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Creative, dynamic entrepreneurs hailed by American Friends

Published:Wednesday | October 25, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Honouree Joseph Matalon (fifth left) celebrating with his wife, Tracey (fourth left), and his family at the AFJ 2017 Hummingbird Gala.
The HoSangs
Honouree Sam Wright (second right) with his wife, Elaine (in black), and friends at the AFJ 2017 Gala at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City.

It was a full house at the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) annual Hummingbird Gala last Monday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York City.

Honourees for the International Humanitarian Hummingbird Award were Joseph Matalon, chairman and CEO of ICD Group Limited; Vincent HoSang, president and CEO of Caribbean Food Delights; and Cecil Sam Wright, president of Quality Auto Mall.

AFJ President Wendy Hart welcomed everyone and recognised each honouree for being "creative, entrepreneurial and dynamic".

She spoke of their "shared sense of purpose of the importance of helping the people of Jamaica".

Executive Director Caron Chung, charged with the task of opening the bidding process, announced the night's goal was to raise US$100,000.

She shared that "this is very important work ... we have made a difference in the lives of so many in Jamaica."

AFJ is focused on education, economic and health care development in Jamaica.




For Ambassador Sue Cobb, it was "heart-warming to see the contributions that have been made".

She also invited the audience to watch the video documenting donor-directed programmes that the AFJ has facilitated and implemented over the past year, including the renovation of the male surgical ward at the St Ann's Bay Hospital; the launch of the new DJ training programme at the Alpha Institute; the renovation of a home at the SOS Children's Village; and scholarships awarded to several students at the University of the West Indies.

... Former ambassadors to Ja keeping nation in thoughts

Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater, gala co-chair, along with Patricia Falkenberg, for the last three years, arrived in Jamaica 34 years ago as a political officer, but it was her time as ambassador from 2010 to 2013 that has left her feeling nostalgic.

Acknowledging that she "misses Jamaica", Bridgewater said: "Every day we see how connected we are in the world and how what affects one affects us all in many ways."

For her, the AFJ Gala "affords us the privilege of sharing what we have with others".

Ambassador Sue Cobb shared similar sentiments about the 35-year-old organisation and said she wanted folks to know that "we send a lot of money down".

She also pointed out: "There are many ambassadors who serve all over the world, and I don't know any other country where the ambassadors are so connected to the people like the AFJ and Jamaica."

Caron Chung shared crucial information about each honouree's project and why they should be supported.

Joseph Matalon's Youth Upliftment through Employment (YUTE) programme focuses on inner-city at-risk youth and involves skills remediation and upgrading; job placement and provision of opportunities for entrepreneurial endeavours.

Chung spoke of Sam Wright's visit to his former school, Craig Head All-Age in Manchester, which prompted him to pledge $20,000 when he saw there wasn't a perimeter fence. He has since built a fence to protect the children and continues to raise funds for the school. She then asked folks to donate US$12,000 to Missionaries of the Poor, Vincent HoSang's pet project where they help adults and children who are destitute, dying and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Also helping with the fundraising effort was Master of Ceremonies, Kori Chambers, of WPIX11, whose parents are from Hanover.

He, too, encouraged support of the charities and the many items on the silent auction.

By the end of the night, they had exceeded their fundraising goal.

In their acceptance speech, each honouree shared their life's journey and gave insight into those qualities that make them each a recipient of the prestigious AFJ Humanitarian Award.