Jamaica National Group Supports National Tree Planting Initiative

In support of the National Tree Planting initiative, The Jamaica National Group has distributed 700 seedlings to its members. The mixture of fruit and ornamental tree seedlings were distributed as part of a pre-Labour Day activity across five of its branches island-wide, recently.

Kimberly Gardner, marketing relations officer of The JN Group Marking Department said the distribution was in support of this year’s national Labour Day theme, ‘Plant a Tree for Life, Promoting Climate Change Mitigation, Food Security and Road Safety’.

“We did a similar initiative last year and this year was a continuation of that promise to support the national thrust to plant three million trees, which is being spearheaded by the Forestry Department,” she explained.

“It also coincides with our own initiative to ensure that the environment is one that is safe and that there is sustainability by ensuring that we plant as many trees as we can,” she said.

Lena Peart (right), business relationship and sales manager, JN Bank Half Way Tree hands out seedlings to members of staff at JN Bank. Looking on is Mark Harvey, acting extension officer at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority.

Mrs Gardner said the initiative forms part of the JN Group’s Environmental Sustainability Programme, which is being done through the JN Foundation. The programme is geared at supporting environmental awareness practices in Jamaica by focusing on key areas, such as deforestation, waste management, water conservation and energy efficiency.

The marketing relations officer disclosed that fruit and ornamental trees were distributed to its members at JN Bank branches in Portmore and Spanish Town in St Catherine; Half Way Tree in St. Andrew; May Pen in Clarendon and the JN General Insurance office on King Street in downtown, Kingston.

Mrs Gardner informed that an agronomist from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) was on site at the Half Way Tree location informing customers about how to care for the plants they were gifted.

“What we have found is that there are numerous tree planting activities each year but not a lot of support in terms of plant care. So, we thought that having an agronomist on site to share information with our customers would be beneficial,” she said.

The agronomist also gave tips on how to create a backyard garden and how to manage the different plants that were distributed.

JN members who received the trees commended the financial institution for executing the initiative. “This initiative undertaken by The Jamaica National Group is good. Everybody should be planting as this is good for the environment,” said Gareth Fairweather, a JN member.

Mrs Gardner said the initiative will be sustained.

“We look forward to executing more initiatives like these as we emphasise the importance of tree planting and supporting a healthy environment,” she stated.

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A Journey to Self-Discovery Leads Luigi to Microsoft

Despite becoming a young father by age 21, Luigi Allen was adamant that he would overcome the “burdens” of fatherhood at a young age to pursue the career of his dreams.

With the support of his family and friends, the now Customer Success Account Manager at Microsoft, and former JN Scholar, enrolled in the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in the year 2000, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree in Information Science.

“While in college I realised I had to discover myself and my place in this world, identify who I wanted to be and what legacy I wanted to leave behind,” he informed.

Luigi Allen

Mr Allen said his life took a positive turn after “giving his life to Christ” while in his first year of university and he became deliberate about maintaining good grades. He credits his parents with support, but singled out his stepmother, who, he said, encouraged him to apply for scholarships.

While in his second year he was awarded a scholarship by the JN Foundation. He said he did so well that year when the scholarship was first awarded, that the following year it was renewed.

“As a scholarship recipient, I felt a variety of emotions. First, I felt immense gratitude for the recognition and financial support I had received. I was thankful and appreciative of the opportunity to pursue my educational goals without the burden of financial constraints,” he said.

Mr Allen shared that receiving the scholarship brought him joy, as it signified that his hard work and dedication were being acknowledged and rewarded.

“I felt excited and proud, knowing that my efforts had paid off and that I had been chosen for this honour,” he added.

Mr Allen credits his tertiary education with setting him on a path to success. Twenty years since graduating from NCU, he now lives in the US, and is married with two more children and has a successful career at Microsoft – where his classmates at NCU had predicted his journey would take him.

“It took 10 years after being in the United States to land my dream job. I had applied to Microsoft many times, and I was not selected but it was only after I got my Project Management certification that I became visible to Microsoft,” he said, adding that it took 20 interviews before he finally landed the job.

