Positively Jamaica "Out of Many, One People"
Positively Jamaica

The event....before, during and after.....

How it all began........

It all started with an email.....

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Maxine Webster
To: Shirl; Joy; Claudette; Annette; Cornelius; Ken; P; Brian; Sheralyn; Pippa; Garry; Dave; David; Nadine; Cheryl
Sent: Wednesday, 5 July, 2006 11:16:03 AM
Subject: Help Jamaica via Christian Aid
Dear all,

I thought you might find the information below interesting. Perhaps you might consider making a donation or possibly thinking of ways to fund raise for this appeal.

Kind regards

index the facts partners plants images claire whitehouse claire's diary give to our HIV fund

***Stop press***
Christian Aid's garden wins gold at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show - more

From the beautiful, lush setting of an idyllic Jamaican hotel, Christian Aid invites you to step through the picture postcard and visit the other side of Jamaica.

Award-winning designer Claire Whitehouse has created a garden that tells the story of HIV in the Caribbean and highlights the importance of education in the fight against the global pandemic.

More about the garden designer

Away from the luxury of the all-inclusive hotels, many Jamaicans live in poverty. Illiteracy and unemployment are growing problems, especially for young people. This is a garden of contrasts, from the vibrant colour of the hotel planting you enter a community of ramshackle buildings and corrugated iron.

More about our work in Jamaica

Wander through the community centre, take a peek into the local shop and nightclub, and listen to the stories of our partners and the people with whom they work.

HIV - the facts

----- Forwarded Message ----

I remember sending this email to some of my friends and family immediately after viewing this article on the Christian Aid website. I recall being really pleased of the fact that Christian Aid had a presence in Jamaica, but then totally shocked after learning why.

This all happened just as I was planning my holiday to Jamaica the following month in August 2006. I had absolutely no idea that the Caribbean had the second highest rate of HIV-related illness after sub-Sahara Africa. I could hardly take it in. Although, upon reflection of my own experiences in Jamaica in previous years, I knew that it really wasn't too difficult to understand why and how.

The harsh reality of things lies with the fact people, no matter whether they are in the Caribbean, Africa, the US or the UK - continue to take chances in relation to their sexual health (not to ignore the fact that people contract HIV through other methods). It is all too easy to get carried away and assume that everything will be okay. However, we must continue to remind ourselves that we must each take individual responsibility to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent contracting the virus, and if we are in any doubt, to get tested.

I wonder how many people have gone on holiday to the Caribbean and beyond and either put someone else at risk, assuming that they were 'clean' (for want of a better word) or put them self at risk, thinking 'Oh! It'll be fine - he/she looks healthy enough.' The truth is, we just don't know. It's important to remember what we have been told all along about HIV/AIDS - it doesn't discriminate - it can infect and affect anyone of us.

People are continuing to die with HIV/AIDS related illnesses at an alarming rate. However, people who are HIV positive are also living 'normal' lives too, thanks to the advancement of medicine, treatment and support available. Having said this, we can't afford to become complacent.

I am not going to pretend to be an expert on these issues nor am I going to try and make you think that I know more than I actually do. I know that I am just as ignorant about the facts and preventative steps that I can take to ensure that I can gain knowledge and understanding about this virus which is crippling the lives of our brothers and sisters worldwide.

I just felt this overwhelming urge to do something - something practical using the skills that God had blessed me with. I could literally visualise the event right in the centre of Stratford - in the Churchyard of St. John's.

And so the idea for Positively Jamaica was ignited!

Getting Started....

I rushed to my Church - St. John's at Stratford - to speak to my Vicar and was greeted by his wife whom I immediately relayed my idea to arrange a fundraising and awareness event in light of the work that Christian Aid was doing in Jamaica. Fortunately, she nodded and told me that she thought it was a wonderful idea, before immediately telling the Vicar our plans to which he quickly agreed to.

