Vanessa Lalasingh is Positively Impacting the Environment

Vanessa Lalasingh’s love for the environment was inculcated at a young age. As a child, the St Andrew-bred attorney spent holidays in Banks District on the vast Vere Plains of Clarendon where she climbed trees, ran barefooted on the sandy banks of the Rio Minho, in which she also swam, and frolicked at nearby beaches.

“From an early age, spending time with my family in the country, I came to believe life is simple until we complicate it, because the environment supports life and happiness,” she reminisced on her childhood holidays along the Clarendon coast.

Her love for the environment was deepened and further nourished in high school. At Ardenne High School in St Andrew, she was a member of the Environmental Club and held the post of President for many years.

“It was really a good club. At our club meetings we would create beautiful and useful things from recycled material, routinely selling some to fund the club. We talked about technology and ways to save water and preserve the environment,” she informed. “Every year we would create a two-storey Christmas tree entirely of recycled materials as the centrepiece of the school’s Christmas event. It was always elegant, and that cemented the fact in my mind that recycled things can easily be very chic instead of shabby.”

Vanessa participating in beach clean-up activities along the Palisadoes with Don’t Count Me Out Foundation.

The Legal Counsel, who works at The Jamaica National Group, continued on the trajectory when she moved on to tertiary studies at The University of West Indies, Mona campus, where she volunteered at community clean-ups, among other environmental related activities.

She said life became hectic in those intensive years of studying, but after graduation, she continued to volunteer in whatever way she could on environmental projects.

“I never lost that love for nature and animals, so I have been the type who always has pets; encourages animals to come around; and subscribes to everything about sustainable living tips. I love plants so I started planting dwarfed fruit trees in pots and that became a hobby,” she said, explaining how she translates her love of nature while living in an urban area.

Today, her home is like an oasis, surrounded by plants and animals. She is keen on keeping indoor plants, such as Snake plants, also called Mother In-law’s Tongue, and ZZ plants (Zanzibar Gems) that purify the air. She also surrounds her house with birdfeeders and plants that invite pollinators so the birds can feed in a natural environment.

“I feel like living in the city we get so disconnected from the things that keep us both physically but especially mentally healthy. We complain about air quality and water shortages but make daily decisions that disrupt ecological cycles and create those problems. So, I kind of took an approach that anything that concerns me, I try to seek a natural remedy for it first instead of going for the easiest chemical or disposables to purchase,” she pointed out.

Her love for nature and caring for the environment has rubbed off on her friends and colleagues who she gifts plants and “drags” along on hikes outside of the city and to agricultural shows to deepen their appreciation for nature and encourage them to also become bastions of the environment.

Beyond ensuring that she is surrounded by nature, Ms Lalasingh is also very conscious about energy conservation and ensures that she installs energy and water saving devices in her home. She boasts that with the installation of these devices, her light and water bills are much lower than a household that does not have these devices.

“I’m a big advocate for using technology to save money in the long-term and plan my purchases that way. We all want to save money. We’ve come so far with technology and reducing the cost of it. I just think we need to pay attention to using it in a sustainable way. You don’t need a roof of solar panels to start. Solar lights, smart plugs and other small devices make a really noticeable impact with no additional effort and actually increase my daily comfort,” she said. 

Today, she remains actively involved in environmental initiatives as a member of the ‘Don’t Count me Out’ Foundation, which was started in August 2020. The main focus areas of the foundation are community development, education, and the environment. They routinely carry out beach clean-up and tree planting exercises.

As a project manager at the Foundation, she said her position allows her to contribute meaningfully to protecting the environment and other uplifting activities. At The Jamaica National Group, where she works, she also participates in some of the JN Foundation’s outreach activities.

Ms Lalasingh’s encourages other to “Be open about your interest in the environment, however small it may feel. This attracts others with the same values and makes it into a lifestyle that you don’t even think about. You will always be getting tried and true tricks and ideas from likeminded people that will fit seamlessly into your everyday life and become impactful.”

