Help Jamaica – What can you do?
“I have found that, among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
~ Maya Angelou (American poet)
Worldwide, the need to help others has never been greater. And, unfortunately, the first ones to suffer in today’s economic “meltdown” have been charitable organizations.
Throughout our global community, at least 4 billion people suffer from poverty, hunger and disease – and Jamaica is no exception. While poverty had been declining in Jamaica in recent years, all is not well today. According to the CIA World Factbook and The Jamaica Observer, 16.5% of all Jamaicans (or about 480,000 people) live below the poverty line, which is defined as J$302,697 (or about US$3,450) per family of five per year. The national minimum wage is J$5,000 (US$52) per 40-hour work week, except for industrial security guards who earn J$7,320.50 (US$75) per week. Of the poorest segment, 22% are children. Unemployment is 14.2%. The Jamaican government has always tried to help its poor through social reform but, due to the country’s poor economic conditions today, the government lacks sufficient funding to make any significant impact.
Perhaps you’ve visited Jamaica on a fabulous vacation, seen hungry children or ailing elderly people and wondered “what could I possibly do to help?” Perhaps you’re a Jamaican living elsewhere and wonder how you can best help the folks back home? If you have been blessed, you could make a decision to donate to a good cause and “pay (your blessings) forward”. One of the greatest reasons to donate to any charity is to help the less fortunate, so choose something that touches your heart. Or donate in the name of someone special in your life to a cause dear to that person’s heart; honor someone’s memory.
Giving doesn't always have to be monetary – it can be a donation of your time, food, basic necessities, clothing, trade tools or school supplies. In the words of the Jamaican reggae artist, Shaggy, “It takes one person to start a miracle”. No matter the size or type, your contribution will be a miracle to someone in need!
If you're traveling to Jamaica, you may want to visit a school or orphanage to deliver books and school supplies donated personally by you or by your organization. Or maybe you want to volunteer your time for the day to make a difference in the lives of the poorest among us? For information on how to accomplish this, please take a look at the Bread Basket Ministries link and more tips at the bottom of this page.<
There are hundreds of charitable organizations pleading for our help and we obviously cannot list them all. But below are links to some of those wonderful non-governmental organizations, large and small, that touch my heart. Some feed and clothe the poor and hungry, others cater to children, some treat the disabled or mentally ill, and others are more specialized. Some are based in Jamaica, some in the U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K. - trying to help from around the globe. My special favorites are at the top of the list; the others are listed in alphabetical order.
Any small contribution you can make will be received with gratitude and appreciation.
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Food for the Poor - This great organization serves the poorest of the poor in the Caribbean and Latin America by providing food, housing, health care, education, water projects and emergency relief. They have a great donation catalog with favorites such as gifts of 20 chicks, 3 baby pigs, or a goat. Feed a family and provide an ongoing source of income, something I believe in deeply. You can also stipulate that you would like your donation to be spent in Jamaica. (Also visit their affiliate in Jamaica, Food for the Poor Jamaica)
Bread Basket Ministries - This non-profit, 100% volunteer, charitable Christian organization ministers to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of poverty-stricken men, women and children in the Ocho Rios area. Visit their website to see what great things they have accomplished with the help of mission groups and other volunteers, and projects that need your help. Contact founder/CEO Elise Yap for short or long-term volunteer opportunities. She will take great care of you and/or your group. By helping spread love in the community, you will receive far more than you give.
Blue Mountain Project - This grassroots organization has been helping rural Jamaican communities in the Hagley Gap district of St. Thomas parish in the beautiful Blue Mountains since 2004. Most of their programs and services focus on health and education but they support environmental, engineering and economic development projects too.
Children of Jamaica Outreach - Children of Jamaica Outreach is a nonprofit organization that seeks to undertake projects of support and to give relief to disadvantaged children in Jamaica as well as the United States. COJO's values are built on the foundation that children are our greatest asset and must be provided with services that will improve their existing conditions. They support a number of child care institutions throughout Jamaica.
H.E.L.P. Jamaica! (German site) - An acronym for Help Establish Library Projects in Jamaica, they want to establish and support library and education projects especially for children who don't have access to books and computers, and create places to read, to learn, to discuss, to paint, to explore talents and skills. Check out the 2010 calendar available for purchase on their site (beautiful photos!). They will use 100% of the proceeds to establish their first HELP Jamaica-operated education center in the Cassava Piece community of Kingston, Jamaica.
SOS Children's Villages - Jamaica (U.K. site) - This is Jamaica's chapter of the world's largest orphan charity, taking care of children who have lost their parents and have no one else to care for them. You contribute towards children you sponsor and the full cost of the village (housing, school, health care). "SOS Children - a charity where deeds speak louder than words." ~ The Dalai Lama
Free Winnifred Beach Benevolent Society - This grassroots effort began several years ago to fight off developers' plans to take over beautiful Winnifred Beach in Portland Parish, thus making this public beach private. We cannot let this continue or Jamaicans will no longer have access to any of their beautiful community beaches, all for the sake of non-sustainable development.
Other great organizations:
Donate school supplies:
Stop by a school and deliver some badly-needed books and supplies. Simple items are scarce for most Jamaican school children or, at the very least, unaffordable. Donations of school supplies like notebooks, pencils, pens, rulers, crayons, erasers, coloring books, and educational workbooks (reading, spelling, math, comprehension, brain games, puzzles) are always in high demand.
- Take items out of their packaging and cut off the tags - Jamaica's landfills are overflowing and customs is less likely to care if it doesn't look like a re-sale item;
- Vary your donations - too many of the same item tends to raise eyebrows and make you look like a vendor bringing products to sell;
- No battery operated toys - batteries die and are toxic in landfills;
- No games or toys with tons of small pieces that get lost or broken - the more durable the better;
- Spread items throughout your suitcases;
- If asked, you are bringing items to play with kids and plan to bring them back with you. If you say they are just for donation, they are still potentially taxable items.
Some TripAdvisor.com users have compiled contact information on Jamaican schools here and an extensive list of useful items here for Basic and All-Age schools children along with plenty of helpful hints! These articles are well worth a read.