Delegates praise diaspora’s impact, eager to support Jamaica

Author:  Gordon Williams
Jamaicans living overseas journeyed home last month to attend the “Jamaica 55 Diaspora 2017 Conference” in Kingston. Gordon Williams of Caribbean Today asked some of the delegates about the impact of the diaspora on Jamaica and to assess how the nation has responded to the diaspora. The following is a sampling of their responses, edited for space and clarity:

Brown MichelleMichelle Brown, Orlando, Florida - I come from a social, activist perspective. So, I don’t have the finances to necessarily engage in Jamaica, but I can give service, and I don’t think there’s an embracing … So I think for me there is a disconnect, real disconnect, from the service aspect where a lot of us have talent and skills that we can give to help build the country versus money …

(In terms of the diaspora’s impact), it’s very limited. There needs to be a flip in perspective on that, how the diaspora conference operates. Maybe in more so of the diaspora showcasing what we can give to Jamaica and then finding connections to us.

Dorman AngelaAngela Dorman, London, England - The impact on diaspora has been to see the enthusiasm of the people, especially those overseas and what they’re bringing to the table. Even though we’re talking, we need to make sure the stuff that we’ve discussed is implemented and we just don’t talk, we do action … That’s the biggest fear.

 … The government is doing quite well at (embracing the diaspora) … They’re a little bit limited financial-wise and we the diaspora can can offer our services … We can do a lot, because we have access to a lot of infrastructure.

Garvey Dr JuliusDr. Julius Garvey, New York - The impact is enormous … And we do all kind of other things, like medical missions, supporting schools, communities etc. So we’re of extreme importance to the economy and people of Jamaica.

 The government is trying, but, you know, the relationship is not optimal, but it has improved, and based on what has been taking place at the conference the effort has been made and I think we’ll continue to improve.

Junor KevinKevin Junor, Ontario, Canada - The primary impact of the diaspora is to assist in building capacity in Jamaica. We’ve lost a lot of talent over the years and those people can come back and rebuild that capacity within Jamaica.

The way that the diaspora is responding right now … I’m seeing it’s a very positive response from Jamaica ... The way that we’ve been treated has been very, very well.

Lawrence Maitland AkeliaAkelia Lawrence-Maitland, Diaspora Advisory Board member for northeast United States - Our community is diverse in our interests and our needs and I think that’s part of the challenge in how do you respond to these varying interests from our diaspora community.

Generally though, I’ll say we do know the value of the diaspora. They (Jamaica) have been trying to respond to it, but I think there seems to be a need to go within the diaspora space and hear more from the diaspora how they want to engage with Jamaica and design a conference around that.

Williams NadineNadine Williams, Toronto, Canada - The diaspora is a tremendous asset to the Jamaican people and the economy. The Jamaican diaspora, we come with a bevy of wealth, not just financially, (but) different resources, talents and so forth.

The Jamaican government is now becoming keenly aware of who we are. I think there is a lot of growth that has to happen, but I believe the conversations are being had that need to be had and the changes, we’ll start to see the changes.