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“First timers” impressed with Jamaica Diaspora Convention

OCHO RIOS, Jamaica – The recent 2011 Jamaican Diaspora Convention not only pulled previous delegates from the United Kingdom and North America; but was a magnet for several first-timers, whose experience of the presentations in the plenary sessions, panel discussions, the Governor-General’s Diaspora Awards, the display booths, and one-to-one interactions, left them with lasting memories.

For some, it was an opportunity to renew their commitment to Jamaica; and others, a challenge to motivate others to participate in the development of their country.

Avia Campbell, a first time delegate from South Africa was challenged to motivate others. Ms. Campbell, who left Jamaica in her early teens, has been living in Africa for the past 13 years.
Her parents settled in Botswana for five years after leaving Jamaica; then, they moved on to South Africa where she now resides. For Ms. Campbell, a student, the Convention has provided “an avenue for engagement with other Jamaicans who live outside of Jamaica.”

Avia Campbell, a Jamaican student living in South Africa asked a question while attending the Jamaican Diaspora Convention.

“It’s good, we got to talk with the leaders, people who are able to effect change; and to engage with other like-minded people, from the different Diaspora groups, especially the larger groups, to hear what they are thinking,” she said, pointing out that about 50 families make up the South African Diaspora group.

She said the Convention will help her to re-energise Jamaicans in South Africa and get them to realise that they can communicate with Jamaicans in Jamaica, and contribute to the development of the country.

Meanwhile, Verona Greenland from New York, USA, who provides health care services, said the Convention format allowed Jamaicans to come together and share ideas about how they can contribute to Jamaica. She attended with an associate, Claudette Phipps, also from New York.
“…There is a momentum, wherever we are; but, this will always be home; and, we want to make sure that our homeland is secure, so that people will talk about it with a lot of pride; and a willingness to help,” she said.

Verona Greenland (left) and her friend Claudette Phipps from New York, USA were attending the Jamaican Diaspora Convention for the first time.

“The Vision 2030 objective is also positive for me. It is wonderful to know that we are seeking to become a developed nation by 2030,” she added.
For Eric Edwards, an educator from the United Kingdom, who addressed the Convention on education, it was an opportunity to forge external partnerships. Edwards, who was born in the UK of Jamaican parents, said the Convention presented the opportunity to meet other persons in the field of education, to exchange ideas about best practices.

Eric Edwards, an educator from the United Kingdom was attending the Jamaican Diaspora Convention for the first time. He also addressed the Convention on education.

Edwards is hoping to return to Jamaica to contribute to the development of education in the country.

More than 400 Jamaicans, mainly from North America and Europe, attended the three-day Convention, which was held at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Hotel in Ocho Rios, St. Ann, under the theme, ‘One Nation: Jamaica and its Diaspora in Partnership’.

Most participants appreciated the new format and venue; and many welcomed the opportunity to enjoy the vacation context, particularly the discounted tours and attractions.

Earl Jarrett, chairman of the Jamaican Diaspora Foundation, said that while it was a challenging year for members of the Diaspora; the attendance showed their commitment to the country.

“…We are here as one nation, Jamaica and its Diaspora coming together to achieve one goal,” he said, as he chaired the opening ceremony of the Convention.

“Those persons who are here today, have committed to participate in engagement, participate in the principles of dialogue and discussion; and, represent the true opportunities for Jamaica and its Diaspora,” he maintained.

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