Fri | Nov 26, 2021

Curtis A. Ward | ‘COVID couldn’t stop us, and it won’t’

Published:Monday | October 11, 2021 | 12:07 AM
Partners of Good Shepherd Jamaica (POGS)
Partners of Good Shepherd Jamaica (POGS)
Ambassador Curtis Ward
Ambassador Curtis Ward
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Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), a little-known Jamaican diaspora charitable organisation, Partners of Good Shepherd Jamaica (POGS), continued to raise funds under extremely difficult circumstances to support three charities in Jamaica. With a three-member board and a core group of dedicated committee members, though having to cancel its annual signature fundraising events in 2020 and 2021, POGS kept true to its mission.

POGS’s mission “to assist the poor and infirm in Jamaica … to provide financial, physical, and moral support to the educational and healthcare needs of the disadvantaged” is in many ways similar to the missions of dozens, perhaps hundreds of other Jamaican and Caribbean diaspora organisations. Thousands at home rely heavily on the charitable giving of diaspora organisations. And, in the time of COVID, with dwindling government and local support, diaspora charitable giving and the commitment of diaspora members to contribute provide a necessary crutch for local Jamaican and Caribbean charitable service providers. The survival of the most challenged and marginalised in societies in our homelands depends on it.

Encouraging POGS’s board and committee members, Joy Dufour, POGS founder and leader, said “COVID couldn’t stop us from helping those in need, and it won’t.” She encouraged her small group to find new ways to garner support for the Jamaican organisations which benefit from, and rely on, POGS’s contributions.

Recognising the pandemic challenges facing POGS and other diaspora organisations, Dufour encouraged her group to expand the organisation’s capacity to overcome fundraising challenges. New techniques and strategies must be employed in efforts to continue the support of local charitable organisations. Also, she reminded the group that they can do more through collective efforts rather than acting individually.

THREE CHARITIES

Three Jamaican charities benefit from POGS’s annual contributions. They are Good Shepherd Foundation of Montego Bay (GSF), Mustard Seed Communities (MSC), and the Archbishop Charities of Kingston (ACK) – charitable organisations dedicated to helping the poor, disadvantaged, socially marginalised, and underserved members of the Jamaican society.

Joy Dufour, inspired by the work of the Good Shepherd Foundation of Montego Bay, which was founded by former Kingston Archbishop Charles Dufour, established POGS in 2013 in Maryland, USA. Since then, POGS has made cash contributions to the three charities (GSF, MSC, and ACK) in the amount of over US$104,000, approximately J$16 million, averaging almost US$13,000 in annual cash contributions over eight years. But COVID-19 caused a decline in POGS’s annual contributions in 2020 to US$7,000.

The Good Shepherd Foundation of Montego Bay, inter alia, provides free and affordable healthcare to the working poor, charging only a nominal fee to some patients. POGS contributed to the construction of the new Good Shepherd Medical Complex which officially opened in June 2018.

The Archbishop Charities uses the support it receives from POGS to help finance educational support of needy students attending tertiary institutions who have difficulties funding their education, and also extends assistance to high-school and primary-school students.

I reached out to former Archbishop Charles Dufour for a measure of the impact of POGS’s contributions. He said, “Partners of Good Shepherd have played a key role in contributing to the upliftment of the poor in Jamaica.”

He said POGS’ contributions to the three charities contribute to the “care of children living with special needs and other vulnerable and marginalised persons, by caring for the sick, and uplifting the poor through education … .”

He added, “The value of what has been done through POGS’s donations goes far beyond financial. What POGS allows us to do is to transform the quality of people’s lives for the better.”

The archbishop said he hopes to see POGS continue this work and carry out this ministry far into the future.

ENORMOUS IMPACT

In addition to cash contributions, POGS made US$15,000 in-kind contributions to MSC in 2020 and is now participating in packing a 40-foot container with US$35,000 worth of goods and supplies, including school supplies, for shipment to MSC.

The impact on the lives of the beneficiaries, particularly during this COVID pandemic, is enormous.

The MSC was founded by Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon in 1978 in response to what he saw as a disturbing trend on the streets of Jamaica – the abandonment of children with disabilities on the streets and empty lots by families so marginalised and impoverished they could not afford to support them. MSC “aims, through the positive interaction of caring, sharing, and training, to uplift the most vulnerable in society, especially disabled and abandoned children, and marginalised communities”.

Monsignor Ramkissoon, in a message to POGS in 2019, highlighting the value of POGS’s support to MSC, said, “The tremendous support we received over the past six years from the Partners of Good Shepherd has impacted the lives of hundreds of children. Our mission to care for the vulnerable and marginalised of society will only continue to be achieved through this wonderful partnership. You have helped us care for over 450 children across Jamaica who are physically or intellectually challenged, as those impacted by HIV. This care goes beyond the basic food, clothing, and shelter to include all medical and therapeutic interventions, occupational and social training… .”

In order to help meet the growing demands for assistance, POGS’s board was increased recently from its initial three members – Joy Dufour, Dr Lydia Hudson, and Ambassador Curtis Ward – by adding Vanessa Butler, Karl Haughton, and Omar Stephenson.

The core committee of the organisation was also expanded, with each member adding their expertise to increase the organisation’s fundraising capacity to have a greater impact on those who depend for their survival on the services of the POGS-supported charities in Jamaica. Current committee members are Andrea Clayton, Aldith Coleman, Andrea Cunningham, Kalyn Ewan, Mercedes Hughes, Howie Perkins, Pam Perkins, and Junie Stephenson.

Board and committee members say they “seek no praise or glory” for their work. They are satisfied just to be able to impact the lives of others, particularly the poor and disadvantaged in their homeland, Jamaica. They pledged “to commit time, resources, and expertise in making a difference in the lives of those who benefit from POGS-supported charities”.

Ambassador Curtis A. Ward is former Ambassador of Jamaica to the United Nations. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.