There is not one person on this planet who is unaffected by COVID-19 in some way. In fact, each one of our lives has been dramatically altered, even the babies’ innocent existences. While the numbers of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Caribbean are not as high as that of our American neighbour’s, we must not become lackadaisical. The virus is community spread and we do have a long haul ahead of us. That being said, those of us who are able to dig deep into ourselves, pulling out every bit of strength, must do so and offer a proverbial and virtual hand to the ones who are not so fortunate.
Number one on the list of importance is everyone’s health. We should have no doubt that doctors, nurses and every other healthcare worker, are all dedicated to ensuring the best outcome possible for their patients. Meanwhile, however, there are countless other unsung heroes who are doing their part to help the Caribbean people through the coronavirus crisis.
Last week, in a moment of happenstance, I found myself on a call with Gary Robinson, the founder of the non-profit organization Cornerstone Jamaica, which is dedicated to health and education for children and families in Jamaica. “Our mission is about connecting existing non-profits so that one plus one equals three. This crisis (Covid-19) falls in the intersection of that, so I knew we had to do something,” Gary told me. Cornerstone’s flagship initiative, “See Better. Learn Better Jamaica, Ltd.” is recognized under the Charities Act of Jamaica. Due to the current crisis, their spring vision screening clinic in Westmoreland had to be cancelled, but the hope is get back on track in six months.
Cornerstone has thus far donated US$1000 to JATogetherWeStand.com Telethon and has been hosting a series of Virtual Town Hall meetings dedicated to figuring out what Jamaicans need now, in the mid-term and in the long term as we all face this pandemic. According to Executive Director Krystal Paige Hyman, Cornerstone seeks to hone in on these needs and effect positive results in health and education by creating sustainable programs. Non-profit stakeholders in the Diaspora like American Friends of Jamaica and the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations, local non-profits such as Citizen’s Response Jamaica, teachers and administrators from their own “See Better. Learn Better” partner schools, and individual advocates for the wellbeing of Jamaicans have been attending these meetings. “We plan to align ourselves with other efforts being coordinated by the American Friends of Jamaica and the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica, as they plan to raise 250 million Jamaican dollars to support communities likely to be affected by food security issues and joblessness in the wake of this pandemic and it’s negative economic impact. We will also be seeking to provide support to Citizen’s Response, who are manufacturing personal protective equipment and ventilators locally in Jamaica,” Krystal told Maco.
According to Krystal, Cornerstone’s vision is, “To inspire people to focus on the opportunities that exist and reinvent normal reality as we know it. Jamaica’s economy depends majorly on tourism. Perhaps now is a time to create a shift to focus on agriculture and technology as potential drivers of the economy. This crisis could be seen as a catalyst for entrepreneurs and innovators to use this disruption as an opportunity to build industries, companies and set trends that will shape a new future way of life, after COVID-19.”
So why are Gary Robinson, Krystal Hyman and the rest of Cornerstone so invested in Jamaica? Gary has been visiting and enjoying the island for over forty years, Krystal is a Jamerican living in Kingston and all the remaining members of Cornerstone, here in Jamaica and abroad, are equally passionate about this country. Essentially, putting key players together in the same room to identify the issues at hand, how we can all help and what opportunities exist to meet the problems, altogether encompass an essential cornerstone in surviving coronavirus.
Cornerstone Jamaica invites anyone and everyone who wants to help by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with “Jamaica COVID-19 Support” in the subject line. www.cornerstonejamaica.org