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Jamaicans in the Diaspora boost local education back home

Remittance Philanthropy Partnership Launched in Florida, New York

LAUDERHILL – Remittances from Jamaicans residing abroad are now being channeled to assist the education system in Jamaica, through a new Jamaica Partnership for Education (JPE) initiative.

A collaborative effort of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) Foundation and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the project was established as a “self-sustaining tool to advance national development,” according to Saffrey Brown, General Manager of JNBS Foundation.

Launched under the theme “Donate for a Different Jamaica” at the JN Money Transfer locations in Miramar and Lauderdale Lakes, Florida on Tuesday, May 12, Ms. Brown says the role of the JPE is “to collaborate with the Ministry in coordinating, facilitating, and expanding the acquisition and distribution of offshore and domestic resources to improve Jamaican public schools in most urgent need.”

It is an intervention that will rely heavily on the collective generosity and support of Jamaicans living overseas, as well as tourists and other key stakeholders. And, it is being implemented primarily through the “targeting and pooling of donations garnered through remittances,” she says.

In addition to facilitating donations and distributing cash, goods and services in the targeted communities, JPE is to engage all stakeholders in the education process. These include the private sector, community leaders, business owners, and parents as advocates for policy change on a school-based, parish-wide and national level.

Business Development Specialist at USAID, James Burrowes says the US Government’s foreign aid agency will be providing critical financial resources to the project. “We are confident that the Jamaica Partnership for Education will open doors for streamlining assistance to improve the quality of education in Jamaica,” he said.

”The project is a useful and progressive step toward the use a formalised system that is reliable transparent and accountable,” he maintained, adding, “It is innovative in that donors, both foreign and domestic, will be provided with timely evidence that their money is being used for the purpose for which it is intended.”

Saffrey Brown contends that Jamaicans in Florida are already receptive to the programme. “On the first day, we received approximately 85 donations from first, second and third generation Jamaicans, some of whom came out just to make a pledge” she reports.

The general manager asserts that the JPE will be a success. “Jamaica has a long history of strong exchange relationships with its people in the Diaspora, who are not only willing but eager to help,” she said.

“The current state of our education system is not a secret,” the general manager noted. “This programme provides a real opportunity to those who have a vested interest, to contribute to nation-building no matter where in the world they live.”

And, speaking to leveraging remittances as one of Jamaica’s largest foreign exchange earners that brought in just over US$2 billion at the end of 2008, Ms. Brown said, “Both remittances and tourism represent potent revenue streams to finance improvements in the Jamaican school system. We will be finding ways to use these opportunities to fix the broken education system, the results of which have long plagued the nation’s global competitive position and internal stability.”

Though the current economic climate has placed increased pressure on individuals and households to meet their financial obligations, Ms. Brown maintains that remittance streams into Jamaica “continue to be steady and strong.” And, the campaign’s tagline “your small change= my big chance” highlights that “everyone can make positive contributions, no matter their personal circumstances,” she said.

Jamaica National’s remittance company, JN Money Services, will be responsible for the collection and disbursement of donor funds contributed to the JPE, through its JN Money Transfer brand. JNBS members and customers can make contributions at any of the 18 overseas Money Transfer locations in the UK, US, Canada and Cayman.

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