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We Need a National Spatial Plan Experts Say

In the face of more frequent and intensified climatic events, two experts agree that Jamaica must rely on its existing systems and policies to work to strengthen the country’s resilience to climate change.

For Dr Carol Archer, Urban planner and professor in the Faculty of the Built Environment at the University of Technology, Jamaica, the completion of the National Spatial Plan is foremost.

“That would help to direct us with what to do with an area such as Port Maria,” she said, referencing the St Mary parish capital to the northeast of the island, which experienced severe flooding almost a year ago following heavy rains. The flooding affected the entire town, inundating buildings and homes with muck and debris.

“It would not be a question of relocating, but looking at where you put certain services within the parish (St Mary), so you’d have to get your data and analyse your trends and it would show you: ‘In Port Maria, these are the predominant activities, and these are activities that will have an impact over X number of years’, and they will have a relationship with these [particular] areas, and we’d have to use that to make a decision,” she said.

“That is what is needed in the short to medium term.”  

The last spatial plan for Jamaica, the Jamaica National Physical Plan, covered development of the country from 1970 to 1998.

Housing and construction professional, Earl Samuels, adds that the systems for monitoring and maintenance of the country’s urban infrastructure also need to work. Although pointing out that maintenance is not only within the remit of the state, he also insisted that a significant portion of the responsibility must be shouldered by regulators.

Poor maintenance of roads, gullies, bridges, and other infrastructure have been continuously blamed for disasters triggered by climatic occurrences, including the flooding of Port Maria.

The financier, who is also the chief development financing officer for the JN Group and a former managing director of the National Housing Trust, noted that while financial institutions can hold developers they finance to account by monitoring their projects and insisting on the implementation of certain measures, only a small percentage of developments are funded by private institutions.

“So, several are not adhering to best practices,” he outlined, emphasising that the state of inadequate monitoring has left room for breaches, which impact on the wider built environment.

Dr Archer agreed that the issue of maintenance is among the sorest points for many urban centres.

“You don’t maintain the roads; you don’t maintain the [drains and] sewage systems. The population is growing, but you don’t provide the necessary systems to ensure that they get adequate water… All of those things contribute to the [issue] that we are experiencing now,” she said. 

Making a comparison to the city of Miami, Florida in the United States of America, she underscored that although sections of that city are prone to flooding, it is mitigated by an effective maintenance system, which enables the city to build resilience. 

“If you have a broken-down car that you’re driving in flood water, it’s not going to be like having a relatively new car that was being maintained. It’s the same principle that applies to your urban infrastructure,” she argued.

Mr Samuels maintained that better monitoring and supervision of developments in and around urban spaces is critical to building resilience against climate activities. 

“With the expansion of housing development, especially in the coastal areas and, in the hilly regions surrounding urban centres, where vegetation is being cleared, the runoff from the rainwater tends to come down in greater volume and rapidly, because you don’t have the vegetation to trap the water from rainfall before it gets to these coastal towns,” he pointed out.

“And the drainage, with the increase in commercial activities and the increase in the density of these towns, you have more garbage and refuse being produced and they are not properly stored, they are thrown in the drains and gullies,” he painted a picture of the dilemma facing several towns across the country.

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Balanced Engineering Needed to Strengthen Resilience

With maintenance among the most problematic issues for infrastructural and development projects in Jamaica, executive director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI), Dr Ava Maxam says a better balance of both soft and hard engineering will preserve the country’s physical infrastructure and mitigate damage to the environment, as well as to lives and livelihoods.

Dr Ava Maxam, executive director of the Mona GeoInformatics Institute (MGI)

“Without a doubt, maintenance is our main issue,” she quipped during a conversation with a team from The Jamaica National Group recently. The JN Group, through the JN Foundation, launched a comprehensive environmental programme in 2022 geared towards promoting environmental awareness, and focuses on key areas such as deforestation, waste management, water conservation and energy efficiency.