Now in his eighth year at Microsoft, Mr Allen describes his journey as “amazing,” noting the fulfilment he gets from advising well-established companies.

“I’m now in a conference room as a trusted advisor to well-known companies and before I only had a glimpse of these companies on television. But to be in a space like this and in such a capacity- for me that is mind-blowing,” he mused.

He also has advice for young men and young women. He is encouraging them to embark on a journey of self-discovery, similar to the journey he took on as a young man to find himself.  

“I think self-discovery is an important thing and the earlier and sooner we can figure out who we are and what we want to leave as a legacy, this would be good. Along the way you have to be disciplined, and surround yourself with people who are like-minded,” he advised.

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Financial Literacy Wards Off Scamming – Rose Miller

Rose Miller, manager, Strategic Empowerment Programmes at the JN Foundation says a financially literate person can more easily detect when they are being scammed and so ward off financial danger.

Mrs Miller made the comment while addressing a financial empowerment lunch and learn session organised by the JN Foundation in collaboration with JN Member companies, JN Fund Managers Limited and JN Life Insurance Company Limited. The session was delivered to members of staff of The Jamaica National Group.

“Financial education is vital because when you are financially smart you understand how to manage your money. You are not likely to fall prey to scams and fraud because you can see and smell it a mile off,” she pointed out.

She also noted that due to a high level of awareness, a financially literate person can spot a financial opportunity early and because they are armed with the knowledge, can make financially smart decisions.

“You can analyse the situation and make good choices. You are also able to manage your debt. It is very easy to get into debt and if you don’t understand what you are doing and don’t know the basics, you are at a serious disadvantage,” she warned.

According to the Financial Literacy Around the World Report, published in 2019, which was undertaken by Standard & Poor’s with representatives from the World Bank, regarding simple financial literacy, only 33 per cent of Jamaicans surveyed indicated that they had knowledge of basic financial principles.

Mrs Miller lamented that the data show that too many Jamaicans have a low level of financial literacy.

“We advocate for financial literacy, 33 per cent of our people being financially literate is just too low and ignorance has a very high price. So, what would I suggest? We all should get on board,” she recommended.

The JN Foundation Manager for Strategic Empowerment Programmes suggested that to increase literacy, persons should take responsibility for their own financial education by seeking out information to improve understanding of basic financial concepts: the internet is a great resource, listening to financial programmes and attending financial literacy sessions are all ways to increase an individual’s financial IQ.

She said having garnered this information, persons are encouraged to practice what has been learnt and then share the knowledge with family and friends.

“If we are going to make this country better, we need to help each other on this journey, share what you learn and encourage action.  One very good reason for this is because we are still in a ‘village’ and everything my neighbour does, affects me and so I encourage you to share the knowledge,” she stated.

The lunch and learn session was held on April 27 to close out Financial Literacy Month. The theme of the session was ‘Securing the Financial Future You and Your Family Deserve. What You Can and Should do Now’. Other members of the panel were Delories Jones, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing, JN Fund Managers Ltd. and Hugh Reid, general manager, JN Life Insurance Co. Ltd.

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Financial Literacy, Key to Economic Growth and Development

Rose Miller, manager, Strategic Empowerment Programmes at the JN Foundation is underscoring the value of financial literacy and encouraging Jamaicans to take this matter seriously as this is one way to bolster economic growth and development for the country.

“Financially literate citizens will know the importance of saving and investing. When citizens save and invest, this will promote stability in a country. This in turn will help to generate more investments and translate into economic growth and development,” she said.

Mrs Miller gave the advice against the background of financial literacy month which is being observed in April as well as the country’s relatively low level of financial literacy.

According to the Financial Literacy Around the World Report, published in 2019, which was undertaken by Standard & Poor’s with representatives from the World Bank, Jamaica was ranked 29 out of the 47 scores assigned to 142 countries. In regards to simple financial literacy, only 33% of Jamaicans surveyed indicated that they had knowledge of basic financial principles.

