COVID couldn’t stop us, and it won’t
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
Despite the novel coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) a little-known Jamaican diaspora charitable organization, 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, “to assist the poor and infirm in Jamaica.”
POGS’s mission “to provide financial, physical, and moral support to the educational and healthcare needs of the disadvantaged” is in many ways like the missions of dozens, perhaps hundreds of other Jamaican and Caribbean diaspora organizations. There are thousands at home who rely heavily on the charitable giving of these diaspora organizations. And, in the time of COVID, with dwindling support locally, including government 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 marginalized in societies in our homelands depend on it.
Encouraging her members, POGS founder and leader Joy Dufour said “COVID couldn’t stop us from helping those in need, and it won’t.” She encouraged her small group of members to find new ways to garner support for the organizations which benefit from and rely on POGS’s contributions. Recognizing the pandemic challenges facing POGS and other diaspora organizations, Dufour encouraged her group to expand the organization’s capacity to overcome fundraising challenges. New techniques and strategies must be employed in efforts to continue support of local charitable organizations. Also, reminding the members it is possible to do more through collective efforts rather than acting individually.
Three Jamaican charities benefit from POGS’s annual contributions. The Good Shepherd Foundation of Montego Bay (GSF), Mustard Seed Communities (MSC), and the Archbishop Charities of Kingston (ACK), three beneficiary charitable organizations dedicated to helping the poor, disadvantaged, socially marginalized, and underserved members of 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 JA$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 to US$7,000 in 2020.
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 contributions also assisted in funding the construction and operationalizing of the new Good Shepherd Medical Complex in Montego Bay which was opened in August 2018.
The Archbishop Charities uses the support it receives from POGS to help finance its program of educational support to needy students attending tertiary institutions who have difficulties funding their education and extends as well to high school, and even to the primary school students.
I reached out to former Archbishop Charles Dufour for a measure of the impact of POGS’s contributions. Archbishop Dufour said, “Partners of Good Shepherd has 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 marginalized persons, by caring for the sick, and uplifting the poor through education….” He added, “The value of what has been done through POGS 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.
However, in addition to cash contributions, POGS made US$15,000 in in-kind contributions to MSC in 2020 and is now participating in packing a 40 ft container with US35,000 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, are enormous.
The Mustard Seed Communities (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 marginalized and impoverished they could not afford to support them. MSC “aim through the positive interaction of caring, sharing, and training to uplift the most vulnerable in society, especially disabled and abandoned children, and marginalized communities.”
Monsignor Gregory 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 marginalized 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 organization was also expanded with each member adding their expertise to increase the organization’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, Andrea Cunningham, Kaylyn 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. The board and committee members pledged, “to commit time, resources, and expertise in making a difference in the lives of those who benefit from POGS’s charities.”