Dr Maxam noted that Jamaica has a poor history of maintaining its civil infrastructure. The absence of this keen approach to maintenance contributes to disastrous consequences during climatic hazards, such as heavy rainfall.

Better mixing of hard engineering solutions with soft environmental measures make maintenance easier, she insists, but the balance is missing in the pursuit of many of the country’s modern projects.

“For example, nowadays when we are building coastal roads there should be soft measures in place. So you want to know that your seagrass, coral reefs and mangroves are in place and thriving, along with that coastal road development. It’s not enough to just pave the road or raise it,” she said.

“We’ve seen where that makes maintenance easier,” she added, pointing out that seagrass and mangroves help to buffer the shoreline, reducing the level of maintenance required.  

However, she believes while conscientious and ethical practices should prevail, legislating maintenance may be necessary to ensure it is carried out consistently and correctly in order to mitigate damage and loss to life and property.

“It may be [that] our laws need to catch up [by] building in maintenance regulations from the very beginning,” she argued.

Luke Buchanan, senior projects manager at MGI

How that could be enforced, Luke Buchanan, senior projects manager at MGI surmised, is during the development application process.

“For example, when you go to NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency), if there is a clause to say, your project can’t go through [for approval] until it has certain maintenance plans in place, you can enforce it in that way,” he argued.

“It should be part of your sustainability plan,” Dr Maxam chimed in. “So if more emphasis is placed on what it will take to maintain these systems, then that will go a far way in making the system last, once it is implemented.”

Referencing the approach taken by her own organisation to underscore the point, Dr Maxam indicated that MGI, which innovates and deploys various software applications for governments and other agencies locally and regionally, insists on entities having a maintenance plan in place to support any solution provided.

“One of the first things we tell clients is that you have to think of maintenance from system planning stages, before we (MGI) build platforms or even code – before we go any further… You can’t just think of building something, implement, then expect it to run itself. You have to execute a thorough maintenance strategy immediately on deployment for sustaining that system for the long run,” she said.

She argued that the failure to maintain and expand drainage systems in urban areas, for example, has been a major cause for flooding along with various other factors to include:  failure to expand the infrastructure to match the increased population and development; poor solid waste disposal habits; deforestation in the hinterlands around urban centres, including removal of mangrove forests. They contribute to increased vulnerability of areas such as Port Maria, St Mary, which, in February 2022, faced a catastrophic deluge following heavy rains. 

“This issue of urban spread – you’re having a lot more paved surfaces, a lot more people and buildings with out-of-date, inadequate infrastructure; once there is this high density of people and buildings with no combination of expansion and modernisation of the drainage itself, you’re going to find that’s going to be disastrous when natural hazards impact these locations,” Dr Maxam said.

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Stuart Reeves’ Passion for Empowering through Photography

Stuart Reeves was only six years-old when he developed a love for the camera, which was first introduced to him by his father, a fireman and hobbyist photographer.

His love for the art form blossomed, and more than six decades later, the educator continues to teach photography and mentor budding photographers.

“Photography is an experience. It is going out and seeing an image and capturing it in the best way, using whatever techniques and processes to get that image. When you have that final image and you realise that is what you saw in your mind and that is what you got in front of you, it can be very rewarding,” he shared.

Reeves, who was born in the United Kingdom, came to Jamaica to complete a one-year tenure as a volunteer teacher in 1970. He was planted at the Glengoffe High School in St Catherine, where he taught Industrial Arts. But what was supposed to be only a gap year for the Englishman after completing his tertiary studies in the UK, turned into half a century, as he put down roots on the island.

The educator taught at various institutions over the years, including the Mico Teachers College (now the Mico University College), Fair Prospect High School in Portland, where he was principal from 1991 to 1995; and Jamaica College, where he served from 1995 -2003. He then served the Ministry of Education as an education officer before retiring in 2004.

