Carrington Morgan - Helping to 'lift a city'
Carrington Peter Morgan doesn't fit your typical idea of a Jamaican pastor. He's laid-back with an easy-going attitude that belies the strength of his character. But 'Paasta Pete', as residents of the Southside, community in Kingston call him, is an ordained pastor with traditional values and a new-age approach that has endeared him to all.
Morgan is the executive director of City Life Ministries - an organisation bent on instituting transformational programmes to empower the residents of the community, while preparing them to play their part in the greater cause - the social transformation of Southside.
Born and raised in Kingston, the Jamaica College old boy completed his education in the United States. After high school, Morgan received a track scholarship to study at the University of Louisiana. It was not until after completing his degree and returning to Jamaica that he really became interested in community development. The son of Bishop Peter Morgan and Dr Pat Morgan, giving back through ministering to others was a family trait that he just could not escape.
In 2004, when Bishop Morgan was setting up his church office in Central Kingston, Carrington was intrigued to support this, and since 2005, has been lending his expertise to City Life Ministries in serving the needs of the people in the community of Southside, Central Kingston.
"I can recall walking the streets of downtown Kingston in those early days, and being impacted by the extreme living conditions of the inner city. While jarring, seeing those things was my call to duty to help stem or reverse the result of long-standing socio-economic conditions."
The first-hand exposure to the plight of the residents of central Kingston, was all at once enlightening and inspiring. Despite their extreme living conditions, their untapped potential was visible to Morgan. Wanting to improve these situations, he went about implementing empowerment programmes for the community.
"My main area of interest is the plight of at-risk youth who've been subjected to a life of stigmatisation and exclusion from mainstream society. My personal mission is to not only alleviate some of their most critical socio-economic issues, but to also facilitate their inclusion in the wider process of community transformation."
Over the last nine years, Morgan and his City Life team have successfully immersed themselves in the lives of the residents, and are now actively facilitating the community transformation in a unique and untraditional way. He is best known and appreciated for the time he takes to patiently walk through the streets of the communities, building relationships and bringing a message of hope and empowerment. This mode of engagement has brought fresh insight into the pain of the oppressed, and timely solutions to the persistent challenges of these marginalised populations.
"With strong relationships forged with the communities of downtown Kingston, City Life is now a preferred partner for outside organisations to facilitate the implementation of projects or movement of resources into these areas."
He is quick to add, though, that the value of his work cannot be summed up by what he calls 'broad-scale statistics'.
"The true value of City Life within the communities would better be demonstrated in the lives of the often forgotten persons behind the zinc fences."
Through the years of community engagement, he has also continued to strengthen and expand his academic and professional repertoire by studying project management, achieving an MBA, and is currently an 2014 PhD candidate in Leadership and Social Change at the OASIS University (St Augustine, Trinidad).
In addition to scholastic pursuits, over the past four years, Morgan has served as a board member of the Peace Management Initiative - a violence-prevention and conflict resolution programme within the Ministry of National Security.
His MBA and strategic planning experience have also opened up business opportunities, and he is now a shareholder and director in business ventures, exporting unique Jamaican gourmet products to the United Kingdom and Scandinavia.
His other keen business interest is the enhancement of renewable energy and recycling in Jamaica through new technology and social entrepreneurship projects.
To say that Carrington has very full days would, therefore, be quite an understatement. His mornings may be spent with government officials or NGOs, working on various initiatives targeting neglected populations, while his evenings can often find him on the street corner of an inner-city community, connecting with the residents.
The work that City Life Ministries does is varied and nuanced. By looking at the community and developing solutions that benefit them specifically, rather than using a broad spectrum approach, City Life Ministries is able to have the positive impact they have had so far. In some instances a kind word, glass of cold water or a helping hand is enough to make a difference in the life of someone else.
"While it does not pay the bills, the fulfilment derived is priceless as it forges a unique perspective of the positives and negatives of what I consider the 'heart of Jamaica', " he notes.
City Life Ministries has left a good impression on the community and has led to fruitful relationships, resulting in many generous acts of charity and service by the residents - the most recent and notable being the donation of a 14,000sq ft garage in downtown Kingston. Once a profitable mechanic shop and garage, upon retirement, the owner's desire was for City Life Ministries to have a home-base where they could continue to conduct their activities that were having such a positive effect on the community.
From this property, City Life Ministries intends to develop a multipurpose centre to serve not only the residents of Southside, but of inner-city communities all across Jamaica. The 24-hour centre will be a place of refuge for those in need, especially at-risk youth looking to escape the chaos and challenges of the street. It will also house activities that were previously being held on the streets, such as dance classes, worship sessions, talent shows, skills training, and children's day camps, among others. The estimated cost of renovating the building for this purpose is $10,000,000.
'raise a fork'
In an effort to help fund this purpose, Restaurant Week 2013 has partnered with City Life Ministries to 'Raise a Fork and Lift the City', encouraging patrons and sponsors to make donations towards the renovations of the City Life Community Centre - the location of this year's Restaurant Week launch.
Carrington tells us, "We see the move as a right fit in demonstrating the need, at this time, for charitable efforts to extend beyond the outstretched hand, and towards engagement of relationships and overlapping of social cultures."
Despite the fact that his is a voluntary job which demands much of his time, Carrington would have it no other way.
"No matter how insurmountable the challenges, there always remains a glimmer of hope in the eyes of the people. Our people are beautiful, talented and resilient. Where there is hope, there is life, and life can be sustained through ongoing relationships. Because the work is based on relationships, bonds strengthen year after year, making commitment to the cause more than fleeting motivation. It has become genuine care that remains through the achievements and failures of life's journey."