194_19326930002_7424_nOne great thing about Jamaica is that whether you were born here, moved here, came for a visit, hang out with Jamaicans, or just love Jamaican food, music, sports or culture, you become a part of a really cool community. This is the ‘My Jamaican Life’ community – a bunch of people who just think Jamaica is really cool.

I have lots of plans and ideas for interesting Jamaican articles, stories, recipes and features. So if you like what you see here, and don’t want to miss a thing, just click on the FOLLOW button to the right, or at the bottom of the page to follow this blog. You’ll get an email telling you when I post something new. Nothing more, nothing less. No spam, no unsolicited emails. That’s a promise.

But because this is a community, I also want to hear from you. I want to know what you like and dislike about the site, and what you’d like to see me add to it. I want this site to belong as much to you as it does to me. I promise to read and respond to all your messages and emails.

So let me personally welcome you to ‘My Jamaican Life’. One love.

My Tribute to Uncle Ray

It has been almost a month since Uncle Ray passed away and even now, I find it difficult to put my thoughts and feelings into words.

Uncle Ray was one of the first persons to find this blog and post a congratulatory message. He always made me feel that I was special to him. He was a man who was small in stature but larger than life, overflowing with warmth, love and generosity. A dynamo who was always on the go, filled to the brim with ideas and plans and dreams. His ability to engage people where they were allowed him to capture those iconic photographs for which he is known, as people from all walks of life responded to his down-to-earth personality. He was a man who could walk with beggars and kings. So great was his love for Jamaica that he dedicated his life to capturing images of its splendour, its heartbeat – each photo a memory, a treasure, a moment in time.

His gift to the world is immeasurable and he will be missed.

Wan luv, Uncle Ray. Walk good.

Service of Thanksgiving will be held at Stella Maris Church, 62 Shortwood Road, Kingston 8, on Saturday March 12 at 10:30am. In lieu of flowers, a donation in aid of the Chinese cemetery will be taken. 

Link to photos of his book launch in 2015 : Tiffany Lue Yen

Take a memorable trip to Jamaica with ‘Justice Pon Di Road’

The sound of a rooster, the sight of goats trekking down the road, the taste of a sweet, juicy mango – these simple pleasures are brought to life in this book in a way that will delight children everywhere, while Jamaicans, old and young, will appreciate experiencing the richness of their culture on every page.

Author, Aliona Gibson tells her readers that on her first visit to Jamaica, the birthplace of Justice’s father, she was a bit apprehensive. However, she quickly discovered what many visitors already know, that Jamaicans are a warm and welcoming people. Impressed by the experience, Aliona went home to California and wrote ‘Justice Pon Di Road’.Justice

Seen from the perspective of a family newly discovering the delights of Jamaican culture, the story follows Justice as he makes a new friend on almost every page. Reflecting the experience of the author, each person that they meet, from the taxi man to the patty vendor, greet Justice and his mother with that open spirit and friendliness for which Jamaicans are known. The colourfully described characters such as Fyah, the rastaman with his horse, Brap, and motherly Miss Jessie with her big kisses, will be instantly recognizable as part of the Jamaican scene. Aliona Gibson has clearly captured the character of the Jamaican people along with their warmth and genuine kindness.

Filled with the sights and sounds of the island, including snippets of our local dialect, this story will take you and your child on a memorable trip to Jamaica that both you and your child will enjoy again and again.  Get your copy now at http://alionagibson.com/pages/book.html

Justice-pon-the-Road_FINAL (1) (1)-page-021

More Love, Less Fear – a Jamaican author’s powerful story of his journey of love

Robert Lee contacted me some weeks ago asking if I would read, and write a review of his book, More Love, Less Fear. It has been an amazing, emotional experience. Robert’s story is such a personal one that I feel honoured that he has shared it with me. From the first paragraph, Robert begins to confide in you as though you are his closest friend, and from that moment, there is no turning back. The book must be read. The story must unfold.

