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'Tea' off for charity

Published:Monday | June 18, 2012 | 12:00 AM
From left: Charge d'affaires of the Embassy of Jamaica, Cherryl Gordon; president of the Jamaican Women of Washington (JWoW), Dr Jacqueline Watson; paediatrician at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, Dr Tracy Evans-Gilbert, and Washington DC's Channel 7 news anchor, Leon Harris, share a light moment. - Photo by Derrick Scott
Four contestants from the 2012 Ms Metro Caribbean Beauty Pageant model summer wear and hats at the Jamaica Women of Washington's 'Tea Off to Good Health' and silent auction.
Jamaican Women of Washington President Dr Jacqueline Watson savours a cup of tea.

Derrick Scott, Contributor

Washington, DC:

After leading the Washington-based Jamaican Women of Washington (JWoW) as founder and the driving force behind that organisation's work for 10 years, Dr Jackie Watson, the JWoW president, has announced that she will be stepping aside.

The group of women who form the core of the organisation under Watson's leadership have banded together to do outstanding work to benefit the less fortunate in Jamaica and Washington, DC.

"I clearly remember our early beginnings when I first invited a group of Jamaican friends and colleagues to get together in the basement of my home in 2003, to discuss how we might give back to our island home. 'Let's have a tea party,' I said. Within six months, our inaugural event was planned and hosted at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Washington, DC, and the rest is history," the JWoW president recalled at the annual tea party and fund-raiser, held on Sunday, June 10 under the theme 'Tea off to good health' at Washington's Mayflower Hotel.

"As I reflect upon our accomplishments since our first event, it makes me proud to know that in our own small way and with the help of our supporters we have been able to use the concept of a cup of tea with scones, to make such a significant impact on improving the lives of so many vulnerable women, children and families in Jamaica and Washington, DC.

"Today, we are celebrating our 10th anniversary and, wow, how time flies. The organisation is all grown up and as the old saying goes, 'You've come a long way, baby,' which it has since I first invited that group of Jamaican friends to discuss how we can give back."

The event was well attended and Washington Channel 7's news anchor Leon Harris served as the master of ceremonies. The evening's entertainment included a dance from Miss Caribbean Metro USA, Stefanie Belnavis, as well as a fashion show highlighting apparel with a Caribbean flair.

Charge d'affaires from the Embassy of Jamaica, Cherryl Gordon, brought greetings. "JWoW represents a group of women who share a common bond of love and dedication to Jamaica and its people." The organisation, she added, stood out as a sterling example of loyalty and service to Jamaica, which is worthy of emulation by other Jamaicans living in the diaspora.

More than US$275,000 given to charities

Watson disclosed that since its inception, JWoW has donated more than US$275,000 to charities in Washington, DC, and Jamaica and has brought attention to such important public-health and social issues as HIV/AIDS, mental health, substance abuse, obesity prevention, teenage-pregnancy prevention, and infant mortality. "I have had the opportunity to visit many of our grant recipients in Jamaica, and to meet first-hand, the citizens who have benefitted from our efforts. That, I feel, has been the most fulfilling aspect of this journey."

This year, JWoW will provide grants to assist the public-health centres in the south-east region of the island (St Catherine, St Thomas, Kingston and St Andrew). JWoW will purchase infant scales and length boards so children can be adequately screened and their height and weight tracked.

The group awarded Jamaica's renowned entertainer Orville 'Shaggy' Burrell for his outstanding contribution to the Bustamante Hospital for Children through the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation.

Organisations that have benefitted from JWoW's contributions over the past 10 years include, Caribbean Disability Association, University of the West Indies Development and Endowment Fund, Community for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill, Westmoreland Association of Street People, Children First, St Ann Community Centre of Concern, Women's Media Watch, Family and Parenting Centre, Western Society for the Upliftment of Children, Combined Disabilities Association, Cornwall Regional Hospital, Mission for the Poor and Western Regional Authority public-health centres.

In summing up her 10 years at the helm of the organisation, JWoW's president feels "This journey has truly been a blessing and so it is with deep satisfaction that I toss my hat to the next generation of ordinary private citizens and do-gooders that will carry on the legacy that JWoW has created. I have been told that my shoes are big ones to fill, but my response is 'slide into them and create fresh steps for others to follow'."