Amidst the poverty and need for better infrastructure and improved services there are still many needy Jamaicans who benefit from the generosity of agencies, charity organisations and churches.Indeed, we hold that social conditions would be much worse were it not for the efforts of these entities, and indeed individuals, who daily spare a thought for the less fortunate. This newspaper and other media have reported and continue to share the stories of these acts of humanity which, in most cases, have changed the lives of recipients for the better.
One such organisation is Food For the Poor Jamaica (FFP), a branch of Food For the Poor Inc based in Florida, United States, and which partners with stakeholders including non-governmental and private sector organisations on housing, sanitation, education, outreach, and agriculture.
The work done by FFP is sustained by donations filtered from its parent company, which is the largest international relief and development organisation in the USA.
We recall that the organisation started out with food donations, but soon realised that that alone was not going to solve poverty issues. As such, FFP ventured into other areas of critical need.
The charity has built scores of public schools and operates a free health centre at St Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston serving approximately 10,000 patients each year. Additionally, FFP builds about 1,200 houses annually, which was apparently one of the reasons for the previous Government entering into a partnership with the organisation under the State’s Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP).
At the time we were told that, under that arrangement, the island’s 63 constituencies were required to provide FFP with 10 names each for whom the charity would build houses, after its investigation showed that there was indeed a need for shelter.
Of significance is the fact that if FFP was not provided with names it would continue with its building programme nonetheless, as its focus was on helping the less fortunate, regardless of where those people live.
In other words, the organisation’s programme is apolitical, and probably that’s the real problem that some parliamentarians, on both sides of the House, have. What other conclusion could we draw after hearing Mr Leslie Campbell, the representative for St Catherine North Eastern, arguing that he could build a house for half the price projected by FFP?
“My preference would be for those allocations to be given directly to the MP who can use local labour to achieve better results,” Mr Campbell said during last week’s meeting of Parliament’s Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee.
The chairman of that committee, Mr Mikael Phillips, was also very strident in his criticism of the charity, claiming that it has built units with defects that make them uncomfortable for humans.
Other members of the committee, claiming that they were only concerned about value for money, sought to convince us that they were not trying to discredit FFP. However, we ask them what they thought they were doing by making the claim about substandard units as well as the suggestion of exorbitant architectural fees.
We would not be surprised if FFP, after the current contract with the Government expires, decides against entering into a new agreement.