This is a first-person account of Robert and his wife’s life as they go through the experience of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease.) that eventually claims his wife, Theresa. But it is about more that the sickness. It is really a story about wringing every bit of life out of life that you can. It is about reaching for and choosing to love in a way that is stronger and greater and more determined than you ever thought possible.

The road that Robert and Terri walked was one that no-one would envy. What do you do when you discover that your beloved wife’s body is going to waste away slowly before your eyes? What do you do when you have to face your own death? What do they do? They live. They love. They fight through depression and frustration, anger and despair, and emerge into a place of love and peace and yes, even happiness.

The book moves quickly, with not a boring spot in sight. Robert tells his story with humour and sincerity. Jamaicans will appreciate references to familiar places and people, and may be intrigued to discover that Robert’s wife, Theresa, was the founder of the famed Wassi Art Pottery Gallery. But this is a story for everyone. As you pause at the end of a chapter, you feel as though you have been reminded of some powerful truth that you had forgotten. And as you let it sink in Robert provides a quote that puts everything you just absorbed into words that cut straight through to your heart.

This is a book that will remind you of how much stronger and better you can be. It will tell you that when life throws you the worst there is, there is an alternative to bitterness and resentment. You can be battered down and stripped bare, but not even death can beat you if your weapon is love.

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are. —Bernice Johnson Reagon” … (qtd in More Love, Less Fear, Lee, 46)

This is an emotional ride. I can not properly describe this incredible journey. You must let Robert do that himself. You can find More Love, Less Fear on amazon: http://www.amazon.com/More-Love-Less-Fear-Memoir/dp/1504325265


Ministering to the Poor – the Bishop Boyle Outreach and Resource Centre

Quietly and without much fanfare, the Bishop Boyle Outreach and Resource Centre in Mandeville, Manchester has been working to make life better for the poorest of the poor in Jamaica. As the Outreach arm of the Catholic Diocese of Mandeville, the Centre has been ministering to those most in need in the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth. Funded mainly by generous donors in Jamaica and abroad, and by partnering with Food for the Poor, they build homes, provide start-up funds for micro-enterprises, and support the education of children through their Scholarship fund.


The Scholarship programme is one of the more recent initiatives of the Diocese that has been designed in response to the challenges faced by many students. Already this year, a number of families have been identified, where the illness or death of a parent, unemployment, underemployment or accident has created undue hardship in the home. These challenges are resulting in children being frequently absent from school due to their inability to access funds for transportation or lunch. In addition, many do not have the basic school supplies needed for them to function in the classroom. In order to help in alleviating these burdens, the Fund was set up to assist the affected children with food, transportation and school supplies, thereby increasing their chances of success in school.

The micro-enterprise project is a partnership with an organization in Owensboro, Kentucky called Pilgrims of Hope, who have been providing the funds to assist persons with livestock farming, baking, small grocery shops and other businesses.

Since 1999, the housing ministry has provided over 1500 homes to families in need. In addition, a large number of individuals and institutions have also received partial assistance in rehabilitating their homes or other buildings.

The Bishop Boyle Centre is ably managed by Mrs. Hope Wood-Salmon. You can find out more about the work of the Centre and the Diocese of Mandeville at http://www.mandevillediocese.org


Elderly couple

An elderly couple receive the keys to their newly constructed home from Hope Wood-Salmon, manager of the Bishop Boyle Outreach & Resource Centre


New Catholic High School opens in Mandeville

MSJCHSlogo 150 pxOne hundred and eighty successful GSAT applicants became a part of history on Monday, September 1, 2014 when they started classes at the new Mount St. Joseph Catholic High School (MSJCHS) in Mandeville. Starting with six seventh grade classes of no more than thirty students, and no more than seventy-five sixth form students, MSJCHS is poised to become a leading secondary school in the island. 

