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Jamaica

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Sweet, Sweet Jamaica: A Country of Untapped Potential

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwfw2bYfaBo[/embed] Jamaica is my home. There is nothing more comforting than living in a country filled with natural beauty and warm and friendly people. On the flip side, however, is the reality that Jamaica's beauty is being overshadowed by inept leaders, a poor economic climate, and a lack of opportunities for youth. The Jamaican dollar now stands at JA$116 to US$1 with the possibility of it reaching JA$120 to US$1 before the end of 2015. It pains my heart to know that the potential of this country is being wasted in the hands of leaders who are more concerned with keeping up appearances than meeting the real needs of our people. The voices of our youth are seldom heard and taken seriously. I don't intend to leave my country, but I am troubled by the fact that I see no hope on the horizon.

Our Inept Leaders

There are several examples of mismanagement of the country's resources by our leaders. Two particular examples presently come to mind. The first is the purchase of Outameni by the National Housing Trust (NHT) with taxpayer's money. One would hope that the property would have been purchased to create housing solutions for Jamaicans. However, it seems to be more of an under the table deal that won't benefit tax payers in any way. One hundred and eighty million ($180 million) of taxpayers dollars were spent to purchase this property. Let's see what happens within the next two years. Will it still be a barren piece of land or will some type of development that benefits the poor and middle class be erected?

The second is the flurry of road construction that occurred to facilitate the visit of United States President Barack Obama. I do appreciate the fact that money has to be spent when such an important public figure visits. However, this flurry of road work with money that the country doesn't have was ridiculous. Our leaders are ashamed to present the reality we have to face each day with our poor roads. That money could have been better spent creating sustainable job opportunities for young people.

The issues with our leaders isn't limited to present circumstances, however. Leaders with a narrow minded perspective have caused this country's economic downfall. Whenever a party comes into power, most of what the previous party began is thrown out the window even if what was there was good. So, it's a perpetual cycle of starting from scratch unnecessarily. It is also true that over the years our leaders have depended too much on foreign imports of goods that we produce right here. Instead of creatively expanding our export market, our leaders chose to increase our import bill. It is, therefore, no surprise that we are in our present predicament.

Our Poor Economic Climate

When someone tells you that the Jamaican dollar is now $116 to US$1, it is not a statement that should be taken lightly. The sliding dollar means a higher cost of living on already inadequate salaries. The poor continue to get poorer. The government should be commended for implementing more policies for encouraging small business growth. However, there are some young people who find it difficult to set up their businesses due to lack of funding and the tedious process required to set up the business. Jobs are very hard to find and the unemployment rate continues to increase.

A Lack of Opportunities for Youth

To be fair, the government has attempted to improve the education system by opening more schools and ensuring that children get the best quality teachers. They have also provided more tertiary financing opportunities through loans, scholarships and bursaries. However, when a young person graduates from a tertiary institution there are limited options in the job market. I know of people who have been jobless for years upon graduating. There is something wrong with this picture and I don't think the government has found the right solution.

I love my beautiful country. It is a nice place to live because of the people and the natural beauty. However, it is also a depressing place to be when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

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Strength of a Woman- Kemesha Kelly- May 2014

kkkkk Kemesha Kelly is a powerful combination of beauty and brains. Her young life is testament to the fact that you can achieve anything you set your mind to regardless of your circumstances. Although she has only been on this earth for 24 years, she has accomplished many things that some of us can only dream about. Presently, she is a Youth Empowerment Officer, based in St. Ann, for the National Centre for Youth Development.  Her passion is for Jamaican youth and she strives to live a life that empowers others to become their best selves.

Her Roots

From the tender age of 8, Kemesha was enthralled by Ben Carson’s story. In fact, her aunt ensured that she had all of his books. Dr. Carson’s story is akin to Kemesha’s. Both his mom and Kemesha’s mom did not go to high school. Both of their mothers also did not have very much. However, their mothers ensured that they were each propelled towards achieving greatnesses. Kemesha reminisces on the times when her mother would stay up with her till the wee hours of the morning ensuring that she studied and completed her assignments. She also reflects on the tremendous sacrifices that both of her parents made so that both she and her brother could succeed.