Wherever he taught or served, Mr Reeves always tried to engage his students in photography by establishing photography clubs in the institutions he was placed.

Following his retirement, he received the opportunity to do more impactful mentoring of young people, using photography, through the JN Foundation Resolution project in 2010.

“When I was working with the Ministry of Education, I had gone into Rose Town and I heard that there was a photography exhibition going on nearby and that was the JN Foundation Resolution Project. I went across and saw the exhibition and I was really enthralled,” he said.

Mr Reeves was invited to join the team where he was involved in mentoring new cohorts of photography students.

“The JN Resolution Project was an opportunity to engage children. The project had this big thing about advocating with the camera. The students really took to it. We had to teach them what advocacy was and how you advocated using the camera,” he explained.

He recalled that the students were given themes to work with and they were sent to their community to capture images associated with the themes. Workshops were also conducted with the children to teach them about the correct techniques of using the camera and about advocacy.

“They came from diverse communities so when we gave them themes to work with, they interpreted them in their communities, which was important. So, it was not a case where everyone came back with the same types of images. They were really coming back with unique individual images,” he disclosed.

The JN Resolution Project ran for more than a decade. Originally called Youth Zoom, the Resolution Project began in 2004. Each school received digital cameras and participated in workshops in strategic locations across Jamaica. The fundamentals of photography and advocacy, as well as the basics of journalism were taught, and students used the skills they garnered to then tell intricate stories with their cameras; critically examine the issues facing them, and creatively articulate their observations in photographs.

Mr Reeves noted that some exceptional students emerged from the programme, with some moving on to careers involving photography. Among them was Osheenei Zevandell Graham of Grange Hill High School in Westmoreland, who is now an established photographer.

Mr Graham credited the JN Resolution Project for assisting him to develop his craft and gave him the exposure he needed as a student. He was part of the programme for four years.

“The JN Resolution Project gave me the exposure that I needed and it forced me to come out of my shell and be more outgoing and more of a people person,” he said.

He informed that photography is a good way of preserving memories and recording events and that it gave him joy doing so.

Mr Reeves is again engaging budding photographers through the recently launched JN Foundation ‘Greatness through the Lens’ photo-advocacy competition, which invited persons passionate about photography and community advocacy to enter.

The competition, which was launched in October, was conceptualized in celebration of Jamaica’s 60th year of independence under the national theme, “Reigniting a Nation for Greatness”.

It seeks to encourage Jamaican photographers to bring awareness to the unseen ‘helpers/advocates’ whose voluntary service has been engendering positive change in vulnerable communities and promoting environmental preservation.

So far, 50 persons have been shortlisted for the competition, which will culminate in August 2023 during Jamaica’s Independence Day celebrations.

“I’m anxious to see the work they [participants] will come up with. They will be churning out a lot of images and we will give them the necessary guidance and address their weaknesses in photography so they can be better photographers,” said Reeves, who is one of the trainers in the competition. The other trainer is renowned Jamaican international photographer, Radcliff ‘Ruddy’ Roy.

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Social Media Influencers Take on Water Conservation with the JN Foundation

Four couples. Three months. Four sets of water-efficiency kits, and hopefully, a whole lot of savings! That’s the premise of the JN Foundation’s latest campaign, which is geared towards reducing water usage in Jamaican households. 

The campaign, which was launched this month, will see four influencer couples utilising the water-efficiency kits in their homes for a period of three months as a means of conserving the valuable resource and reducing their water bills.

The four couples: Basillia and Brian Cuff, Xaundre and Zhara-Marie Mohansingh, Sasha and Rory Ebanks and Romaine and Elizabeth Virgo will install the kits in their homes and implement the tips from the JN Foundation’s Water Project Homeowners’ guide to water use efficiency, to monitor changes in their water bills over the duration of the campaign. Each kit comprises of a showerhead, aerators for the kitchen and bathroom sinks and a toilet leak detector.

