Sunday, November 23, 2014



Grande Savane 1: Over 50,00 children are now getting an education in more comfortable surroundings thanks to the Digicel Foundation's school building initiative in Haiti

Grande Savane 2: The 150th school – the Ecole Nationale de Grande Savane – was officially opened by Digicel Chairman and Patron of the Foundation, Denis O'Brien, School Principal, Isaac Césaire, and Haiti Minister of National Education and Vocational Training, Nesmy Manigat

Grande Savane 3: A view of the new school buildings at the Ecole Nationale de Grande Savane

Grande Savane 4: Digicel Chairman and Patron of the Foundation, Denis O'Brien, speaks at the inauguration of the 150th school built in Haiti by the Digicel Foundation


- Over 50,000 children attending schools built by the Digicel Foundation

Thursday 20th November 2014 – Port-au-Prince, Haiti:  The Digicel Foundation yesterday celebrated one of the finest moments in the history of education in Haiti with the opening of its 150th school in the country with the Minister of National Education and Vocational Training, Mr. Nesmy Manigat, in attendance.


The 150th school – the Ecole Nationale de Grande Savane – was founded in 2011. Prior to the Digicel Foundation's intervention, the school had been operating in extremely basic facilities which were not conducive to learning. Now, it has brand new buildings that meet modern earthquake and hurricane-resistant standards. The fully-furnished school has nine new classrooms, administrative offices, a playground, sanitary facilities, a computer lab and a library.


Commenting on the inauguration, Digicel Chairman and Patron of the Digicel Foundation, Denis O'Brien said, "This is a proud occasion for the Digicel Foundation as we mark the inauguration of the 150th school built as part of our construction programme which started back in 2007. Today, 50,000 children attend these schools."


He continued: "The development of Haiti and its future relies heavily on the investment made in children today and Digicel remains committed to improving education in Haiti – in partnership with the Ministry of Education. In fact, we are now starting a new two-year programme that will directly and indirectly benefit some 20,000 children. Access will be improved through a construction programme to provide more schools and a reinvestment programme in the existing schools – in addition to providing teacher training for 500 teachers."


Digicel Haiti Foundation Chairwoman, Mrs. Josefa Gauthier, said, "What we are feeling today is comparable to what an athlete feels when they cross the finish line of a marathon. The only difference is that our work is far from complete. We have made a commitment to continue to help improve the quality of education in Haiti and a lot remains to be done. The Ecole Nationale de Grande Savane is a key milestone in our programme to build schools throughout the country and is symbolic of our vision for constant improvement."


Principal of Ecole Nationale de Grande Savane, Isaac Césaire, said: "November 19th 2014 is a day of celebration for our teachers and students who endured every possible calamity due to the disastrous conditions we had in our previous school. There are no words today to express our profound gratitude to the Digicel Foundation. The entire community of Grande Savane is extremely grateful."


To date, the Digicel Foundation has invested over US$30million in its school building project, completing 150 schools and creating more than 10,500 construction jobs. 




Digicel Group is a total communications and entertainment provider with operations in 33 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific. After 13 years of operation, total investment to date stands at over US$5 billion worldwide. The company is renowned for delivering best value, best service and best network.


Digicel is the lead sponsor of Caribbean, Central American and Pacific sports teams, including the Special Olympics teams throughout these regions. Digicel sponsors the West Indies cricket team and is also the presenting partner of the Caribbean Premier League. In the Pacific, Digicel is the proud sponsor of several national rugby teams and also sponsors the Vanuatu cricket team.


Digicel also runs a host of community-based initiatives across its markets and has set up Digicel Foundations in Haiti, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea and Trinidad and Tobago which focus on educational, cultural and social development programmes.


Visit for more information.




Gillian Power


+1876 470 8601 (Jamaica cell)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Outameni … many issues

Observer photo

by Jean Lowrie-Chin | Observer column published 17 Nov 2014

I think financial commentator Ralston Hyman put in well in a radio interview last Friday: if the National Housing Trust (NHT) wanted guaranteed earnings from the people’s deposits for housing, GOJ treasury bills would have yielded them seven to eight percent.  Otherwise, if they were wondering how best to spend $180 million, why not just put it towards building a few well-needed homes for the less fortunate? 

