Food For The Poor recently hosted its 30th anniversary on Hope Zoo's front lawn under the theme 'Honouring Our Donors, Supporting Education'.
The anniversary celebration, dubbed Christmas for the Classroom, was not only a celebration of 30 years of service to poverty-stricken communities in more than 16 countries, but also a move by Food For The Poor to show respect to its donors as well as raise funds for its school desk drive campaign.
The event started with cocktails, where attendees were treated to various Jamaican foods, while the mp3 format of Tessanne Chin's performances on The Voice blared from the speakers.
The event was well attended by corporate Jamaica, politicians and the Mahfood family, the founders of Food For The Poor and the night's hosts.
After some soothing music from saxophonist Jeffery Brown, media personality and journalist Fae Ellington invited the guests to take their respective seats.
Andrew Mahfood, chairman of Food For The Poor, Jamaica, performed welcoming duties, during which he spoke of the organisation's commitment to charity and its growth over the last 30 years as the brainchild of Ferdinand Mahfood.
"'There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children', words of the late Nelson Mandela, words that encourage Food For The Poor to build proper schools for early childhood, give scholarships to students in need, to provide furniture and improve sanitation in our schools. Tonight's event is to celebrate our 30th anniversary, to strengthen our relationship with corporate Jamaica, and to raise birthday funds so that we can turn around and give those funds to Jamaican students in the form of new furniture," Mahfood said.
Mahfood also said Food For The Poor was grateful for the support of its donors, comprising of both organisations and individuals.
President and CEO of Food For The Poor, Robin Mahfood, also spoke. Robin Mahfood brought to light some of the behind-the-scenes work the multinational charity initiative was doing in the region and around the world. The CEO underlined the fundraising challenges, but said the work would continue.
According to Robin Mahfood, education was one of the easiest ways to alleviate poverty, which is why Food For The Poor tends to direct much of its focus on assisting in the development of educational facilities.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
"Housing is an area where we try to do as much as we can, and we use local people to do the work. Whatever funds we raise, we build homes. I would like to say that between school, clinics and houses, it keeps us busy. What is very important is the desks and chairs. I have been in Haiti where I see children sitting on blocks, ground and stones. It's worse than here, but we have an ability right here, right now, to make a true difference," Robin Mahfood said, before paying homage to his Food For The Poor colleagues and making way for the presentation of awards to the donors.
The honourees were separated into three categories Treasure, Time and Talent. Red Stripe, Lasco Affiliated Companies, Supreme Ventures Limited, Wisynco and JNBS Foundation were just some of the organisations falling under the 'Treasure' categories. The 'Time' category had as its honourees, donors like Sister Benedict Chung, Scotiabank Foundation and The Most Rev Burchell McPherson, Bishop of Montego Bay.
The 'Talent' section saw Food For The Poor honouring the likes of recording artistes Shaggy, Tarrus Riley, and Dean Fraser. Also honoured under this section were A&E Ambulance Service, Caledonia Medical Lab, Medline Medical Centre, PRO Comm and former World 100m Champion Yohan Blake.
Riley, Shaggy and Dean Fraser were all unavailable to collect their respective awards. However, Shaggy's fiancÚ, Rebecca Packer, told The Gleaner her husband was an admirer of the work Food For The Poor did. Burrell also commended the Mahfood family for the work which they have been doing in Jamaica and the world.
HAPPY TO HELP
Yohan Blake has spearheaded a few charity initiatives of his own, however, he was also standing firmly behind the efforts of Food For The Poor. He told The Gleaner he knew poverty, therefore he was always encouraged to give back in an attempt to reduce it.
"I feel good about the award. I have been doing some work with Food For The Poor since last year. It's really good to help people because I know what it feels like to be hungry and to be left out," Blake said.
Though he did not want to divulge too much, the athlete hinted he had more charity projects coming up for the festive season.
Food For The Poor also raised more than $2 million on the night courtesy of an auction spearheaded by the Hon Oliver Clarke, OJ. Up for auction was a painting called 'The Most Precious Gift', by Fiona Godfrey.
Mr Clarke entertained the audience with humour, all the while inveigling guests to dig deeper into their pockets until he was satisfied with the final bid.
Food For The Poor is set to provide at least 15,000 school desks and chairs to schools by the end of 2013-14.