For the Cuffs, this is an excited endeavour, which they’re hoping will not only assist them in reducing their water bill, but will also help them to teach their young children about water conversation.

“I’m excited about learning and spreading the knowledge surrounding water conservation. It is something we practice and emphasize in our home, especially with two children running around who know how to turn pipes on,” said Basillia. “I think this project will help us to zoom in on those little things we do, that we don’t pay much attention to, that add up over time
on our bills.”

She noted that the family now spends about $8,000 on their water bill, each month. “I honestly feel like this project will be eye opening for many of us, and rewarding, when the bills begin to reflect the reduction.”

For Zhara Mohansingh, the JN Foundation Water Project is game changing. “It’s not just practical but helps with a mindset shift which is critical if we desire change. Cutting down on any bill is a good idea for my pocket and I’m excited to see how the practices will help us to stay under budget as we try to stay afloat in such harsh economic conditions.”

Claudine Allen, general manager of the JN Foundation, said the main goal of the campaign is to encourage water adaptation measures and encourage efficient water usage across all sectors of society. The initiative falls under Water Project Jamaica, which was started in 2017 as a joint collaboration with the JN Bank, JN Foundation, the Climate Investment Funds (CIF), the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and IDB Lab.

“Our hope is that the results of the programme will encourage more Jamaicans to adapt these water conservation strategies in their homes as a way of conserving on their water consumption and cutting down their water bills,” Miss Allen said. “With the help of our influencer couples, we hope to reach more Jamaicans with this message of conservation.”

Data show that a typical single-family home in Jamaica uses between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons of water per month, with about 10 per cent being wasted. Water saving devices and good conservation practices can reduce water consumption by as much as 30 per cent.

Miss Allen further noted that the JN Foundation wants to emphasise the value of water, whether in homes, schools, businesses or communities. “We want everyone to take the message of water conservation and efficient water use as a part of valuing water,” she remarked.

The JN Foundation, under its Water Project, has implemented similar water conservation initiatives in several households and institutions in the past, reaping great success.

In 2021, a rainwater harvesting system and water-efficiency devices were donated to the Wortley Home for Girls in Kingston, which saw the institution reducing its water bill by at least 50 per percent less than a year later.

The donation comprised 12 water-efficiency kits and the rainwater harvesting system, which included piping and guttering, as well as a tank donated by entertainer and The Jamaica National Group brand ambassador Agent Sasco.

Similarly, in 2018, several St Catherine residents, who received water-efficiency kits from JN also reported significant reductions in their water consumption and subsequent water bills.

One family in Portsmount, St Catherine saw a massive 700 per cent reduction in just three months. Their water bill moved from $16,000 monthly to $2,000 per month.

To learn more about the JN Foundation’s Water Project, please visit Also, follow @jnfoundation on all socials for more about the campaign.

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Rose Miller, Manager, Strategic Empowerment Programmes

Reset and Re-evaluate Your Finances for the New Year – Rose Miller

Rose Miller, lead for financial empowerment programmes at the JN Foundation, says the New Year presents an opportunity for persons to reset and re-evaluate their finances.

“The new year offers an opportunity to reflect on the past and set goals for the future. Revisiting and re-evaluating your financial and other personal goals can help set you up for success in 2023 and beyond,” she informed.

Mrs Miller recommends the following five ways to start the New Year on sound financial footing:

Re-Examine Your Budget
She advised that re-examining one’s budget can assist in figuring out where one needs to make adjustments.  She said by taking stock of one’s income and expenses and if and how one expect those to change in the New Year, one would be in a good place to determine what will be required to reach one’s goals. She cautioned that, among other things one will need a high degree of discipline to be successful.