Kemesha was no ordinary child. Everywhere she went, she left her mark.  She attended St. Ann’s Bay Primary. While she was there, she was involved in quiz, volleyball, tennis, and public speaking competitions. At her church, she quickly became the Junior Sunday School secretary and was also a member of the choir and a Bible Quiz champion. During her first year at St. Hilda’s High, she was elected her class’ student council representative. This was the beginning of her blossoming as a leader.  In her final year at St. Hilda’s, she was elected the National Secondary Schools Student Council President and was also Deputy Head Girl. Her leadership pursuits and active involvement did not stop here, however. At St. Jago High School, where she attended sixth form, she was President of the Student Council body and a Prefect.

Her Struggle

In 2008, Kemesha was accepted to pursue her first degree in International Relations (with a minor in Social Policy and Administration) at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona. These were some of her most challenging years because the financial strain on her parents greatly increased even though she had received a UWI Open Scholarship. By her second year at UWI, she knew that she had to find a job to both help with the bills at home and support herself through school. Her active engagement in activities on Rex Nettleford Hall, coupled with the pressure of balancing school work and a full time job, ultimately resulted in her being unable to actively engage in wider campus life.  Nevertheless, her proudest moment came in November 2012 when she was able to walk onto the graduation platform and collect her degree with her proud parents watching in the audience.

Her Future

In 2012, Kemesha was also able to experience another proud moment- being crowned Miss Jamaica Festival Queen.  What touched her most about this experience is the fact that she has been told that her involvement in the competition has resulted in the standard being set very high. She knows that she inspires others and she takes her influence seriously.

As a Youth Empowerment Officer, Kemesha is able to actively live one of her dreams- giving service that will create a better Jamaica. Her responsibilities include: coordinating the work of youth led service organizations (such as the National Secondary Students’ Council), facilitating the parish youth council, conducting and designing research that can be used to implement development programs, collaborating with agencies and youth service organizations, and working with vulnerable youth through the Youth Information Centers.

She strongly agrees with the sentiments expressed by our Governor General, “Nothing is wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed with what is right with Jamaica.” As a result, she hopes to pursue a degree in Law and Policy Development so that she can become a Policy Consultant and therefore help to shape some of the policies used to govern Jamaica. She also hopes to become involved in promoting the innovative research that comes from Jamaica. Additionally, she wants to eventually become Jamaica’s Prime Minister and use this platform to be a true ambassador for Jamaica. She wants to inspire all Jamaicans to work together for the betterment of our country.

On the flip side, Kemesha knows that life must always have a balance. So, as she moves forward to accomplish her dreams, she also dreams of becoming a wife and mother of at least two children. She enjoys the company of her friends and family. Their support, coupled with her innate desire to succeed, have been what has given her the strength she needs to live an impactful life.

Kemesha is a strong woman who is on the rise to becoming one of the most influential people of this generation. She highlights seven characteristics of a strong woman that we all can adopt:

  • Commitment
  • Perseverance
  • Confidence
  • Balance
  • Integrity
  • Focus
  • Being Charitable

 

Use Kemesha’s story to inspire you to stop being ordinary. Instead, go out and make a difference in your community and your country.

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Is There Hope?

   

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Jamaica is a country that is filled with great beauty and promise. However, this enchanting beauty is marred by a stifling economy and greedy leaders. I love my country and it will always be my home, but I have come to a point where I have to wonder if there is really hope. Jamaica needs a quick turn around before everything crumbles. The answer isn't in increased taxes or more borrowing. Instead, the answer lies within the very people the government refuses to listen to- the average Jamaican.

Get Rid of the "Flashy" Mentality

One of the few things I respected about the JLP when they were in power from 2007 to 2011 was the fact that each member of the cabinet received a cut in his or her salary. The PNP, on the other hand, increased the number of people on the cabinet and also increased their salaries as soon as they won the election. What did we do about it as a people? We sat in our homes and grumbled instead of rising as a united force to challenge their actions.  Why do government leaders have to have two to three homes, flashy cars, and their every needs met when more than 30% of the population is in abject poverty? Our leaders, regardless of the party they are affiliated with, should follow the lead of Uruguay's president Jose Mujica who lives in a farm house and drives a beat up car yet still performs his duties well.  (You can read more about his story here). The government needs to be truly for the people and not its own interests.

