Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner September 23, 2021
Great minds over the ages have meditated about the effects of the passage of time. The subject is mysterious and fascinating, all at once.
We look ahead a lot, and sometimes we look backwards. This backward look is crucial: integrating the labours, the anxieties, the relationships, the learnings, the risks, the joys, and the challenges: all of it. Remembering is emotional and needs to be ritualized. Especially at the seeming “end” of something.
I am pondering the end of an all-important project that my spouse and I started with others in 1975, and is now concluding after 46 years in Peterborough. The “rituals” will be via a picnic on October 2 at a farm in Otonabee Township.
It is the farewell to the well-known, non-governmental development organization, Jamaican Self Help. The group is well-known to old-time Peterburians, but the story may be of interest to hundreds of newcomers.
I must disclose my interest in the topic: I was there in the beginning, and a player for many years. Its growth and flourishing weren’t planned: JSH just grew, because of great need, warm relationships, cultural attraction and generosity of spirit, going both ways.
My late spouse John and I, with our three kids, at the time not well-travelled, volunteered to teach in Kingston, Jamaica in 1975, with a Canadian aid program, he to teach accounting at a community college. We were duly warned by some local employers about the dangers we were exposing ourselves to.
But we thrived. So did our Peterborough visitors. Jamaica has an unique charm along with all the challenges and difficulties that poverty and colonialism have left. When we got there, we joined a church, and the leaders enabled us to get deep into deprived urban communities. Here we met remarkable leaders to collaborate with, and send resources to.
Back at home, Peterburians got interested. The first year, thanks to the charming concerts put on by Fr. Richard Ho Lung and his friends, we raised $25,000. It kept increasing.
Since we were faithful to carrying out our commitments to education and community development in Jamaica, the Canadian government began to offer support in the way of matching funds. We were incorporated as “Jamaican Self Help for the Relief of Poverty” in 1980, and began to issue tax receipts. Our best years we were able, with few expenses, to send $450,000 annually to eight Jamaican projects, not one of which turned out to be false or ineffective.
In 1984, JSH began youth awareness trips, which continued to 2012. Almost 1000 Peterborough youth came on two-week voluntary service visits. Some 50 teachers came too. Many kids were transformed by the experience.
JSH, along with other NGOs, was contributing to growing global awareness in Peterborough. One analyst credits these groups with paving the way for the election in 2015 of a talented refugee from Afghanistan as Peterborough’s member of Parliament.
JSH realized that Canadians should experience the richness of Jamaican culture, as well as the dire effects of poverty. Well-attended annual lectures began, featuring a Jamaican leader.
However, after expansion, frequently comes contraction. In 2012, matching funds ended. The office on Hunter Street closed. In 2016, JSH reverted to its original status as a “kitchen table” volunteer-managed group. The passage of time took its toll on volunteers. It was time to wind up, with a bang, not a whimper.
There are hopes that another Canadian NGO will adopt JSH’s remaining three projects: two schools and a community centre. Five boxes of JSH archives have been deposited at Trent University Library, of interest to teacher-trainees and development students.
Two books about the work have been published: “Jamaica Journal: The Story of a Grassroots Canadian Aid Organization,” in 2016, and “One Fine T’ing,” in 2021. They will be available at the gathering on October 2. They capture the dedication of the people of JSH.
Anyone connected to JSH who would like to attend the closing is invited to contact Liz Sine at email@example.com.
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