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Minister of Housing, Transport, Water and Works, Robert Pickersgill, has pointed to the country’s strides in advancing human development, including reduced poverty and increased access to health and education.
The Minister, who was addressing the Jamaican (Ottawa) Community Association’s 17th annual heroes’ banquet and awards gala recently in Canada, informed that 93 per cent of Jamaicans now had access to water, while poverty had been reduced to 14.8 per cent. He also pointed to strides in information and communication technologies, and the provision of physical and social infrastructure.
“In 1944, with a population of just over 1.2 million, Jamaica had a secondary school enrollment of 4,026 and life expectancy of 52.9 years. Today, Jamaica is ranked 21 on the Human Poverty Index (HPI) out of 103 developing countries and areas. Jamaica’s life expectancy at 70.8 years is comparable to that of developed countries,” he stated.
Minister Pickersgill, who spoke on the topic: ‘Leadership and Belief’, noted that the function was important in recognising the contribution of those who fought and struggled for the social and political development of Jamaica.
“We should constantly remind ourselves of the journey that we have trod and why we should walk tall in the corridors of the world as proud and free people,” he said.
Paying homage to national hero, Sir Alexander Bustamante, who was the focus of the celebration, Minister Pickersgill said Bustamante’s “steadfast belief that everyone has a right to dignity and a decent standard of living continues to reverberate in every corner of this world”.
Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall and the Most Hon. Mrs. Rheima Hall, were the special guests at the event, held under the distinguished patronage of Her Excellency Patricia Rodney Evering, Jamaica’s Acting High Commissioner to Canada.
Awards were presented to several volunteers whom President of the Association, Harvey Brown called “everyday heroes.”
“Although they have their own personal hardships and businesses to attend to, they take the time out of their lives day-after-day and year-after-year to give to others, thus exemplifying what it means to be a hero,” said Mr. Brown.
The recipients were Thelma Gravelle for community service; Elinor Inglis for business; while the youth award for community service went to Tovia Johnson. In addition, Bernice Brown was named volunteer of the year; and Edwin (Sammy) Sayles, lifetime member.
JOCA members Joanne Robinson and Barbara Wilson were also presented with community service awards from United Way for their work with the Multicultural Health Coalition, a United Way-sponsored charity.