We booked the Churchyard for Saturday 4 August 2007 to coincide with the weekend of Jamaica's 45th Independence Day. While initially establishing this event as a fundraising awareness day, it soon gained momentum and grew into an event with two main focuses which was to raise the awareness of the work that Christian Aid is doing in Jamaica with partnership organisations providing services for those infected and affected with HIV/AIDS; as well as establishing an event for Jamaicans and non-Jamaicans to come together in East London to celebrate all things Jamaican on the eve of Independence Day.

A team of people, including representatives from Christian Aid; members of St. John's Church, plus Newham residents and businesses, were brought together to create the Positively Jamaica Committee lead by myself as Event Coordinator.

Each committee member brought a specific skill and/or knowledge and experience to the table in contributing to the plans, design and preparation for the event. My initial vision to recreate a Jamaican village in the centre of Stratford was used as the basis for driving this project forward.

We had no idea if or where money needed to hold this event would come in from, but we decided to proceed with faith, determination and the clear vision of what we set out to achieve.

In the beginning, we spent a great deal of time pulling together our media pack as well as designing and agreeing the Positively Jamaica name and logo. I truly wish that I could take the credit for the name, but I'll be honest reveal that it was in fact Gray Featherstone of Christian Aid that came up with the perfect and apt suggestion. The island/flag was design was created by my sister, Cheryl Webster.

The Challenges....

The first meeting of the committee took place in July 2006 and proceeded monthly thereafter to lay the groundwork and to research ideas for the upcoming event. However, the real hard work commenced straight after Christmas and throughout 2007.

It is important to realise that each of the committee members, including myself, all have demanding full time jobs, and as such committing our time and co-ordinating this event became almost an additional full time job. I will not lead you to assume that this was no big deal because it was. It really put the pressure on for us to deliver this event just as we said we would - on time and on budget whilst achieving our clear objectives:-

1) to bring the spirit of Jamaica to the centre of Stratford by recreating a village atmosphere, incorporating a food and art/craft village and an area (Ackee Tree School) for young and old alike to learn about Caribbean history, culture and heritage; while promoting an environment of understanding, culture sharing and togetherness;

2) to provide a platform to raise the awareness about serious health issues which are having a significant impact within our borough. The event will provide a relaxed, informal environment where people of all ages and nationalities can access and obtain guidance and increased knowledge on the issues being raised. Our aim is to encourage a positive response for people to acknowledge and take personal responsibility to understand and action ways in which to obtain healthier lifestyles.

The main obstacles in planning for the event were due to lack of funds. A number of funding sources were approached initially. However, due to the fact that a number of funding streams have strict criteria we were unable to apply. A number of national, local international companies were also approached for sponsorship. However, again it seemed that their criteria would have also required us to jump through hoops to qualify. Some of the potential sponsors stated that they wanted to see how this event went and if it was a success would consider sponsoring the next event. Nevertheless, plenty of non-monetary support, resources and encouragement came rolling in.

Special thanks and acknowledgement goes to Sylbourne Sydial, FFBJ; Garfield Robinson, Promoting Our Heritage & GV Media Group; Craig Cordice, Engage UK & One Spare Chair; Neil Adams, NK Media; Carol Baynes, Transform Newham; Torrance Lewis, Jamaican Tourist Board; Vivienne Siva, Jamaican Information Service; Delores Cooper, Jamaican High Commission; Landsec, Stratford Shopping Centre; The staff and members of St. John's Church Stratford; Nyree Chambers, Grace Foods; Paulette Simpson, Jamaica National.

Our official sponsors were:

Newham Go For It Grant
Jamaica National Building Society/Money Transfer
Tropical Rhythms, Grace Foods (Grace Kennedy UK)

It was always our message to inform people that we were encouraging them to volunteer their time, resources and services in assisting us to put on this event. It was important for people whom we invited to get involved in the event to realise that this was not a money making scheme, nor was it a way of them boosting egos and so on, but to help us and join together to achieve our objectives.

