Winning Hearts & Minds, Transforming Lives in Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica. For decades, Jamaica has been facing high and rising debt to GDP ratios that has undermined its capacity to achieve sustainable growth and has contributed to declining average living standards.

Jamaica_PassageJamaica lies south of Cuba and West of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The 2008-9 global crisis worsened Jamaica’s fragile fiscal position and plunged the country into a recession, with real GDP declining for 13 consecutive quarters by 2011. The debt to GDP escalated to over 140% by 2013.

In 2010, Jamaica turned to the IMF for assistance and received US$1.27 Billion under a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA). With an unchanged debt trajectory and challenges in executing the required structural reforms, Jamaica requested and received another IMF loan under its Extended Fund Facility (EFF) in 2013.

Jamaica_Regions_mapJamaica is the fifth largest nation in the Caribbean.

Jamaica’s public debt stock now stands at over Ja$2 trillion and the country is running the most austere budget in the world, with a primary surplus of 7.5 percent, more than double the primary surplus required by Greece. See link.

With nearly 50 per cent of the Budget going towards debt servicing, the diversion of capital away from critical capital investments has created some major challenges for the Jamaican people.

  • Poverty rate doubling since 2007 – now nearly 20% – more than 1 million persons in poverty
  • Rising Unemployment (now at 14.2 percent higher than during the global recession)
  • Although declining, per capita murder rate at 37 per 100,000 is the 7th largest in the world
  • Jamaica has become a hub for lottery scamming (link).
  • Poor and worsening health care system (link)
    • Outbreak of Chikungunya disease 2014
    • Outbreak of bacterial infection at the University Hospital of the West Indies and the Cornwall Regional Hospital, where 19 of 42 infected newborn babies died (link).
  • LAPOP studies suggest that there is LOW SYSTEM SUPPORT and LOW LEVELS OF TOLERANCE – concludes that Jamaica’s DEMOCRACY IS AT RISK (link).

It is in this context that the Fi Wi Jamaica project is being implemented to assist the most vulnerable and socially excluded groups who are not adequately protected by social safety nets and unable to cope in Jamaica’s struggling economy. Among the vulnerable groups are:

  • Women and girls in poor rural and inner-city communities who are most susceptible to human trafficking as well as domestic and intimate partner violence – currently implementing:
    • Saturday University Lunch-time Empowerment sessions currently being organized (link).
    • Web Entrepreneurship Training (ongoing since 2013) (link).
  • Unemployed Youths – currently implementing:
    • Business Entrepreneurial Empowerment Programme (BEEP) (ongoing since 2011)(link).
    • Teach the Youth (in collaboration with UTech Student Union)(link).
    • Civic Responsibility Training
  • Homeless LGBTI persons (link)
    • Currently working with the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and other organizations to assist these homeless LGBTI persons (link).
    • A comprehensive public perceptions and attitudes survey will be undertaken to enable us to better understand tolerance and homophobic perceptions/attitudes in Jamaica as well as to generate a multi-dimensional social tolerance index.


Jamaica’s internationally renowned reggae music will also benefit from the Project through the introduction of a masters-in-residence’ global competence training programme which will be linked to musical/cultural showcases that will promote love and respect for all.

We recognize that music, a healing force for humanity, unites us all from different backgrounds and beliefs. Through music, we reaffirm our conviction that when we dance to many rhythms and sing a world of melodies, we create a harmony that reinforces and strengthens the essence of our humanity.

Lacovia_2008-2009_Schools'_Challenge_Quiz_TeamHigh school students in Jamaica.

Finally, the Fi Wi Jamaica project in seeking to create a more caring and loving Jamaica that belongs to all Jamaicans, will promote the South African philosophy of “Ubuntu” which recognizes our inter-connectedness as human beings.

Through the Ubuntu/Essence of Humanity Awards individuals and organisations will be recognized and honoured for their exemplary and pioneering service to others. See link.

By naming these awards the “Ubuntu” Awards, we appropriate the ideals humanness and the highest form of recognition of others, that is, respectful service to them. These awards will honour Jamaican citizens, residents and organisations that have had unique, transformative and enduring influence on the way that Jamaican society values the most vulnerable.

jamaica-80749_640The children of Jamaica are, of course it’s future.

In this regard, our honourees will have demonstrated courage in standing up for the marginalised or socially excluded. They will have advocated for better community and/or stronger national responses to the condition of those who endure stigma and discrimination because of their community of origin, type of employment, race, gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs.

The Ubuntu Awards and other activities in the Fi Wi Jamaica project are winning the Hearts and Minds of the Jamaican people, transforming the lives many, and making “One Love” true for all.


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About Rosalea Hamilton, Ph.D.

View all posts by Rosalea Hamilton, Ph.D.
Rosalea Hamilton, Ph.D.
Rosalea Hamilton, Ph.D., is Vice President for Development and Chair of Entrepreneurship & Development at the University of Technology in Jamaica. She is also the founder and coordinator of 'Project UTech Cares' focused on the creation of tolerance and diversity in her home country.

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