JIS News

Executive Director of the Mustard Seed Communities, Father Gregory Ramkissoon, is the 2003 recipient of the Ivy Humanitarian Prize for the Americas, in recognition of his decades of service to economically disadvantaged, mentally challenged and abandoned children in Jamaica.
The award was announced by the Washington-based Ivy Inter-American Foundation (IIAF), during a visit to the Embassy of Jamaica in Washington D.C. by officials of the Foundation, who informed Ambassador Seymour Mullings of the IIAF’s decision. The IIAF officials, in a meeting with Embassy personnel on Tuesday (Oct. 7), also indicated that Father Ramkissoon would be honoured at an official ceremony in Washington on November 12. The IIAF award is in the amount of US$10,000.
The Ivy Inter-American Foundation’s humanitarian prize was established in 1996 as an annual award to recognise individuals who have made outstanding humanitarian contributions toward improving the lives of children and their communities in the Americas.
The IIAF was founded in 1987 and seeks to assist, educate, and empower children and impoverished people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Originally established as the Asociacion Emergencia Ayacucho (Emergency Association of Ayacucho), the IIAF was formed to support and expand the work of this humanitarian organisation.
In announcing the selection of Father Ramkissoon, Ivy’s prize coordinator, Maria Bonnemaison, praised the Jamaican humanitarian for his long-standing commitment to the welfare of poor children and singled out his work in providing educational opportunities for disadvantaged teens in Kingston for special recognition. She further declared that Father Ramkissoon exemplified the benevolence and altruism that has characterised former recipients of the Humanitarian Award since the inception of the prize.
Mrs. Bonnemaison also explained that the Ivy Humanitarian Prize represented an annual opportunity for the IIAF to recognize and support a broad range of projects, which benefit impoverished children and their communities in Latin America and the Caribbean. She also mentioned that the prize provided a vehicle to, “broaden public support for humanitarian projects throughout the Americas by raising awareness and recognising those who made a difference” in the lives of the hemisphere’s children.
The Mustard Seed Communities commenced operations in 1978 with a $500 loan to Father Gregory Ramkissoon, which was used to build a small one-room facility, which housed a basic school for inner-city children living in the Mona Commons area. The project quickly expanded and was relocated to Cockburn Gardens, which currently is the location of the administrative offices of the Mustard Seed Communities. In addition to its headquarters, Mustard Seed also operates a pottery production facility, produces greeting cards, and has a printery at this location.
The Communities’ Roots FM radio station project is also located at the Cockburn Gardens site, as well as a home for nearly 40 disabled children.
Mustard Seed Communities operate a total of five different homes in the island that provide residential care for the disabled. There is also a home for pregnant, abandoned, and unwed mothers, as well as two residential homes for children living with HIV/AIDS. The organisation has also undertaken projects at the request of entities in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Zimbabwe, where the organisation has established homes for disabled children.

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