Fortunately, there was only a very small handful of individuals who were unable to grasp this concept, and needless to say, fell by the wayside.

Another obstacle we encountered initially was getting people to come and perform while donating their time free of charge. Some people, I am delighted to report, agreed without hesitation. However, a smaller majority refused point blank to perform unless we paid their minimum fees.

The day of the event.....

On the day, we were delighted by the support and input from a variety of individuals who were only too glad to donate their time, energy and talents. These people deserve a special mention:

Beverley Knight MBE
The Mad Squad Dancers
The Hibiscus African Caribbean Quadrille Dancers
Nia Mohammed
Sophia Morrison
Kyra Simone
Zara McFarlane
Deep Cobra
Uncle Syds
Delroy Pinnock
DJ Futurist
Incognito, BBC Three Counties Radio
Mighty MP, BBC Three Counties Radio
Marcus Morgan-Valentine
Melvin Odoom, Kiss Fm Breakfast Show
Lorlett Hudson, One Hand Can't Clap
Dave Mwaniki
Angela Edwards, Jamaican High Commission
Stephen Timms MP
Volunteers from St. John's Church and Ment2Excel

We were truly blessed with wonderful, almost Jamaican, weather and temperatures on the day, despite a miserable summer of rain and grey skies in recent weeks. The sun shone high throughout the day, bringing temperatures of 27c.

Our stage and stall suppliers were on site by 06:00 and set up by 08:00, ready for our stall holders to start arriving and setting up their stalls from 09:00.

Our goats arrived from Newham City Farm at 11:00 and were in their pen ready and waiting for public viewing at 12 noon. However, we were later informed that there was a problem and that the goats would have to be quarantined following an announcement made that morning concerning reports of another outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Kent. A statement had been circulated by the Health and Safety Executive that there was a ban of the movement and transportation of all livestock in the UK until further notice. This was a very disappointing blow to the event as we had promised that goats would be onsite to add to the authentic sights and sounds of Jamaica. Nevertheless, the wellbeing of the goats was of paramount importance so there really wasn't much we could do to remedy the situation.

Members of the public began arriving at the Churchyard gates from as early as 10:30 despite us advertising that the event would commence at 12 noon. The first 500 visitors through the gates were treated to a Positively Jamaica goodie bags, donated by the Jamaican Tourist Board, containing freebies donated by Jamaica National; Christian Aid; GV Media Group and the Black Film Makers Association.

The Churchyard soon filled up with people flocking to the food and craft villages to make their purchases, as well as taking time to visit the health promotion and various information stalls whilst soaking up the atmosphere and relaxing in the fine weather.

It is a delight to point out that our First Aiders reported that they did not have to attend to any injuries, sickness or ailments on the day, which is somewhat surprising at an event like this. Nor was there any trouble or incidents reported by our Stewards.

The relaxed and positive vibe at Positively Jamaica was evident for all to see and experience. Many people commented on the feeling of togetherness and unity. It is difficult to actually pin point and single out one aspect of the event, as it seems that it was the combination of everything which made the day run smoothly. Therefore, it would be fair to say that the combination of elements knitted together made it a tremendous success.

The Future..........

The feedback received so far from stall holders, participants, local businesses, and attendees has been overwhelming. It certainly seems that people want to see Positively Jamaica as an annual event in East London, with calls to perhaps consider also bringing the idea to North West London.

Once the Positively Jamaica Committee has had a chance to meet and fully evaluate the event, a decision and considerations will be made for the future. Watch this space.

Maxine Webster

The Positively Jamaica Committee 2007 were:

Maxine Webster, Founder, Convener and Coordinator
Damien Plummer, Ment2Excel
Denise Mapp, Newham Resident & St. John's Church member
Rev. David Richards, Vicar, St. John's Church
Carol Richards, St. John's Church
Joy White, One Spare Chair Training
Eleanor Humphrey, Newham Resident & St. John's Church member
Ken Fuller, Christian Aid