On the same programme, Dr Damien King expressed the feelings of many:  when an employer puts up three percent and an employee two percent of wages towards a Trust to provide housing, it is hard to accept such an odd decision by the Board of the NHT. Humble workers who pay this deduction every month are barely finding enough for rent, while the thought of qualifying for an NHT housing loan is not even within sight.  How painful it is for them to be hearing that their money, held in trust to improve the housing stock of the nation, is being used to save a failing tourist attraction. 

The irony is that there is a dire need in the tourism industry for decent housing for workers.  Last year I related how we met a generous Canadian couple who were so impressed by a hotel worker that they asked to visit his family to see a bit of ‘the real Jamaica’.  Well, they certainly saw it.  The well-spoken young man and his humble, gracious family lived in little more than a shack with primitive sanitary facilities.  They said they paid for the family to spend a weekend at the resort and were moved to see the man’s child marvel at a flush toilet and a comfortable bed.   

So come now my people in politics.  Why can’t you just confess to the fact that you are playing with the lives of the decent, hardworking people of this country, administration after administration, and do better for the people you say you are so interested in serving?  Where is your conscience?
Dr Michael Abrahams posted a poem on Facebook, calling for a peaceful revolution in our country.   

Here are some of the words:
As we put aside our lenses of orange or green
And visualize our situation in black, gold AND green
Peeling off our party masks
And taking our leaders to task
For this is not about two secondary colours
But about us uniting as sisters and brothers
For a common cause...our survival.

Both of our political parties still have some very decent members and so we are calling on these persons to use some of the measures taken by our Jamaica Constabulary Force, to seek out and clean the corrupt and the greedy out of your midst.  The media must not let this one go … we are losing some of our best people because they are losing their faith in Jamaica. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Message from Amina Blackwood Meeks ...

It's official. The Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen, has proclaimed November 20, National Storytelling Day. It is the outcome of two years of work by Ntukuma, The Storytelling Foundation of Jamaica. Ananse SoundSplash 2012 concluded with a resolution on a number of actions to raise the profile of storytelling and the understanding of how the oral tradition could be positioned to actively serve the national development agenda. Accordingly, Ntukuma wrote to the Governor General requesting the proclamation. The proclamation was received by Kai Antoinette Thompson symbolically on behalf of the children of Jamaica.

Nov 20 is also Universal Children's Day and has been deliberately included in Ananse SoundSplash, the Annual Storytelling Conference and Festival to honour the rights of our children to culture and heritage.  The Office of the Children's Advocate kindly agreed to collaborate with Ntukuma in the staging of this first National Storytelling Day. The celebrations will be held at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre, Nov 20, 9am-4pm.
Twelve of the most acclaimed international storytellers and researchers of the oral tradition will join the celebrations.

Ananse Soundsplash is an eight-legged mobile storytelling conference and festival mounted by Ntukuma in collaboration with the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica. Major sponsors of the 2014 festival are the CHASE Fund, Courts, Office of The Children's Advocate, Jamaica Tourist Board and NCB Foundation.
Once Upon A Time...Is Now.
Live the stories your grandchildren will be blessed and proud to tell.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Tribute to Francis Xavier 'Paco' Kennedy - by his brother Dr. Fred Kennedy

Francis Xavier Kennedy
September 10, 1940 – October 26, 2014

I want to recognize my sisters, Mary Cameron and Liz Sealey who are here today and on whose behalf I speak.  Although we followed careers in education, different from the business route that Paco took, and even though we moved abroad in the 1970s, we all stayed very close together as a family.  I want to thank his wife, Marjory and her family for this opportunity to give a tribute to Paco.

Paco had a special place in the Kennedy family. 

He was born Francis Xavier, September 10, 1940, eldest of five children, of Lydia Loinaz and Luis Fred Kennedy.  From an early age, he was called Paco, which is the Spanish nickname for Francis, given to him so as not to mistake him for his namesake, our uncle, Francis Xavier, my father’s youngest brother. 

My father, Luis Fred Kennedy was the eldest of six siblings who married and all had children.  So, Paco was not only the eldest of his immediate family but of the whole Kennedy clan of 25 first cousins. Paco held a special place in the hearts of not only his immediate family but of his extended families of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews.  I honor many of these who have travelled from far to pay their last respects. He always made a point of staying in touch, and I know that Marjory had a lot to do with this. 

As an older brother, he was leader of the pack, and maybe because of expectations placed on him, needed to assert his authority now and again.  He would always want to be our parent in one way or another.  On many occasions, he would refer to me as Charles, his son.  How he mistook us I have no idea, the hair alone, you think, would differentiate us.