The grant-aided, denominational high school is a collaborative effort between the Catholic Diocese of Mandeville, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Ministry of Education, to address the deficit of quality secondary school places in the parish. 

MSJCHS Orientation2MSJCHS has signed a collaborative agreement with Campion College, which was founded by the Jesuits in 1960, and which is currently the leading high school in the island. The principal of Campion, Grace Baston, sits on the Board of Management of the school, ensuring that Campion will be taking a close interest in the guidance and development of MSJCHS, by sharing with them best practices in its curriculum, policies, procedures and expertise.

The school will be a Centre of Excellence with a focus on e-learning, availing itself of the best digital teaching and learning resources to provide a rich interactive learning environment in all subject areas. Students will be expected to develop proficiency in the use of ICT resources for research, design, data manipulation and collaboration, thereby becoming autonomous and confident life-long learners. 

Seventh grade students line up on orientation day

Seventh grade students line up on orientation day

The teachers and staff will also be making full use of the e-learning platform to prepare and deliver lessons which effectively integrate and demonstrate the use of technology, in addition to networking, record keeping and communicating with parents and students efficiently and effectively.

The strong academic curriculum will provide an all-rounded learning experience that includes STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), as well as subjects such as Agriculture, Music, the Visual Arts, Spanish and Latin.  The school is committed not only to excellence in academics, but in treating the entire person. Character building will therefore be a priority and students will receive mandatory classes in Christian Living and Personal Development that will focus on instilling them with strong morals, ethics and Christian values.  A wide variety of co-curricular activities with opportunities for fostering leadership, creativity, teamwork and sportsmanship will also be available to students. 


Part of the Sixth Form Block

The campus is located to the rear of the St. Paul of the Cross Cathedral, and stretches across to the Mount St. Joseph Catholic Prep School. Existing buildings were renovated during the summer, to house the seventh grade and sixth form students who start classes this year. Additional buildings will be constructed in the coming years as the current students advance and new students are accepted. 

While some funds were provided by the Ministry of Education, the beautification of the grounds, including painting, signage, fencing and landscaping was funded by an overseas grant which was sourced by the Catholic Bishop of Mandeville, Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P. In addition, all of the furniture was provided by Food for the Poor, while Universal Access is responsible for fully equipping the school with the latest state-of-the-art computer and audio visual equipment. 

Students in their new classroom

New seventh grade students in their classroom

On orientation day on August 28th, principal Cheryl Gayle, and Board Chairperson, Marcia Tai Chun were greeted with enthusiastic applause and overwhelming approval as they outlined to parents their expectations for the students’ behavior, and encouraged parents to become partners with the school in establishing an institution focused on discipline, character formation, and academic excellence.

Parents loudly expressed their approval as Mrs. Gayle emphasized the high standards of discipline expected from students, and as she outlined certain details, such as a mandatory math clinic for certain students, and a tuck shop that will serve healthy lunches, but no sodas or sweets. When Mrs. Tai Chun emphasized that while patois had its place, MSJCHS would be an English-only environment, parents chorused their agreement, and when Mrs. Gayle pointed out that inappropriate sexual behaviour of any kind would not be tolerated, but would lead to swift expulsion, parents burst into applause.

Part of the campus

Guests express their delight to Bishop Neil Tiedemann, C.P, as they tour the seventh grade block

Parents were informed that security would be posted at the entrance to the school and that persons would not have free-access to the students in their classes. She also said that while parents had a responsibility to contact the school to address issues of concern, both teachers and parents were expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner, and that no parent would be coming in to ‘drape up and trace off’ her teachers. 

Afterwards, as guests were taken on a tour of the campus, they expressed delight at the bright, airy classrooms, the freshly-painted walls and newly-planted flower beds. Students were introduced to their teachers and classrooms in preparation for the start of the school year. 