Start a budget and track your expenses
She noted that if no budget was established last year, now was the time to create one. “Creating and sticking to your budget could be one of the best things that you can do for your finances in the New Year. Budgets force you to take a hard look at the money that you bring in, the money that you shell out, and the money that you may owe,” she said.

If you have never followed a budget before, the thought of starting one can be daunting. The truth is, budget is a useful tool. In the words of John Maxwell, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.“ Once you get used to following a budget, you can begin finding ways to free up cash to put towards your financial goals which will help improve your financial security.

Establish and maintain your emergency fund 
Mrs Miller pointed out that the importance of having an emergency funds cannot be over-emphasized. She said it is also equally important to understand what constitutes an emergency – an important and unexpected incident.  “If the purpose of having an emergency fund is truly understood it will not be used for unintended purposes and the need for replenishment, to ensure that this safety net is in place, would be readily appreciated,” she said.

Start Investing
The financial empowerment team lead said that for the New Year, building wealth should be a priority area, and this can be accomplished through investment. “While it may not be the easiest resolution on this list, investing is the key to building your wealth,” she added. 

She recommended consulting a financial advisor who can help to decide on an investment plan compatible with your age, goals and risk tolerance, among other considerations.

Make Planning for retirement a Priority

Another critical area of focus for the New Year must be retirement planning. She reminded that retirement planning must begin early; “When you are young, saving for your retirement probably sounds like the least exciting thing that you can do with your money. The truth is, money needs time to grow hence the sooner you start, the more secure you will be when your retirement comes. Investing in your retirement means that you are investing in your future,” she said. 

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Chevanese Peters (fourth right), programmes coordinator at the JN Foundation and other members of the JN team present donation to Christine Madden Watson (fourth left), administrator at Sophie’s Place.

Mustard Seed Communities Benefit from JN Foundation and Staff ‘Comfort for Christmas’ Initiative

Staff and administrators of three children’s homes in St Catherine and St Andrew operated by the Mustard Seed Communities were overjoyed after receiving a donation of personal care and food items from the JN Foundation and employees across the JN Group, recently.

The three children’s homes which benefited were: Sophie’s Place in Gordon Town, St Andrew; My Father’s House, also in St Andrew; and Jerusalem, located in Spanish Town, St Catherine.

The homes received a total of 3,584 baby and adult diapers; 2,500 baby wipes; 1,000 feeding tubes and 300 packages of food drink.

“We are elated!” a very pleased Christine Madden Watson, administrator at Sophie’s Place exclaimed after being presented with the items by a team from the Foundation recently.

“The needs are ongoing. The children [who] we have are physically disabled and many of them are on medication so their nutritional needs are great. So we are always in need of dietary supplies,” she said.

Mrs Madden Watson was especially grateful for the diapers donated, noting that the ones provided by the Foundation are more resilient than the ones they currently have in stock.

 “This particular brand diaper came just in time,” explained Mrs Watson.

Since 2013, the JN Foundation and employees of The Jamaica National Group have been supporting Sophie’s Place. Over the years, groups of JN employees also supported individual children by covering some of their monthly expenses.

Ezlyn McKenzie, administrator of My Father’s House in St Andrew was similarly grateful for the benevolence of the JN Foundation and JN employees. “We are a charitable organisation and the donation received from the JN Foundation is appreciated,” she said.

The home caters to 36 residents- 20 boys and 16 girls. They are physically and mentally challenged and are wheelchair-bound.

Chevanese Peters, programmes coordinator at the JN Foundation said the donation was made possible through a ‘Comfort for Christmas’ initiative organised by the JN Foundation where employees of The Jamaica National Group contributed diapers and funds towards the initiative.

“We know the needs at the Mustard Seed Communities are great and our members of staff did not hesitate to support the initiative and were happy to contribute,” she pointed out.

“Diapers and wipes were received through our ‘Comfort for Christmas’ initiative while the feeding tubes and food drink were acquired through our ‘Funds to Fuel a Nation’ project, where employees have been committing monthly donations that go towards funding the Mustard Seed Communities and other community projects,” she said.

