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Flying Jamaica’s flag high with volunteerism in Canada

Published:Saturday | August 14, 2021 | 12:06 AMKaryl Walker/Gleaner Writer
Leighton Henry.
Leighton Henry.
Leighton Henry
Leighton Henry

The Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) recently honoured Jamaica-born Leighton Henry for voluntary work in education.

Henry, a Jamaica Defence Force soldier and border, industrial and hospitality security administrator in Jamaica, migrated to Canada over a decade ago and is now the co-chair of the Caribbean International Student Group in Ontario, Canada.

It is a role that he relishes.

“Since I’ve been in Canada I’ve recognised that information is king and is key to settling. This is so because, without it, one can be chasing one’s tail and spending more money and time than needed. That being said, I have been a member of the JCA Caribbean International Student Group providing this information to my fellow countrymen and women ... through webinars and workshops that are organised based on the group’s needs. These include culture and workplace, immigration, health and wellness, job preparation, resume’ editing and mock interviews, career mentoring webinars and counselling for those in need,” Henry told The Gleaner.

President of the JCA, Adaoma Patterson, praised Henry’s unrelenting drive to see the initiative succeed.

“We are so thankful for Leighton. He came to the organisation in 2019 as a volunteer and he immediately assisted in developing the new students group. His passion and commitment in supporting young people and students attending school in Canada is excellent. We have had a number of students who have benefited with jobs and support. Leighton and the team provide constant value and support,” Patterson said.

Henry completed his postgraduate certificate studies in project management at Humber Institute of Applied Technology, having already earned a master’s degree in business administration from the Mona School of Business, Mona campus, at the University of the West Indies.

But his passion for helping newcomers succeed and avoid the common pitfalls spurred him on to be more than just another international student.

Along with his co-chair, Charmaine Jackson, Henry has steadily built a group of beneficiaries, from 16 to more than 370 in under two years. He says each member is equally motivated and committed.

“What has motivated us is just to build up the Caribbean community from the ground as best as we can, so that we can be successful for our families and communities. Secondly, we want to ensure that persons within our communities are not manipulated by unscrupulous immigration consultants who seek to pounce upon desperate persons requiring immigration services and charge them thousands of dollars for shoddy work. We have some trusted consultants that we’ve been working with and they are Jamaicans and are sensitive to the needs of the group, and they have yielded tremendous success,” he said.

“The most fulfilling experience is seeing where persons have benefited from the group and have now seen it fit to give back. There are persons who literally were at their wit’s end and didn’t know the next move, and, having interacted with us, they are better for it,” Henry continued.

And there are plans to expand the initiative which caters mostly to Caribbean students.

“We know that the group is going to be growing as the needs will be increasing, but what we hope to achieve is to prepare our fellow Caribbean brothers and sisters for Canada before they leave their country of origin, so that they can be better prepared,” he said.

Leighton Henry was born in Thompson Town, Clarendon and attended the Glenmuir High and Wolmer’s Boys schools.