Foster Development from the Grassroots Level

One of my friends broached an interesting idea to me the other day. So many youth in inner city and rural communities have absolutely nothing to do with their free time. The devil finds work for idle hands. So, why not invest in some community centers that can be placed in several of these communities throughout the country? At these centers, the youth can learn some non traditional sports and be engaged in meaningful activities. Although I think it is a fantastic idea, I know that building a community center requires large sums of money. However, it is a worthwhile investment that can help to stem crime and create a better future for our young people. There must be some multinational corporation or donor agency that would be willing to fund these projects. Has the government even considered the possibility?

Encourage Innovation

Both the government and the opposition realize the importance of ICT. As a result, the government encourages ICT investments and innovation. However, the current business climate does not encourage the average person to set up his or her own business. It is a very long and bureaucratic process that requires great capital. The government needs to do more to encourage the growth of the small business sector. Some of the ideas that young entrepreneurs have can cause a greater flow of foreign currency into the country and ease unemployment. Why not look to these solutions instead of increasing taxes?

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If the way our leaders govern doesn't change, this country will continue on a downward spiral. What more do you think the government can do? Leave your comments in the space provided.

 

 

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Building the Grass Roots- March 2014- Kimroy Bailey

jljkljljl Where a seed is planted is where its harvest should be reaped.  Very few people understand this concept.  As a result, numerous educated youth leave their roots in search of what they deem to be “better” opportunities.  Kimroy Bailey has chosen to challenge this brain drain by investing in the deep rural community of Litchfield in which he was raised. Charming, passionate, and self-motivated, Kimroy has used his engineering degree to create an innovative concept that can change Jamaica’s economic landscape. His business, the Kimroy Bailey Foundation, strives to utilize renewable energy to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This admirable young man can be described in three dimensions: his early years, his business, and his impact.

Early Years

Kimroy understands how to appreciate the simplicity of life.  Growing up in a rural community meant that he didn’t have the luxuries that many people enjoy.  There were days he didn’t know where his next meal was coming from, but he never allowed his circumstances to make him bitter.  Instead, the pristine environment of his community gave him a passion for the environment. Also, the people he grew up with birthed within him a desire to make a difference in the lives of those around him.

The Kimroy Bailey Foundation

As a young boy, Kimroy grew up to admire a JPS employee called Mass John. In the early days Kimroy’s community had frequent power outages for prolonged periods.  As a result, Mass John would visit the community regularly to troubleshoot the issues that caused the disconnection. Community members would gather around and watch Mass John climb the light post, work his magic, and make light reappear. Mass John was their hero. However, Kimroy, being the witty and creative person he is, viewed Mass John as more than a hero; he viewed him as the representation of a challenge that needed to be solved. As the years progressed, Kimroy began to wonder “How can we harness the power of nature to provide energy in a renewable and eco-friendly and sustainable way”?

Kimroy sought to answer this question in his final years as an engineering student at the University of Technology (UTECH). For his research paper, he presented a thesis that reflected the potential of using tropical wind storms to generate electricity. His research was nominated by the world’s largest professional body, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in their Global Research Competition 2012 . Against countries such as India, New Zealand, America, UK and Australia; Jamaica was placed second globally competition and gave Kimroy the fuel to pursue a solution to Jamaica’s energy crisis. So, in December 2012 the Kimroy Bailey Foundation was formed. The Foundation’s community center will soon be  fully powered by a wind turbine and currently provides internet access, training on renewable energy, and printing services to people in the community.

His Impact

Kimroy’s life has been an inspiration to several people. Over 8,000 people have become fans on his website http://kimroybailey.com/ and he has received several emails from people who are encouraged by his work. Furthermore, he has been able to set up the Kimroy Bailey Robotics Project in which he has employed three local people.

Experience teaches wisdom and Kimroy has a lot of tips to offer to young people who are considering entrepreneurship in Jamaica. These tips are listed below.