Nursy – The Woman Who Loved Me

Recently, I stumbled across an interesting article called What My Nanny Left Me written by Ross Kenneth Urken. In this tribute to his Jamaican nanny, Urken spoke of the impact of this lovely woman on his life, and the part she played in his formative years, leaving him with cherished memories, an enduring love for her, and … her Jamaican accent.

This reminded me of my own beloved “Nursy”, a woman who dedicated years of her life to help raise me and my brother.

Nursy was our family’s helper from before I was born, caring for my older brother before me. Her own daughter, Cordell, was already grown.  I became irrevocably attached to her from the start. When I was two years old, Nursy left my parents’ employ for a period, as she had decided to attempt farming and chicken rearing. But she was no businesswoman, and so within months, having lost the money to sustain the endeavour,  she returned to our home. But I refused to speak to her. When I eventually did, my words broke her heart “Nursy, why you leave me? My mommy and daddy don’t leave me. Why you leave me?”

It seems she was determined not to leave me again, as she remained with us through three moves, even when we left Montego Bay for Morant Bay at the far end of the island, 250 km from her own home in Savanna-la-mar. I remember that on Thursdays, my parents would close the store early to go to Kingston to purchase goods. On those days, Nursy cooked me pumpkin soup with boiled dumplings. Then I would sit in her room, watching her mend’ frocks’, on the old sewing machine, pumping the foot pedal as she worked.

My brother, Nursy and me.

My brother, Nursy and me.

Sometimes, she made me read passages to her from the Bible, as reading strained her eyes, and it was she who made me memorize the names of all the books of the Bible, in chronological order. If my parents were late in returning home, I would fall asleep in her bed as she sang church hymns to me. I still remember the songs she loved – Amazing Grace, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

It was she who introduced me to Anansi stories, relating them to me while she washed clothes in a huge round aluminium tub in the yard.  I barely remember the stories, but the thing I do recall with great clarity, is the loud squeaking sound that the clothing made, as she held them with both hands, rubbing  the soapy material between her fists.  Not until I was grown, and tried to reproduce the sound did I realize that I ought to have made her teach me her methods.

She was the only person in the world who called me, as if it were my name, ” A lady”, because that was what I was going to grow up to be, and my brother she called “A Man.” I remember the first time she telephoned my house and said to my poor husband “Mek mi speak to A lady”. I don’t quite know how he ever figured out that I was the person she meant.

She amused us greatly with her range of expressions, including some which I have never heard from another living soul.  Her favourite expression of surprise was  “Kiss mi auntie an’ tigah bone!” which made us laugh, because it made absolutely no sense.  Sometimes she would shake her head in disbelief, declaring “…from I was christen… from I was born….” She never spoke of any future plan without the added phrase ” if life spare.” Even at bedtime, she would say “I will see you in the morning, if life spare.”

She was also the reason why I would occasionally launch into full country patois, to my parents’ shock and dismay. With hands on hips, did their precious little girl produce this outburst one afternoon “Lawd ma! What a way dis cloth pretty eeh!”

In truth, Nursy was a terrible housekeeper, and she smoked, although always outside, and never around us children. It was a habit my mother detested. Mom complained that she did not keep the house clean, insisted on washing everything with way too much bleach, and ironed pleats into all the wrong places. But she had two enduring qualities. Firstly, she was scrupulously honest. More than a few times would we come across errant dollar bills of various denominations laid out to dry – sometimes large amounts of money that had been forgotten in someone’s pockets. And secondly, she loved my brother and me unreservedly. These two qualities were enough for my parents to keep her in their employ after we had outgrown the need for a nanny, and even after we had gone abroad for our various educational pursuits.

Finally, when I was eighteen, and attending school in Canada, mom and dad made their final move to Mandeville, and Nursy decided to return to her home in Sav-la-mar. I did stay in touch with her over the years, sending her news and photos of my own children.  Whenever I called or visited, they would tell her “Is yuh Chiney daughter”.

