We Need To Focus More On The Human Element

People, myself included tend to put volunteers and selfless leaders on a pedestal. We view everyone making a difference as someone to be admired, emulated, and even praised. And yet, we often fail to do enough for these heroes, apart from a few pats on the back, social media shoutouts, and empty platitudes.

What do I mean? A perfect example is an  educator I know that went above and beyond for his students at the very start of the COVID-19 outbreak. This edicator, along with a handful of the school’s ancillary staff took to using bike taxis to deliver printed lessons to his students, as his school was located in a rural area without internet access and terrible roads, with many areas only accessible by bike.

This educator’s efforts did not go unnoticed, as his story made waves not only on the local media here in Jamaica, but also  internationally as well. It even caught the eye of Andrew Holness, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, who actually visited the school and commended the educator in person. The media coverage bore many donors and benefits for the school, the students, and the community, with even a huge international charity sponsoring the school with an internet satellite and many schools in the region with hundred of free tablets.

Obviously this is awesome news, and myself and anyone else with a conscience are very grateful for their generosity. Following a discussion with this educator, I did however note a trend that I have noticed with many volunteers that I have worked with over the years. In essence, I have noticed that donors and volunteers often overlook the wants and needs of the heroes and facilitators of the organization that benefits from their generosity, and just focus on the immediate needs they see. To give an example that arose during my discussion with the educator, the charity from overseas donated weekly care packages of groceries to members of the community, using the school as their distribution center. The educator informed me that many of the teachers, who live in the same poor rural community and donate their time and energy to give out the care packages and organize the members of the community to collect in an orderly fashion, made inquiries on if it would be possible for themselves to receive some of the care packages, since they too had more mouths at home to feed and family members that have been rendered unemployed due to the pandemic. The response from the charity was an indignant no, with the quote being “They are employed, they should provide for their families”.

This view in my opinion is harmful in many ways. As the saying “Encouragement sweetens labour”, a good leader always wants to motivate their team. In that instance, by denying and rudely commenting that teachers should fend for themselves, the representatives of the charity were essentially telling and showing the teachers that their efforts were not appreciated, and that it was their duty and place to simply be grateful that their community is being blessed with the donations. The breakdown comes from many volunteers and donors taking their North American-first world ideologies and applying them elsewhere, especially in a developing country like Jamaica. It is a widely known fact that teachers are poorly paid and over worked around the world, but it is especially true for countries like Jamaica, where our local JMD is pitifully weak and translated to about 160-1 to the USD at the time of writing this blog posts. And we do not have unemployment benefits, welfare, housing grants of any of those wonderful perks of living in developed countries can bring. The pay is crap, the work is hard, and the benefits are few here in Jamaica, which is a big reason why there are more Jamaicans living abroad right now that those living on the island. So if a teacher is asking for a single care package to help out their household, after volunteering many hours daily to ensure others can receive same, that should have been an easy yes. In fact, in an enlightened world, the teachers should not even have had to ask.


tablets as well for their children


Sometimes you lift up the world, who will lift you up?
Struggle too. Appearance vs reality
Stop curroption
Low minimum wage – skewinsh about money

Author: Jomo Barnett

SOmething something profound

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