She pointed out that the argument for improving and promoting financial education is compelling and the need to narrow the financial literacy gap was urgent.  She urged Jamaicans to take responsibility for improving their financial education.

“All adults should make it a priority to learn something new about the area of finance every day. Invest time in improving your financial IQ; it will pay big dividends.  And, if you are a parent, as early as possible, help your children to develop  a positive attitude and behaviour towards money, teach  them simple money management skills and provide opportunities for them to practice these  skills,” she stated.

Mrs. Miller said persons should pursue financial education. “Firstly, it enables you to make better and wiser financial decisions. People with a high level of financial literacy feel more confident about their finances.  They have a greater understanding of the risks and benefits associated with different financial options; are able to spot, evaluate and take action on investment opportunities, manage debt wisely and are more likely to achieve their financial goals,” she explained.

The JN Foundation manager of Strategic Empowerment Programmes further notes that being financially literate enables individuals to be more protective of their financial affairs.

“This is because you are equipped with knowledge and you will not be easily duped.  It’s easier to identity or recognise financial scams and fraud, providing a stronger barrier of protection against these, allowing you to safeguard your finances, your financial well-being and your peace of mind,” she said.

Mrs Miller noted that increased financial awareness will also help a person to build wealth over time and therefore secure, a legacy which can be transferred to the next generation.   

“With a deeper understanding of how money works, these persons are likely to make better financial choices with long-term benefits.  This she said, can build financial security and stability for themselves, their families and also set up the next generation for financial success,” she informed.

She gave the following challenge to encourage individuals to improve their level of financial literacy: “Learn something new every day, “Take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge currently available such as, free seminars; information in the media and on the internet. There is simply no excuse to be ignorant.”

In addition, she said persons should commit to share the knowledge gained and act on the knowledge.  She noted that these approaches will put families and ultimately the country on the path of financial security.

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St Elizabeth Urged to Conserve Water

The parish of St Elizabeth has long been known for its vulnerability to drought, particularly during times of meteorological drought. In response, the JN Foundation has urged residents in that parish to conserve on water and implement conservation measures.

Omar Wright, JN Foundation’s lead for environment and community development, said, “St. Elizabeth is considered to be the breadbasket parish.So it is imperative that the parish practise water conservation measures,” he said.

The JN Foundation team communicating the water conservation message. From left are Omar Wright, JN Foundation’s lead for environment and community development; Candice Nichols (centre) and Rose Miller, manager, Strategic Empowerment Programmes, JN Foundation.

Mr Wright made the appeal while interacting with students and residents of the parish at an exhibition mounted at the St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) in observation of World Water Day, recently.

The exhibition was organised by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation in collaboration with its agencies and stakeholders. The day was observed under the theme, ‘Accelerating Change – Water, Changing Behaviour and Lives’.

The situation in St Elizabeth is an urgent reminder that water is a precious resource that must be conserved and managed sustainably to ensure its availability for generations to come, said Mr Wright.

Floyd Green, Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for St Elizabeth Southwestern, who spoke at the opening ceremony of the event, said the government is undertaking two major projects to improve the supply of water to the parish.

A model demonstrating how a house can be configured to harvest rainwater. The display was mounted at the JN Foundation tent.

This he said included the Essex Valley Irrigation system that will serve South St Elizabeth and parts of Manchester. He said the second major project will pull water from the Black River for irrigation purposes in St Elizabeth, which will benefit the farmers of the parish.

“I want to say to all my farmers in South St Elizabeth that on this World Water Day, the government is going to work to ensure that you have all the water you need to do your farming,” he stated.

He also informed that the government was not only looking at irrigation but also communities that do not have regular potable water supply. He said work has been done in Junction and new pipelines have been installed in Middle Quarters, Sandy Ground to Black River.

He said this year the government has earmarked 21 projects valued at $2.5 billion to bring water supply across Jamaica. Four of these projects he said have been earmarked for St. Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, hundreds of students and teachers at STETHS expressed interest and appreciation to the information presented by the various stakeholders who participated in the exposition.