Visiting Nursy in 2005

Visiting Nursy in 2005

The last time I spoke to her, she was being cared for by one of her nieces. Nursy was no longer able to speak, but I was told that she smiled at the sound of my voice, and that she kept the photos of my children in her Bible, often taking them out to look at them. She passed away a week later at the age of 90.

When I came across Urken’s memoir on his Jamaican nanny, it took me on my own trip down memory lane, reminding me of this woman whom I loved. The thing that delighted me the most about his story, was the strength of the impact of the Jamaican culture on his character through this one woman. So beloved was she, that he adopted her accent and the bits and pieces of her culture that she taught him, as a way to identify with her. It is a tangible sign of his love for her.

My father taught me patience, gentleness, forgiveness, and long division. My mother taught me that studying hard is the key to success. Nursy could not help me with my homework, and she gave me no great advice or words of wisdom to live by. All she did was love me, and there is no prerequisite for that. It was enough.

Now, when I think of her, I know that she is in heaven singing Amazing Grace with the saints, and watching lovingly over her children – including the Chiney ones.



Jamaican long jumper seeks financial help to complete her PhD in clinical psychology

“>Yanique Levy Jamaican long jumper, former Miss Jamaica and aspiring clinical psychologist Yanique Levy will be unable to complete her doctorate at Nova Southeastern University in Davie, Florida without financial assistance.  Grateful for the wholehearted support of her family, who have given their all to get  her to where she is now, Levy has been exploring every avenue available to her, and in desperation, is turning to the public to assist her in achieving her ambitions.

“I have applied for scholarships at Nova but have not yet received a response. I also continuously search for scholarships but most are for residents of the US and not international students. Also, I have hand delivered many letters to organizations and no one could assist.I cannot apply for a student loan in Jamaica because only persons studying in Jamaica have access to student loans there. In the US, I have to apply for a loan with a cosigner. I had a cosigner who had to withdraw last week at the 11th hr for personal reasons leaving me in the situation I find myself now.I have applied for jobs on campus  but the earliest available one is in August.”

Levy has been an athlete since prep school, representing Immaculate Conception High School at Boys and Girls Championship, winning the sprint hurdles in class 4 and making the finals in the long jump and sprint hurdles events every year thereafter. She continued track and field throughout her undergraduate years at the UWI Mona where she represented them at the intercollegiate championships as well as the intercampus championships. She went on to compete for Jamaica at the CAC game in July 2011 in the long jump where she placed 4th and the Pan American games also in 2011 where she made the final.  She hopes to represent Jamaica in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil.

Levy is working very closely with the Sport psychologist at the sport psychology clinic at Nova.  While she was in Jamaica, she assisted the track team at Immaculate Conception High and the football team at Waterhouse football club by teaching them various psychological skills to help achieve peak performance in sports and in their life in general. She hopes to complete her PhD in order to make a positive contribution to her country.

“The country and our Jamaican people are under stress. I am spurred to making a contribution because I am very concerned about the alarming number of violent and heinous crimes being committed on a daily basis. With a Doctoral degree, I would acquire a more solid foundation in psychological principles. This will better prepare me to play my role in improving the mental health of clients.”

In the area of Sports psychology, Levy states that athletes “are faced with many challenges and pressures which make them increasingly susceptible to depression and anxiety issues.” She is concerned that there is a stigma attached to mental health issues which prevents many Jamaicans from seeking help. Her goal is to increase the availability of help while decreasing the stigma associated with psychology.

Apart from her track and field and academic pursuits, she entered Ms. Jamaica in 2008 where she won the most congenial award and also received the Miss Jamaica World Sports Award. She is seeking help from the public to complete her PhD through fundly.com. To help Yanique, click https://fundly.com/help-yanique#comments and make a donation.

Jamaican Student Entrepreneurs create organic shampoo using sorrel and rosemary

It is said that Necessity is the Mother of Invention, and this invention began with the need to defeat dandruff. Javin Williams, a teenager fresh out of high school, was the one battling this common complaint. The harsh chemicals in the shampoos on the market purported to deal with the problem, while helping his dandruff, were actually creating other problems. Frustrated, he turned to his grandmother, who advised him to wash his hair with rosemary water. In short order, the dandruff disappeared.

