Food for the Poor Undertakes $20 Million ‘Pit Latrines to Flush Toilets’ Project


A number of basic and primary schools throughout the island are benefiting from improved sanitary conveniences through the ‘pit latrines to flush toilets’ project being undertaken by the charity organization, Food for the Poor.
The $20 million initiative, which is the charity’s major project for the year, involves the replacement of outdated pit latrines with modern flush toilets.
Executive Director of Food for the Poor, Bradley Finzie-Smith, told JIS News that the project, which is the brainchild of the Jamaica National Building Society, is being done in partnership with the charity’s head office in Florida.
“We have a little under $20 million and we have been in five schools per month, where we have converted pit latrines into flush toilets and this we will continue to do till the end of the year, until the funds are exhausted,” he says.
Founded in 1982 by Jamaican businessman, Ferdinand Mahfood, Food for the Poor is an international relief and development organization that provides assistance to the poorest of the poor in 16 countries in the Caribbean and Central America.
In Jamaica, thousands of persons benefit from projects annually in areas such as health, water and sanitation, education, agriculture, food and housing. To benefit from assistance, persons must be associated with a church or non governmental organization (NGO), which will then approach the charity on their behalf.
“Food for the Poor works through at least 4,000-5,000 churches in Jamaica; without them we couldn’t do what we do. They are our arms, ears, eyes and as such, assistance is easily sought and gotten by applying to a church, which should know you intimately and understand what your situation is,” Mr. Finzie-Smith explained. He noted that applications for assistance are reviewed by a committee on a “weekly if not daily basis and we try and fit into your needs”.
In terms of funding for its various projects, the Executive Director informed that the major donors are in the United States, but some fundraising also takes place in Jamaica.
“We are funded primarily through donors, United States donors, who over the last 25 years have grown and seen our work and allowed us to do what we do by giving up their dollars. They give us goods that we can distribute and this is how we are primarily funded,” noted Mr. Finzie-Smith.
He informs that on a monthly basis, the donors are brought to the 16 countries that Food for the Poor serves, “to show them what we have done with their funds and meet the people that they’re helping and this has through the grace of God allowed us to grow.”
In recognition of its charitable work, the organization was last night presented with the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, at the Jamaica-America Friendship Association’s (JAFA) banquet held in Kingston, under the patronage of Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall and United States Ambassador, Brenda La Grange Johnson.
The annual award is given to individuals or organizations in the United States or Jamaica, considered to have lived and worked in the spirit of the late American civil rights leader.
Mr. Finzie-Smith expressed pleasure that the charity is being recognized for its work in Jamaica.
“It’s a very prestigious award and we are giving God thanks as we always do for the blessings that have come to us. It shows that our founder and our staff have worked hard at achieving our goals and objectives and to have it recognized is the icing on the cake,” he stated.
“We continue to thank Jamaicans, who have supported us over the last 24 years in Jamaica, not only by their funds, but by their well wishes and by allowing us to do what we do.
“The government most of all for allowing us to bring in goods duty free so we can give it away and without those partners, the customs, the police, then we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. We just want to thank everybody in general and once again it’s a pleasure getting this award,” he added.
Meanwhile, Morin Seymour, President of JAFA, told JIS News that Food for the Poor was chosen as this year’s award recipient as “they have managed to provide support at almost every level in the society”.
“They are just absolutely a fantastic organization serving Jamaica and elsewhere. We feel that they are an example of the kind of service that is needed to build our Jamaican society,” he stated.
Past recipients of the Martin Luther King Jr. Award include former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, and late former Prime Minister Michael Manley.

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