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Rose Miller, Manager, Strategic Empowerment Programmes

Be Prudent with Your Finances at Christmas – Rose Miller

Christmas is a time for giving, but it’s also a time when many persons overspend, with some even borrowing to cover Christmas expenses. However, Rose Miller, lead for Financial Empowerment at the JN Foundation, advises that this is a time for one to be most careful about managing expenses.

“Struggling financially especially around the Christmas holidays is a reality for many individuals. But there are things we can do to try and avoid extra debt that will carry over into the New Year,” she pointed out.

Mrs Miller recommends the following tips to manage expenses at Christmas:

Assess your finances ahead of time
The first step should be to sit down and assess one’s current financial situation. She recommends that persons ask themselves the following questions: ‘What have I got saved up for the holidays?’ ‘How many paydays do I have between now and when I need to buy gifts, food, and finance other expenses for the holiday?’ She noted that having a rough idea of what you have to work with, and what you can realistically save between now and then can help you to stay grounded.

Set a budget and stick to it
Once you have a good idea of your financial situation, she advised, that is a starting point to figuring out where the money needs to be spent. Gifts, she pointed out, aren’t the only holiday expenses.

“Visiting and/or entertaining relatives and friends can add up, as can food, sprucing up the home, and even the cost of attending a work function,” she said.

Factor in your regular expenses
She informed that aside from purchasing gifts during the holidays, one’s regular expenses, such as rent or mortgage, still need to be paid.

“There are the utilities, credit cards, loans, childcare expenses, and your regular grocery shopping that have to be paid,” she noted.

Make your Christmas Gift list
She informed that when making one’s Christmas list, it is important to decide which people on the long list will receive gifts and those to whom it would just be nice to show appreciation. “Making homemade gifts is an option and sometimes will be more appreciated by the receiver,” she said.

Spend wisely
The JN Foundation financial empowerment expert warned that persons should avoid impulsive purchases and going after deals; it can be tempting to splurge when faced with these offers. “But before you make a purchase, ask yourself: ‘Who is this for?’ ‘Is this person on my gift list?’ ‘Do I really think they would like it, or am I focusing on the price?’  or ‘What other gift is this replacing?’” she said.

Track your spending
Mrs Miller noted that staying on top of your spending can help to avoid any unexpected worries. Tracking your holiday budget on a spreadsheet, app or notebook can be a good start, but checking your account and credit card statement regularly, and noting any other unexpected expenses that may have popped up are other options to consider.

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Gillian Jackson

Read the Fine Print When Applying for a Loan’- Gillian Jackson

Financial blogger and senior manager for data and analytics at The Jamaica National Group, Gillian Jackson, is cautioning borrowers to carefully read all documents when applying for a loan, as some loans may have hidden fees and charges that will not be in the best interest of the borrower.

“Not all loans are created equal. Some lenders attract their borrowers by advertising an easy process, quick turnaround time. You can get a loan in hours instead of days, but you are paying the cost somewhere else,” she pointed out.

Ms Jackson gave the advice while addressing the ‘Get Smart About Credit’ workshop, organised by the JN Foundation Financial Academy. She was presenting on the topic ‘Helping you Understand Interest Rates’.

She pointed out that sometimes these loans attract high interest rates, use the add-on method of calculating interest; contain hidden fees and charges, such as penalties for late payments; and some lenders will not permit early repayment or even penalise persons for early repayments.

“Be wary of these loans that seem too good to be true. Loans that have associated collateral, such as a house or a car, would typically have lower interest rates than loans that do not,” she informed.

She cautioned consumers that while compound interest is very beneficial when someone is investing, in the context of borrowing, it can cause outstanding loan balances to accumulate rapidly, particularly for high interest rate loans. Compound interest is the interest calculated on the outstanding principal and the interest accumulated over the previous period of a loan or deposit. This means that interest is added onto both the loan amount and interest that was added the month before!