He had a caring instinct, he’d always take care of business. I can remember getting into difficult straits, stuff I would not want to tell my parents and Paco was the one I turned to. 

Even though we were ten years apart, he included me in many of his activities, and this for a younger brother was a great thrill.  He loved movies, in his later years, taped thousands of them to house a huge library at his home.  When younger, he would ask me to accompany him to matinees at the Carib, Palace and Rialto theatres; every time there was a boxing match in town, we would go together to the Race Course  to see the fight; I learned about table saws and carpentry while sharing his wood work projects; he was an avid tennis player and would invite me often play at Liguanea Club; we would stay up, competing against each other late into the nights, playing table tennis on the back verandah at home; he taught me how to use his BB gun; he let me plan his Bachelor party and asked me to be his Best Man at his wedding.  These are wonderful memories.

Paco was very guarded, closed in many ways.  He had tremendous pressures put on him growing up as the eldest child, expectations to secure his place in the family and in the business.

But I remember so many times when he let down his guard.  I shall never forget the time he hugged me when our Dad died, and we both cried on each other’s shoulders.  I shall never forget the surprise he gave me when he showed unexpectedly for my daughter’s wedding, January of all months in Canada.  I know how much he hated the cold.  And most recently, I shall always treasure the moments he held my hand and squeezed it for the longest time while he lay in his bed at UWI hospital in Intensive Care, unable to speak, but so very much alive in his eyes and facial expressions.

My childhood memories are of him returning in the summer months from boarding school in Washington DC.  Jesuit educated, he left Campion Hall in December 1951, enrolled at St. George’s College until the middle of third form when he moved to the United States to attend an all boys Jesuit Boarding School, Georgetown Prep in 1954.  He graduated 1958 top of his class, famous in the school as the one who tutored all the other boys in Mathematics.  After that, he attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, but for a short while; he was soon back in Jamaica, to begin his business career at GKCO in 1959.

60 years ago, they did not test children’s learning abilities in schools as they do today, but I am certain that if labels had existed then, he would have been known as a gifted child.  I remember the day his IQ scores came in, they were off the chart, genius level. He had all the characteristics of giftedness:  top of his class, problem solver, highly energetic, impatient, driven, keenly interested in many subjects.  Characteristic of gifted children, he possessed a strong sense of fairness, discerning right from wrong.  The times I remember seeing Paco the most upset were when he sensed someone was trying to cheat him.  He had no tolerance for misinformation, for corruption, for stupidity or for anyone who might be trying to manipulate him or take advantage of him.

This brilliance along with a deep sense of integrity are what made him a keen businessman.  My mother always said he was like Midas, he had the touch of gold.  Whichever company he was asked to run at GKCO, he was able to turn it around to make it profitable.

My father called him a man of the people.  The large numbers of persons here today, the outpouring of love and messages are testimonies of how much Paco was loved.  He was a man who harbored no prejudices, discriminated against no one, made no judgments based on sex, class, race, or religion.  This is why people loved him.  He was a true egalitarian, he worked not to amass great amounts of wealth but rather to do good, to serve his country.  He was fired by this zeal. 

He was the best brother to me, my sisters, Mary and Elizabeth.  He loved our families as his own.  Just as he loved our children, Amanda, Sarah and Julia, likewise I hold dear to my heart his own children, Cathrine and Charles, loving them as my own.  He showed respect and love for my wife, Georgianne, accepted her from the beginning and welcomed her into the Kennedy family.  He loved our eldest daughter, Amanda, whom he called his second daughter, and was godfather to our second daughter, Sarah, both of whom are here today. 

He had a knack for making you feel special.  He would invariably start a conversation with a joke, share that contagious laugh of his, and pat you on the back.  He was a master at lowering your defences.  He loved his family as I am sure he loved every one of you sitting here today. 

“Big boy, you take care of yourself.”  These were the last words I remember him saying when I called him from Canada for his birthday.  He always had a way of “bigging’ up others.

In the communion of saints, I am sure he is with them, somewhere in spirit with my Mom and Dad, with my eldest sister, Celia who have pre-deceased us and with the many friends and family who have gone before us. 

We are sad at his passing but happy for all the good memories of true brotherly love. 

May you forever rest in peace, Paco.  We love you and we miss you.

Fred W. Kennedy
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kingston, Jamaica.

November 08, 2014