Keisha Francis Forbes, a teacher at STETHS, was particularly fascinated by the JN Foundation’s display, which demonstrated how persons can configure their homes with a guttering system to harvest rainwater.

“It is good to see water being harvested [as depicted by the display]. Growing up as a little girl, that is how we used to harvest water but I realised as I got older and move to a new community, not much of this harvesting is being done anymore,” she observed.

Mrs Francis Forbes stated that given the effects of climate change, where the country is experiencing longer droughts, persons should be motivated to revert to harvesting water. “What I like about the display is how the guttering system is set up. I have an interest in that,” she added.

Grade eight student, Nicola Moodle, now has a greater appreciation for water conservation. The teen said she is often frustrated by constant water lock offs.

“Water is life and it is important that we conserve it,” she said.

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Learning a New Skill, Upskilling Could Advance Your Career

With a changing work environment, impacted by advancements in technology and a pandemic that has influenced work patterns and job losses, some persons in the workforce have been forced to adapt by upgrading or learning new skills.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 states that because of the growing uptake of technology and automation, half of all employees will need reskilling by 2025.

That’s why Tremain Ellis, Acting Learning and Development Manager for the JN Group,   says learning a new skill or upskilling is beneficial to both employers and employees.

“It has become essential to continually upgrade one’s skills to stay relevant, competitive, and employable,” he pointed out.

He underscored that learning a new skill is essential to advancing one’s career, as individuals with up-to-date skills are highly sought after by employers, giving them a competitive edge in the job market.

However, upskilling or reskilling is not just about finding a new job. When employees have access to training and development opportunities, they bring new ideas and perspectives to the organisation, leading to more innovative and efficient practices.

“Just as how we invest in new technology, we should invest in our people. It makes no sense we have the latest technology and our people cannot make the best use of them,” he said.

Mr. Ellis recommends that both companies and individuals conduct a skills audit to identify any gaps.

The first step is to ask yourself what skills do I need to remain relevant or to be better at what I do? Do I currently have those skills? If not, how do I acquire those skills?,“ he suggests.

The Learning and Development Manager for the JN Group noted that whether persons are self-employed or work for someone, it is important that they are continuously looking for ways to improve. He added that the world has become smaller due to globalisation so the competition is no longer just the person sitting beside you but also someone who is half way across the world.

He informed that after that after it is determined what skills are needed, it is time to do something about it. Acquiring new skills is much easier, more cost effective and convenient in the age of technology, he said.

“Gone are the days when upskilling means you have to register for a programme at a training institution and sit in classes from 8:00AM to 4:00PM Monday to Friday. Many training institutions offer self-paced learning, where you decide how long you take to complete and even set your own schedule. Additionally, there are hundreds of free online certificate courses from some of the top universities in the world,” he disclosed noting that other websites such as Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy offer online self-paced courses for free or at very low cost. 

“Majority of us have smart phones, so I want to put it out there that we dedicate five hours per week to learning a new skill. Many of us spend more than that time just sitting in traffic, so we can download an audio book to listen whilst driving,” he said.

Mr Ellis stated that YouTube is also an amazing place to learn and that persons could spend one less hour each day watching funny videos and dedicated that time to do their own upskilling.

“Learning is now at our finger tips. We must see upskilling as an investment in ourselves, our companies and the future of our country,” he said.

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JN Foundation and IBIS Bring Joy to Mustard Seed Communities

The face of the executive director of Mustard Seed Communities, Darcy Tulloch-Williams, lit up with joy and appreciation as a team from the JN Foundation recently arrived at its Mahoe Drive location in Kingston, bearing gifts.

The Foundation and the Curacao based IBIS Management Associates donated close to half a million dollars to the organisation to support its efforts with caring for the nation’s most vulnerable.

For Mrs Tulloch-Williams, occasions like these conjure up an overwhelming feeling of gratitude, as she pointed out that the needs of the organisation are great.

