican.
Everywhere and anywhere one ventures in the world, one can find Jamaicans - our precious commodity - doing extraordinary things. We experience this directly in terms of dollars and cents. I mentioned bauxite and tourism (in part one) - two of our three greatest foreign-exchange earners. The third is remittances - monies sent home from our precious commodities abroad.
We are a resourceful people. We are a resilient people. We are an ambitious people. We do what it takes to support our families and ourselves. We build businesses out of wooden stalls. We create opportunities where none existed. We make something out of nothing. When we get the chance, when we take the chance, when we see green pastures, we blaze trails through them.
Mining our Potential at Home
Unfortunately, those opportunities are rarely in 'Ochi' or Mandeville or Kingston. They're too often than not in New York and London and Toronto. What happens, then, is our black gold escapes our red soil, abandons our white sand, and flies off to greener pastures. But there's no reason why we should allow our greatest assets to run off and enrich other people's fields while our own turf runs barren.
We can plant seeds of prosperity right here, right now, in our very own land. And that's where organisations such as HEART come in. HEART CDOs (and, similarly, Jamaica's educators) are the farmers that must plant the seeds and tend to the meadows of our great future. They are the miners who must excavate the talent and potential of our people - our great asset. They are the ones with the power to mould and harness the potential energy of our nation.
While HEART may not really be a group of cardiologists, as I mistakenly assumed - they don't cure heart disease or prevent heart attacks - in many ways they are so much more important. They are truly critical to our nation's development. They are to our country what the human heart is to the human body - they direct the most important commodity, our lifeblood, to the places it's needed most.
The other day, I was speaking to a friend about a young man - a graduate of HEART - who, through the knowledge gained at HEART, now holds a prominent position at Scotiabank. This young man might become the founder of the next great financial institution. He is the lifeblood of our country.
I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I received a facial recently. The aesthetician that performed the facial trained at HEART. She has developed her business and honed her expertise to the point that she is as skilful as anyone you might find at those fancy spas (not that I know anything about fancy spas). Because of HEART, this woman runs a successful business that might someday become a renowned spa or cosmetics company. She is the lifeblood of our country.
A few days ago, the marketing and administrative manager of a distribution company mentioned that two of her very best staffers were trained at HEART. These young ladies are stellar, she said. They have mastered the business. One day, these ladies may run their own distribution or manufacturing companies that create hundreds or thousands of jobs. They are the lifeblood of our country.
Testimonies like these abound - stories of HEART channelling the lifeblood of Jamaica, our people; all ages, all walks of life, all looking to improve their lot in life, while planting green pastures right here in Jamaica. They are undeniably our greatest assets.
It is up to organisations like HEART to guide them and direct them and show them what they can truly be and what they truly are. It is people like them who will determine our future as a nation. And it is people like the CDOs at HEART who hold our future in their hands.
Din Duggan is an attorney working as a consultant with a global legal search firm. Email him at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or view his past columns at facebook.com/dinduggan and twitter.com/YoungDuggan.