STATEMENT TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
By the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport
The Honourable Olivia Grange, CD, MP
Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Mr. Speaker, as a St Catherine Member of Parliament, I would like to begin by offering words of solace to the people of the parish — particularly the people of Central St Catherine — who must be very anxious and concerned today.
I say to them: remain calm.
I know the lockdown is difficult, but it is a necessary measure to fight the spread of covid-19. If we all follow the orders, we will stop further spread of the virus and soon we’ll be able to remove the restrictions.
As difficult as it is, I appeal to you to stay home — I cannot emphasise that enough. Please … Tan Ah U Yaad
Practise social distancing. Don’t invite people over to your house and don’t go to theirs. This is not the time for socialising. It’s not the time to play sports in the community centre. This is not the time to meet up for a drink.
If you stay home you will slow the spread of covid-19 and you will save lives. It’s as simple as that. The life you save could be your very own.
The quicker we all do the right things, the quicker we can remove the restrictions that we have had to implement.
Continue to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. And call the hotline 888-ONE-LOVE if you develop flu-like symptoms.
Mr. Speaker, today I also express gratitude to the people on the frontline: our nurses, our doctors, the porters — everyone in the health service and the security forces who risk their lives daily to keep the rest of us safe.
I speak for all of Jamaica when I say we appreciate all that they continue to do. And we must do all we can to ensure that they are safe and protected while they fight covid-19 on the frontlines.
This is why the government was pleased to recently host a six-hour virtual telethon to raise additional funds to procure urgently needed personal protective equipment for our frontline workers.
The idea of a telethon was born out of conversations with our Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey Marks; our Consul General in New York, Alsion Roach Wilson; and our Consul General in Miami, Oliver Mair. They had received several inquiries from members of our Diaspora who wanted an avenue to support Jamaica in the covid-19 fight. They reached out after seeing how the virus had affected first world countries with stronger health systems than Jamaica.
As my colleague Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith will concur, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade teams have shared how inspired they have been by our global diaspora because in times like this — when we all face the same enemy — it is easy to think every man for himself. But here was a group of people who were distressed and experiencing pain and personal loss, but their loyalty and love for the country of their birth, moved them to be concerned enough to start thinking of ways in which they could help Jamaica. Such was their display of dedication to our island home.
Telethon Jamaica: Together We Stand was born with the goal of directing the global goodwill and desire to support Jamaica into one major event.
The inquiries about how to support Jamaica in this time came from members of the Diaspora in various parts of the world: North America, UK and Europe, Asia, Africa. Under the leadership of the Global Jamaica Diaspora Council and the National Association of Jamaican and Supportive Organisations (NAJASO) a global alliance of diaspora leaders and friends of Jamaica was formed; and I was asked to chair the initiative and to produce the show.
Mr. Speaker, the team and I reached out to the entertainment community and the eager response was, how can we help? Again, such dedication to our island home.
We established the main objectives of Telethon Jamaica. First, it would be a fundraising initiative towards equipping our frontline workers with the appropriate gear to fight covid-19.
Our aim was to raise as much as possible to support the need of US$10.5m, which is the itemised cost of additional Personal Protective Equipment, testing kits, ventilators and other equipment needed to strengthen our health system and ensure that our health professionals would be able to respond effectively to a rapid spike, as we’ve seen in other countries.
Telethon Jamaica took place on Easter Sunday; and it was a success — a fantastic show of generosity and the strength of the human spirit.
Mr. Speaker, I want to express gratitude to Jamaicans at home and abroad as well as friends of Jamaica who responded with great enthusiasm to this telethon. Thanks to their kind donations we are now able to contribute over J$50 million dollars ($50,261,320.00) to be exact after conversion of multiple currency contributions, towards procuring the personal protective equipment for our frontline workers. We say a big thank you to everyone who was able to donate. We appreciate you.
But the telethon had another important objective, Mr. Speaker.
Each and every person, each and every community, each and every country, each and every region, the whole of humanity is in this fight against covid-19. We are all in this thing together.
Jamaica doesn’t have money to help other nations to fight covid-19. Jamaica doesn’t have equipment to share with other nations in need. Jamaica doesn’t have a brigade of health professionals to send overseas to help.
But what Jamaica has is tremendous talent and a music that has been and continues to be a balm in times of trouble. Our Reggae music evolved as our response to the challenges of years of oppression. Throughout its history, Reggae has been anthems of resilience, substance and identity, peace and love, not only for us Jamaicans, but also for many people across the world.
And so the second — and equally important — objective of Telethon Jamaica: Together We Stand was to use our Reggae music to provide comfort and hope; not only to Jamaica and our Diaspora, but to the world.
We have been heartened by the many messages from people who are hurting and worried about the coronavirus, that they felt uplifted by the messages and songs of inspiration from the telethon. We are happy that our music brought comfort to people during this time.
As we continue to rotate the broadcast across the various regions of the world, we hope more and more people will be comforted. As we believe that Telethon Jamaica has the potential to not only raise funds towards Jamaica’s covid fight but also start a necessary conversation and present a platform whereby persons can continue to support the cause for as long as this crisis exists.
Members of the diaspora have encourage the continued sharing of these messages and songs of inspiration across the world as they continue to raise funds to provide additional resources for our health service.
Mr. Speaker, I am therefore pleased to advise that the telephone lines and the website will remain up and running so that anyone who was unable to make a donation on Sunday, can still participate by Watching the concert and making a donation online – by visiting jatogetherwestand.com or in Jamaica mypaymaster.com.
To donate by telephone, 1-866-228-8393 (toll free from the United States or Canada) or +44 0808 189 6147 (toll free from UK and Europe) and from Jamaica, 888-729-2455 (toll free), 876-960-9635, WhatsApp 876-550-1754.
Cash and cheque donations are accepted at any Paymaster location in Jamaica or any branch of Citibank to account number 9250709218 (outside of Jamaica).
Mr. Speaker, I close by thanking everyone who helped to make Telethon Jamaica a reality. Our team accomplished in ten days, what would normally get done over the course of a year. I thank them for working around the clock — even in the midst of the national curfew — to support this effort to equip our frontline workers.
The performance line-up for the telethon was simply fantastic. Some of the biggest names in entertainment and sports participated in and/or endorsed Telethon Jamaica. Mr. Speaker, I thank them all and their management teams for being part of this important initiative. We can always count on our entertainment community.
To the donors: we appreciate every single donation. We are happy to name those who pledged four million, or two million, or half a million dollars. But we are as equally grateful to those who pledged 20 dollars or 100 dollars.
Mr. Speaker, I also thank the many members on both sides of this Honourable House who supported this cause and I am sure they will all now join me in thanking all who came together with hands, hearts and pockets to make the Together We Stand Covid-19 Telethon a reality.