“This donation will be going into the coffers in terms of what we need to do. We are taking care of the most vulnerable of the society. Whatever you give will be used well and to the benefit of our residents here,” she said.

As he made the presentation, Parris Lyew-Ayew, Snr, Chairman of the JN Foundation, highlighted the importance of organisations, such as the Mustard Seed Communities, in supporting those most in need of care – a duty they carry out often without adequate resources. Therefore, he said, it is paramount that others, where and when they can, should assist institutions such as Mustard Seed to maintain their services to those who are sometimes forgotten by the society.

“We know too well the value of partnership. So, we did not hesitate to partner with IBIS Management Associates, one of our business partners at The Jamaica National Group. As part of its corporate social responsibility, IBIS gives back to the community in their country and to other children’s organisations throughout the Caribbean through the Bank4Kids Charity Fund,” he explained.

The Bank4Kids Charity Fund donates annually to children’s organisations from contributions it receives from IBIS clients. In November 2022, IBIS invited the JN Foundation to nominate a charity in Jamaica for support. The JN Foundation’s nomination was accepted, and IBIS selected the Mustard Seed Communities to receive a cash donation.

The JN Foundation through its own initiative, during the Christmas holidays, also rallied JN Group employees to make donations and they received several items, such as diapers and feeding tubes, which were presented to Mustard Seed Communities. Along with the diapers, the employees also donated cash to the institution.

Established in 1978, Mustard Seed Communities is home to approximately 500 residents across 12 facilities located in Kingston, St Andrew, St. Ann, Montego Bay, Manchester, and St Catherine. Several are children and adults who are physically and mentally challenged or affected by HIV.

Mrs Williams says individuals and groups can donate to the organisation by contacting them at 876-923-6488 or email: info-jamaica@mustardseed.com.

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Every Drop Counts During a Drought

JN Foundation Encourages Water Conservation

Jamaica is currently experiencing a meteorological drought due to inadequate rainfall. Therefore, every drop of water counts, says Omar Wright, lead, environment and community development programmes at the JN Foundation.

The trained sustainable development specialist recommends the following water conservation tips to householders:

Fix leaks promptly

Fix any leaks in your home, such as dripping taps or pipes, as soon as possible. Even small leaks can waste a significant amount of water over time, he informed.

Install water-saving devices

Mr Wright said that installing low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets to reduce the amount of water you use is an effective way of saving water. In addition, he recommends that persons should try to limit their shower time to save water.

Water plants early or late

“Water your plants in the early morning or late evening to reduce water loss through evaporation,” he said. He also advised persons to use watering cans to water gardens and shrub beds, as he said this can save up to 40 per cent of the water used when compared to sprinklers, since sprinklers apply water across the entire swath they are set to cover. Hand watering also delivers all the water right where it is needed, unlike the sprinkler which loses some water to wind and evaporation before it reaches the ground.

Use a bucket instead of a hose

During a drought, it’s wasteful to wash cars on a regular basis. When the car must be washed, fill a bucket with water and use a sponge to apply the water, he advised.

“Refill the bucket to rinse, again using the sponge to apply the water sparingly. A quarter cup of white vinegar can be added to the water to reduce streaks, and this solution does not need further rinsing,” he noted.

Use recycled water

Use greywater (wastewater from sinks, showers, and washing machines) for irrigation, flushing toilets (where possible), and other non-potable uses.

 Let your lawn go dormant

The best way to save water outdoors during a drought is to let your lawn go dormant, noted Mr Wright. He noted that the lawn will turn brown during dormancy, but it will regain its colour once the rains return. Most healthy turf grasses can be left dormant for three to four weeks without the grass dying.

“If drought conditions last longer than four weeks, water should be applied to re-hydrate the grass enough to keep it alive. Water sufficiently to wet the soil down to five inches. This small amount of watering will not restore the grass to its natural green colour but will keep it alive until the rains come,” he instructed.

He advised that when the rain comes, it is best to install a suitable barrel to collect rainwater for use in your garden.

