The Generosity of Jamaican Diaspora Organizations


There is a lot of talk about the “Jamaican Diaspora.” Politicians talk about the diaspora as if it is a large, homogenous bloc of Jamaicans. Quite a few of our relatives are “Jamaican Diaspora,” in New York, London and elsewhere. Our relatives don’t sound very Jamaican any more when they speak, and the younger ones sound even less so. But they all still love the island of their birth.

Having said that, I always have the feeling that Jamaicans take our diaspora folks a little bit for granted. There are the barrels bearing nice things that arrive at the wharf. There are the U.S. Dollars and British Pounds that flow into Western Union branches across the island, especially at holiday times. Many Jamaicans could barely manage without these remittances.

But that is all another story.

What I am talking about here is the idealism and kindness of Jamaicans living abroad, who form non-profit organizations, see where the need is and lend practical support to sectors that are badly in need of support. Often, it is either education or health; in this case I am talking about the latter.

These diaspora members organize fund-raising events – but their work doesn’t stop there. They have to fight their way through red tape (unfortunately) especially on the Jamaican side, to get the much-needed supplies to the island. I give them all a huge pat on the back for their belief in Jamaica, and for their persistence.

Picture 2
Mr. Courtney Cephas, Executive Director, The Health for Life and Wellness Foundation, Ltd, Ministry of Health and Wellness, examines the BIPAP machines during the official presentation ceremony held at the Knutsford Court Hotel on January 21, 2020. Looking on are (from left): Dr. Hugh Wong, Head of the A&E and Consultant, KPH; Mrs. Coleen Robinson-Cobblah, Assistant Director Nursing Quality & Professional Practice, Montefiore Medical Center and Dr. Trevor Dixon, CEO and Founder of JAHJAH Foundation. (Photo: South East Regional Health Authority)

I am really sorry I missed last week’s annual emergency ultrasound workshop in Kingston, under the theme “Partnering with Jamaica’s Public Hospitals to improve Emergency and Critical Care.” I was particularly interested in the donation of a substantial amount of medical equipment by the JAHJAH Foundation.

It seems an odd name at first – but it stands for Jamaicans Abroad Helping Jamaicans at Home, which is what these organizations are all about. JAHJAH is headed by a medical doctor born in Christiana Manchester, Trevor Dixon, who is now Director of Emergency Ultrasound at Jacobi Medical Centre in New York City.

picture 1
Good people: Dr. Trevor Dixon (centre), CEO and Founder of JAHJAH Foundation and Mrs. Coleen Robinson- Cobblah (centre), Assistant Director Nursing Quality & Professional Practice, Montefiore Medical Center in New York, with representatives from the 12 hospitals who received BIPAP machines. (Photo: South East Regional Health Authority)

Dr. Dixon and his team donated twelve Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BIPAP) Machines, which will go to Black River, Spanish Town, Cornwall Regional, Princess Margaret, National Chest Hospital, St. Ann’s Bay, Savannah La Mar, May Pen, Mandeville, Falmouth, Percy Junor and Kingston Public Hospital.

This machine basically helps you breathe; it is a “non-invasive form of therapy for patients suffering from sleep apnea, pneumonia, asthma, and or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder,” to quote the South East Regional Health Authority’s press release.

Dr. Hugh Wong, Head of the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department and Consultant,  said that the A&E Department at Kingston Public Hospital treats 300 patients with asthma each month. With air pollution rising, asthma and similar problems are taking an increasing toll on our population. So these machines save lives.

In the same week, the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston – Jamaica’s primary public maternity hospital – received a whole range of very important medical equipment from another diaspora organization, the Jamaica United Relief Association, which is based in Hollywood, Florida. JURA’s Mission Statement is: “Benefiting the health, safety and welfare of the less fortunate in South Florida, Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean in the areas of Housing, Health Care and Immigration.”

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The Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) received a ventilator and medical supplies from Jamaica United Relief Association (JURA) during the official handover on Monday, January 20, 2020 at the institution. The mechanical ventilator is valued at JA$4M. The medical supplies donated included laryngoscopes, pumps, glucometer machines, speculums and other items. The hospital delivers 7,500 babies annually, therefore an additional ventilator will improve the hospital’s ability to treat more babies with moderate to severe respiratory challenges. Dr. Garth McDonald, Senior Medical Officer, VJH demonstrates how the attachment of the Deep Vein thrombosis (DVT) pump works. Looking on are (L-R) Mr. Bruce Palmer, President, JURA; Mrs. Elise Fairweather Blackwood, Director of Nursing Services, VJH; Mrs. Kathleen Cooper-Brown, Acting CEO, Kingston Public and Victoria Jubilee Hospital and Dr.Yanique Brown, Consultant, Neonatal Care Unit, VJH. (Photo: South East Regional Health Authority)

As Miss Lou would say: “Tenki. Thank you!”  Over and over again…

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Mr. Michael Campbell, who is a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) demonstrates the use of the BIPAP machines to (from left) Dr. Trevor Dixon, CEO and Founder of JAHJAH Foundation; Mrs. Coleen Robinson-Cobblah, Assistant Director Nursing Quality & Professional Practice, Montefiore Medical Center and Mr. Courtney Cephas (partially hidden), Executive Director, The Health for Life and Wellness Foundation, Ltd, Ministry of Health and Wellness. (Photo: South East Regional Health Authority)

2 thoughts on “The Generosity of Jamaican Diaspora Organizations

  1. As you rightly note, many in the diaspora do not send things to individuals or relatives of their own, but offer material things (and maybe funds) to communal causes, many with no desire for personal recognition other than assurances that books, computers, etc are well used. Glad to see that continues as its been the bedrock of a lot of social support that would have left many communities far worse off otherwise.

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    1. Yes – I totally agree. It is truly admirable and I am sure they contribute quite a lot to the health and education sectors, in particular. I wonder if it has been quantified, somewhere.

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