Ms Jackson advised that loans that use a reducing balance method of calculating interest will generally be better than the add-on method, as payments would be consistently lower for the same rate of interest. She further noted that loans that have a clear monthly repayment are also good for persons who are new to debt, or do not have a good track record of repayment.

“Always ask what your interest rate is [when applying for a loan]. Remember to shop around for the best interest rates,” she said.

Ms Jackson was among three presenters who addressed the workshop. The other presenters were Tamara Wilson, acting business development officer, CRIF Information Bureau and Rose Miller, lead of the Financial Empowerment Programmes at the JN Foundation.

The JN Foundation, ‘Get Smart About Credit’ workshop series is an initiative of the newly established JN Financial Academy, which is aimed at empowering Jamaicans to achieve financial freedom by providing information, training and mentorship.

The next workshop will be held virtually December 1 at 1:00 pm. Persons who have missed out on the first sessions are invited to visit the JN Foundation website, to register for the upcoming workshop.

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Port Maria Hospital Gets Needed Equipment from JN Foundation

Representatives of the Port Maria Hospital in St Mary were elated to receive a donation of medical equipment from the JN Foundation.

The equipment, which comprise an ECG machine, 10 Pulse oximeters, six digital thermometers, a vital signs monitor and a hospital lamp and stand were funded by a grant provided from the JN Foundation.

“JN has always been working with us and to see that we have put forth this project to them, requesting equipment to enhance healthcare and that it has been approved, I can say that we are overjoyed and for sure this will enhance service delivery for our patients,” said Lorraine Brown-Wright, chief executive officer of the Port Maria Hospital.

Dr Powell Sydney, senior medical officer at the Port Maria Hospital, underscored the importance of partnership with the private sector, as he noted that the health sector is in need of critical equipment to improve healthcare.

“These partnerships are clearly critical for us because there is no way that gap can be closed without benefactors and in particular one of the measures… [used to determine] whether a country is developed is actually [the] maternal mortality ratio, which reflects the care that we give to women,” he said.

Dr Sydney noted that there has been a significant decrease in the death rate of women. He said the equipment requested will assist the hospital in managing the care of these patients and other persons with chronic lifestyle diseases.

Jennifer Martin, board director of the JN Foundation, said the JN Foundation was pleased to make the donation of critical equipment that will improve the service offered by the hospital to the general public. The idea to fund the project was presented by the Ocho Rios, Port Maria and Gayle chapter of the JN Circle network.

“The Port Maria Hospital is an important institution in this region, serving not only St Mary, but parts of St Ann, Portland and St Catherine, said Mrs Martin.  “Therefore, when the JN Circle recommended that critical equipment be purchased for the hospital, having done an assessment to ascertain your needs, we were happy to support”.

“Today’s donation will assist with the achievement of the Vision 2030 national development goals, as it will improve access to high quality healthcare in the parish of St Mary and communities in other parishes,” she added.

Orlene McNeish, president of the JN Circle Ocho Rios, Port Maria and Gayle chapter, said that the hospital was selected for the donation because of the need for the equipment to improve health care.

“Another thing that has struck me over the past year and preceding years is that we are seeing a flight of medical personnel and we know that we have the best. We do not want to see [our medical staff] leaving Port Maria Hospital. Today, we are bringing in equipment that is going to make the jobs [medical staff] easier and so you can attract well needed talents,” she said.

“So instead of seeing resignations, we want you to see resumes coming into Port Maria Hospital. That is part of the dream and the vision we have for the parish,” she added.

The JN Foundation last year issued a call for proposals for projects that will improve communities. The Foundation committed up to $1.5 million in financing available for each project. The Port Maria Hospital was one of seven projects that were awarded grants. The projects covered a range of social development, education and health initiatives in communities across six parishes. 

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