For more water conservation tips visit the JN Foundation’s Water Project website at waterprojectja.com

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Women Urged to Plan for their Retirement to Avoid Old Age Poverty – Rose Miller

Rose Miller, manager, Strategic Empowerment Programmes at the JN Foundation is urging more women to take charge of planning for their retirement early in their working life rather than leaving it up to chance or depending on their children.

“In today’s reality it is becoming increasingly obvious that we cannot depend on our children to support us in retirement.  Women must therefore make it their business to take the steps necessary so they are able to provide for themselves when that time comes.  If our children are willing and able to provide financial support that would be a bonus,” she pointed out.

Mrs Miller made the point as she referenced a recent concept paper by the Pension Industry Association of Jamaica, which shows that women are more vulnerable to old-age poverty.

The Pension Industry Association of Jamaica’s (2022) Concept Paper on Auto-Enrolment in Jamaica notes that because women live longer than men, they were more likely to be affected by old-age poverty. The concept paper notes that women were 23 per cent less likely to have economic opportunities than men and that women earned only 63 per cent of income earned by their male counterparts, despite doing the same job in many instances.

The Concept Paper also informed that the situation has become more significant since COVID-19 because many women are expected to be stay-at-home caregivers. It adds that with many persons not having enough retirement savings, even more will be required to work beyond age 65.

Mrs Miller gave the following valuable tips for pension provision:

Start early

She noted that from the day one starts earning, it is best to start planning for retirement by not only enrolling in a pension scheme but also setting aside additional funds towards other investments.

“Starting early is favourable for many reasons – the key one being you have a longer time horizon therefore, it gives you the flexibility to invest more aggressively, participating in higher risk opportunities, which will yield higher income and boost your retirement fund.  Another reason is, understandably, the earlier you start the more you would be able to accumulate and better the chances of reaching your financial goals for retirement,” she informed.

 Understand finance

The JN Foundation team lead on strategic empowerment programmes   encourages women to take responsibility for increasing their financial education, noting that once you have a certain level of financial awareness and education you can cash in on many opportunities.  This will also help you to formulate a retirement strategy that will give greater benefits, based on goals and risk appetite.

“Start by doing some research, also take advantage of workshops and seminars offered to improve your understanding of money management.  Colleagues and friends who are knowledgeable about financial matters can be a valuable source of information, however, at the end of the day, you should contact a financial advisor who is trained to help you understand the different investment strategies and identify which is best for you,” she advised.

Be an active Participant

Mrs Miller stated that financial planning is an ongoing process and one that requires active engagement.  You must also keep an eye on how your investment is performing.  

“It is equally essential to regularly review your investments; meet with and discuss your portfolio with your financial advisor. There are times when adjustments are required and these reviews will provide the opportunity to adjust the strategy if necessary. The ultimate goal is to ensure that you do not run out of savings during your lifetime,” she said.

Make smart investments

She explained that women should understand that in order to increase wealth, they must invest in the right instruments. Insurance is one such important financial tool which is not only used to preserve wealth but also  create it;  unit-linked investment plans, endowment plans, and life annuity plans offer benefits of insurance as well as investing.

“These are ideal options as they offer wealth creation, while also keeping loved ones protected, providing a certain level of security.  Other options for smart investments are mutual funds, stocks, real estate and bonds all of which can provide additional income streams over the years,” she explained.

Why do women need to save more?

“There are a number of reasons why women need to start saving more. Firstly, saving money will allow you to fulfill your individual dreams. Whether it is being able to afford your dream house or car, taking regular vacations with family and friends, or planning the wedding of your children.  With sufficient savings, you can achieve your goals while ensuring the financial safety of your loved ones as well,” she advised.

Secondly, Mrs Miller said, women tend to live longer than men. Studies show that women have a life expectancy rate of 70.3 years at birth, compared to 67.4 years for men. With more years of life, women also need enough funds to cover their expenses. In addition, old age can come with its share of problems such as ill health and the need for support. All of these things require additional money, she pointed out.

Learn more about Financial Literacy

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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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