Diaspora group’s mission to alleviate humanitarian needs in Jamaica
Ambassador Curtis A. Ward
(15 September 2023) — According to one patron and supporter at the annual fundraising dinner and dance staged by Partners of Good Shepherd Jamaica (POGS), “I am here to support provision of assistance to the less fortunate and marginalized back home in Jamaica.” Another said, “It’s another way we can come together and pool our support to have an impact on the needs of the poor.” These responses resonated throughout the gathering of some 220 persons, on September 9th, at a Silver Spring, Maryland venue, who came out to support POGS and the organization’s president Joy Marie Dufour who founded POGS in 2014 with a focus on assisting the Mustard Seed Communities and the Archbishop Charles Dufour Charities in Jamaica. Since then, POGS has raised and contributed approximately US$200,000 in cash and donated items, of which nearly 14 million JMD in cash have been donated to the Jamaican charities.
During the COVID pandemic, POGS was forced to forego its annual fundraising events, but Ms. Dufour was not deterred from fundraising and supporting the selected charities. With this the first live event for POGS since the pandemic, Ms. Dufour hopes to attract new supporters and expand the organization’s fundraising capabilities.
In her message marking the occasion, Ambassador Audrey Marks stated: “POGS has left an indelible mark on the societal fabric of Jamaica and the progress that this diaspora organization has made since its inception is remarkable. Through channels such as the Good Shepherd Foundation Medical Centre, the Hope Hospice in Montego Bay, and various Mustard Seed Communities, Partners of Good Shepherd Jamaica, Inc. has continuously enhanced the wellbeing of Jamaicans in need.” Ambassador Marks was represented by Mr. Emile Wallace-Waddell, community relations officer of the Jamaican embassy.
But POGS has not restricted itself to its own fundraising activities and contributions to the selected charities in Jamaica. Ms. Dufour has been a catalyst in inspiring members of the St. Andrew Catholic Parish to become deeply involved with Jamaica. So far, the Saint Andrew Parish has staged some 14 Missions to Jamaica thus contributing significantly to the housing and physical infrastructure at Jacob’s Ladder at the Mustard Seed Communities complex at Moneague, St. Ann. So far, they have built and upgraded living units, made the facilities energy efficient, and significantly improved the living environment of the disabled residents.
POGS has also joined with the Saint Andrew parish to ship thousands of dollars of goods and supplies to MSC at the Moneague location. One of the leaders of the St. Andrew parish mission construction team, and a proponent of related initiatives, David Luksic, was selected by POGS to receive its first Humanitarian Award for the work being done in Jamaica. In making the presentation to him, Ambassador Curtis Ward, a POGS board member, praised and thanked him for choosing Jamaica to focus his energy and to lead the parish in their humanitarian efforts.
Luksic, in a brief speech, highlighted several problems he found at the MSC complex at Moneague and what the Saint Andrew mission team has been able to accomplish so far. He noted that the work is nowhere at an end as the needs are great. He encouraged members of the Jamaican community with the necessary skills sets to join in the missions and help expand the work and make an even greater impact. In highlighting the tremendous accomplishments of the latest builders mission trip to Jacob’s Ladder, Luksic pointed to what was accomplished by the builder group of about 25 men and two priests, in just one week. The work included: built a chapel: converted open living spaces into two rooms in two buildings; replaced the roofs on two residence buildings; installed guttering on nine buildings; painted the exterior of the church and 12 buildings; installed solar water heaters on two buildings; replaced six toilets; and installed electricity in two buildings. In 2019, they shipped 2,000 LED bulbs along with some fixtures and two solar streetlights to Jacob’s Ladder. The objective is to replace 40 street lights with solar lights.
The seven builders’ trips to Jacob’s Ladder, so far, has participated in the construction of 22 buildings. Nineteen were residential housing, they have done repairs on another 16 buildings.
Their building missions are now poised to expand outside of MSC to other facilities identified by Archbishop Emeritus Charles Dufour and others in Jamaica.
Luksic told the gathering that his decision to go on his first mission trip about eight years ago, “was one of the best decisions of his life.” He said, “The best part about that trip, and every trip since, is being with the residents. Spending time with them, talking, laughing, playing. I look forward to their smiling faces and hugs.” Interestingly, Luksic said, prior to that first trip, he was always uncomfortable being around people with disabilities.
Ambassador Ward, also, in thanking the supporters of POGS’ mission, urged members of the diaspora community in the DC and Maryland (DCMD) area to continue working with POGS to achieve collectively what members of the diaspora found challenging and often impossible to do individually. He said, “POGS is even more committed now as it was at its founding, and its contributions over the years to Jamaican charities have had significant impact on the lives of those who are marginalized by society and are deprived of the special services they need.” Ambassador Ward highlighted the gap in services to the underserved and marginalized communities in Jamaica, such as those members served by the MSC, and told the audience that those and others less privileged need us to remain focused on assisting them.
POGS’ president Joy Dufour, in thanking POGS’ supporters, entreated them to expand their support for the organization’s mission. She also told them to take pride in the accomplishments so far. She said without their support, POGS could not be effective in its mission to help the disadvantaged and poor in Jamaica. She urged them to bring others on board. She told supporters that POGS mission is their mission, and POGS successes are also theirs. She told patrons, “Your support is vital to the success of helping the most vulnerable in Jamaica, both at the Mustard Seed Community as well as the surrounding communities.” She thanked the Committee and Board members for their dedication to continue giving their time in support of POGS’ mission.
In a message from the Mustard Seed Communities, its Founder, the Very Rev. Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon, expressed “deepest gratitude for the unwavering support and assistance provided by our dedicated partners at Partners of Good Shepherd Jamaica.” He said POGS “generosity and commitment have made a profound impact on the lives of those we serve and have helped us advance our mission of providing care, compassion, and a brighter future for vulnerable individuals.” He also lauded the Saint Andrew Church for items shipped to MSC during “the trying times during the covid pandemic and the contributions of items collected by Partners of Good Shepherd.”
In a direct message thanking POGS supporters, the Most Rev. & Hon. Charles Dufour, DD, OJ, CD, Archbishop Emeritus of Kingston, said that the Good Shepherd Foundation (GSF), which is based in Jamaica, with POGS’ help will continue to respond to the urgent needs of children they serve and the needs of others. The charitable work of the GSF inspired the founding of POGS in the DCMD area.
Also present and supporting POGS’ fundraising event were some leaders of the Jamaican diaspora community and members of their organizations – Dr. Elaine Knight, president of the Jamaican Nationals Association (DC), Ricardo Nugent, president of the Jamaican Association of Maryland (Baltimore), Mrs. Venice Mundle-Harvey, chair of the Caribbean American Advisory Group of Montgomery County, Maryland, and Ms. Barbara Brissett, president of the UWI Alumni Association DC. The GJDC US northeast representative, Ms. Michelle Tulloch-Neil, was also present. Canon Rev. Dr. Kortright Davis, Professor at Howard University School of Divinity, gave the invocation. Comedian and entertainer Michael Campbell had master of ceremonies duties.
(c) Curtis A. Ward/The Ward Post