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Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry's ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ Chairman, Reverend Everton Jackson (right) and Community Activist, Bill Cousins (left) of Salt Spring, St. James, present a care package to 88-year-old Ida White of Salt Spring, recently.
Photo: Garwin Davis

Whenever the chapter on Jamaica’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) is written, the role of local charities and the spirit of volunteerism will have to be recognised.

“Our local charities have really stepped up to the plate in a big way,” the Prime Minister said, in a recent virtual meeting with business leaders and other stakeholders, in response to the nation’s ongoing battle in stemming the spread of COVID-19.

“As a nation, we will be forever grateful for their proactive and selfless approach… something which has served us well in our fight to contain this pandemic,” he added.

Among the charities is the Issa Trust Foundation, which recently boosted the ability of the National Health Fund (NHF) to respond to the virus with the handover of $168 million in medical supplies.

The donation, which came at a time when Jamaica’s COVID-19 cases were on the rise, included asthma inhalers, antibiotics, diabetes and mental health and immune suppression medications, and intravenous (IV) fluids.

It was done in collaboration with the Foundation’s international partner, Direct Relief.

In the meantime, needy residents in some of St James’ toughest inner-city communities have been the beneficiaries of more than $5 million worth of care packages from the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The distribution, which was done through the Chamber’s ‘Love thy Neighbour’ initiative, was aimed at the poor and the elderly, reaching some 1,200 households, and included food, sanitisers and toiletries.

This also brings to $8.5 million the organisation’s response, so far, to the COVID-19 pandemic.

President of the Chamber, Janet Silvera, said it was out of seeing that “sense of need” that her organisation responded, giving much needed help “to those who needed it the most”.

Sandals International Resorts, a leading resort chain in the Caribbean, has also been doing its part.

When Health and Wellness Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, requested assistance for quarantine centres, including accommodation for patients who are recovering from the virus, the hotel chain did not disappoint.

It offered the Government its 52-room Carlisle Inn hotel, Montego Bay, in addition to a $20-million contribution for ventilators to be used for the treatment of coronavirus patients.

Sandals Deputy Chairman, Adam Stewart, said the hotel will be at the disposal of the Government for as long as it takes to bring this COVID-19 disease under control.

And, as a further showing of true patriotism, Sandals, through its chairman, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, donated $500,000 to each of the 63 Members of Parliament currently serving in the House of Representatives.

The money will be used to provide care packages for vulnerable persons in the respective constituencies.

The Jamaica Guangdong Association (JGA), which represents the Chinese community in Jamaica, also came out in a big way to assist the efforts in St Ann to fight against COVID-19.

Recently, the group donated food items and other goods valued at $700,000 to Mayor of St Ann’s Bay, Michael Belnavis, to assist with the St. Ann Municipal Corporation’s distribution of care packages to the most vulnerable in the parish.

A cheque for $100,000 was also handed over to the St. Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital, which was collected by Acting CEO, Delroy Morgan.

The JGA had previously handed over $100,000 to the St. Ann Police.

Mr. Belnavis, in an interview with JIS News said, “no praise is too high for the charity group”.

“I am very appreciative of this public-private partnership and wish to see more collaborations like this, as we all come together to fight this virus and its impact on our country,” he added.

For his part, Custos of St. James, Bishop Conrad Pitkin, through his ‘Custos COVID-19 Project’, has been instrumental in providing masks and care packages to needy residents in the parish.

“We have recognised the need and have been doing our part in assisting residents to meet the health and safety guidelines as well as to provide care packages for the needy,” Custos Pitkin told JIS News.

“We have, so far, sourced up to 2,000 masks and will try to do more as we go along… as the goal is to comply fully with the guidelines and to assist in the containment of COVID-19,” he added.

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