Healthy, dandruff free hair

Healthy, dandruff free hair

Some time later, as a mass communication student at Northern Caribbean University, this enterprising young man, along with his sister, Kamla, a social work major, and medical technology student  Kimiesha Maxwell, used this hair remedy in a Business Plan Competition put on by the Morris Entrepreneurship Centre.  With no prior knowledge of how to develop a business plan, they placed respectably in the top five, prompting the Centre to offer their assistance in further development.

During market testing, the team encountered a number of complaints and turned to the Scientific Research Council for help in ensuring that their ingredients were safe. Meanwhile, Kamal Smith, a medical technology student, was brought on board to help in turning the simple remedy into a shampoo and conditioner.

Their research showed them that several common shampoo ingredients, particularly those which created lather, were actually harmful to hair, causing breakage, dry scalp, eczema,  itching and other hair and skin problems. Some of these products are sulphur, sodium laureate sulphate and sodium benzoate. Additionally, parabens were discovered to be carcinogenic.

The team set about creating a safe, organic, low-lather shampoo that would not be harmful to hair, but which would help it to heal from the harsh ingredients it had been exposed to.  In addition to rosemary, they turned to indigenous plants such as lemongrass and peppermint, as well as sorrel, which was found to add body to hair and improve its natural colour.

In June 2012, Herboo Enterprise was officially registered. The two-in-one shampoo and conditioner was put on the market in Mandeville pharmacies, and began to receive positive reviews and win loyal users offering enthusiastic testimonials as to the product’s effectiveness.

Herboo Team

The Herboo Team on the cover of their University Newsletter. (L-R) Kamal Smith, Ashadane Wright, Kamla Williams, Kimiesha Maxwell and Herboo CEO and founder, Javin Williams

Late last year, Herboo entered a local Business Model Competition sponsored by the Development Bank of Jamaica. At this time, Mass Communications major Ashadene Wright joined their team and they won the contest at the NCU level. Mentored by Hazel Wright O’Connor of the Morris Enterpreunership Centre, the team went on to win the national competition. After this win, with Douglas Lindo from UWI now on board to help mentor the group, they flew to Salt Lake City, Utah, to compete with Universities on an international level.

Herboo 100% Organic Shampoo

Herboo 100% Organic Shampoo

Kamla Williams described the experience as “mind-blowing’, being exposed to ‘the genius that is out there’ in the many amazing inventions by students from such prestigious universities as Harvard and Stanford University. Still, Herboo Enterprise held their own, placing 8th out of 42 teams in the competition, and winning the award for the most impressive international competitor. They even managed to surprise the judges in their presentation, by introducing them to sorrel and its uses. Herboo walked away with US$6,000 and an inspiring educational experience. Kamla explained that learning the business model and seeing how effective it is, was invaluable and has inspired them to make it an ongoing part of their process.

Herboo Enterprise still creates their shampoo in the kitchen of Javin and Kamla’s mother in Cedar Grove, Mandeville. The herbs are sourced from their backyard garden. But their goal is to continue to grow their company, and they have plans to introduce many new items to their product line.

Herboo Shampoo  is currently available in Three Angels Pharmacy, James Family Pharmacy, Can Care Pharmacy, Park View Pharmacy and NCU Bookstore, all in Mandeville, and Fontana Pharmacy islandwide and online.

Herboo Enterprise is also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HerbooEnterprise


Spread A Bed Initiative by Asafa Powell

Asafa Powell is raising funds to provide bedsheets for Kingston Public Hospital. Please support if you can.

Spread A Bed at KPH | Indiegogo.

National Geographic article about Saving the Goat Islands in Jamaica

Read about it here: Saving Goat Islands, Jamaica.

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