A Special Opportunity for the Diaspora
At least 25% of Jamaica’s citizens live overseas. Among that vast diaspora group is a core of individuals and organizations that remain engaged with Jamaica either socially, physically, culturally, and/or economically. However, amidst the flurry of diaspora activity are rumors that we do not work well together as a people. There are tales of ego, pride, and a level of competitiveness that gets in the way of meaningful collaboration. As usual, it is the “bad news” that hits the front pages and gets our attention. This negativity clouds all the streams of engagement that are positive, hopeful, and full of life; these streams, if merged together, have the potential to create a sea of hope and success for any developing nation that would dare to take a stand and begin to design and execute a model of true broad-based diaspora engagement.
Modern technology has made it possible for us to dream and to do what has not been done before. This dream is not tied up with politics and personas, but it is one that is genuinely altruistic and truly reflects the deep passions and honorable intentions of hundreds of thousands that are already engaging to make a difference.
The potential for the diaspora of any nation to impact their homeland has been touted as a cure for ailing economies like Jamaica. Even in the face of the recent worldwide recession, remittances to Jamaica continued faithfully as individuals on a personal level remained connected and committed to friends and family members. The government of Jamaica is also proactively engaged with the diaspora through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Interestingly, however, many individuals who are actively involved with supporting initiatives in Jamaica through local diaspora communities or organizations do not feel connected to the formal, state-affiliated diaspora organization. The untold story, however, is that there are thousands of Jamaicans living overseas who have not re-engaged with Jamaica for reasons we may not yet fully understand.
Still, we must remember that Jamaicans have a track record of rallying around public national achievements. This aspect of our culture when considered in conjunction with our size and our resilience presents an exciting prospect for building significant momentum around an innovative diaspora-driven grassroots change initiative.
An Opportunity for Transformative Collaboration
Pooling resources, hearts, and minds will ultimately allow Jamaican diasporans to help: (1) improve the well-being of individuals living back home in marginalized and forgotten communities; (2) strengthen trustworthy and effective charitable organizations and associations; and (3) provide practical and thoughtful support to local and national economic and educational initiatives. This is not a simple undertaking. The problems are complex, and so are the solutions. They are clearly beyond the ability and resources of any single individual or organization. But these problems invite us to an exciting engagement if we will work together to contribute our wisdom and expertise to help tackle the challenges that exist as we make a contribution that will outlast our own lives.
With God’s help, the time may just be ripe for meaningful collaboration that will help to bring about a true social, economic, and spiritual awakening for our people and our nation.