  • Make a decision, make a mistake, then apologize. Believe in your dream and make a decision to follow through with it regardless of what everyone around you says. Yes, you will make mistakes but don’t allow this fact to sway you from moving forward. Go for it!
  • There is a breaking point where your goals have to become your priority. You will have to make several sacrifices, but they will all be worth it in the end.
  • Prepare NOT to be paid. The financial struggles of a young entrepreneur are very real and there will be times when you are beyond broke. However, learn from your mistakes and put in the work necessary to make your business grow.
  • Wrap your mind around God. Make Him the heart beat and centre of everything you do. Once you allow Him to be the focal point of your life, He will give you direction.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people. You need people around you who will encourage and support you.
  • Be strategic. Yes, it may seem more practical to do all of the work for your business alone in the initial phases since you have limited funds. However, you will end up either never reaching your goal or reaching it after several years. Also, you will be very stressed and ineffective. Start with someone you can share your ideas with and who is willing to assist you on a part time basis. It may cost you a little bit more than you want to spend at the moment, but it will be worth it in the end.

Kimroy is determined to make a difference in not only is country, but also in the rural community in which he was raised. His story encourages us not to give up on our dreams and use our dreams to make a positive impact. What can you do today to make a difference in the lives of others?

Kimroy inspiring

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January 2014- Timar Jackson

Timar Within every individual lies the potential to become a great success but, the sad reality is that the people who actively seek to tap into this potential are rare. Timar Jackson can be likened to a rare diamond in the ruff who, despite his circumstances, has managed to tap into his unlimited potential and become a tremendous success.  At the age of twenty-four, he already has a first class honours degree in Acturial Science from the University of the West Indies under his belt and has also been named Jamaica’s 2014 Rhodes Scholar.  However, his present achievements are the results of a life-long journey that he has travelled from his days in primary school. I caught up with him recently to find out his secrets for such great success.

How would you describe your childhood?

I grew up in a rough neighborhood that was filled with people who made poor choices and participated in gang violence and immoral acts. Like most of the families in my community my family had our fair share of economic challenges but my mother (who was my sole caregiver) was strong. She took the steps necessary to ensure that my siblings and I had a semblance of structure to our lives and to ensure that we did not get involved certain activities. In my early years (from primary school till about grade eight)I would listen to the negative criticism of those around me who would say “Yuh w’utless! Yuh naah guh cum to nuttn!” Consequently, in that early period in my life I struggled with low self-esteem.

 

 

Wow. That must have been really tough. What caused things to change?

I decided not to harbor these negative thoughts and I became actively involved in school activities at Vauxhall High. I became the leader of the cadet group in grade nine and I was also involved in the speech club, drama club, track and field team, and rugby team and the list goes on. Doing all of this and achieving a level of success gave me a hunger for more and boosted my self-esteem. I was surprised when, in grade nine, one of my teachers looked at me and said “He has Head Boy potential”.

A lot of people use the lack of money as an excuse to prevent them from pursuing their dreams. How were you able to finance your education since you came from a financially poor family?

When I completed fifth form, my mother believed that the time was ripe for me to start working. However, I believed otherwise. You see, I realized that the successful people I observed all had a tertiary education and I knew that this had to be my route to advancing in life. Thankfully, I was blessed with two mentors who supported me through sixth form. When it was time for me to apply for university, I applied for every scholarship I heard of and at the end of that process I had the choice (can you believe that?) of accepting either the UWI Open Scholarship or the annual Jamaica Scholarship (male). These are two of the nation’s top scholarships and both came with the benefit of full tuition, books, boarding and maintenance.

What motivates you to succeed?

I have a very large support group that encourages and reassures me that I can do well. I am also highly intrinsically motivated because I have come to realize the potential I have and I always want to push the limits a step further regardless of position.

What would you say have been the five things that have made you successful?

Wow.I would like to express these five things in a formula. With the right measure of determination, focus, discipline and external motivation raised to the  power and grace of God, I have  been able to achieve enormous results.

When you return to Jamaica after completing your DPhil in Mathematical and Computational Finance, what do you hope to do to give back to your country?

I have been told that my time in England is going to be an interesting and life changing experience so I am keeping my options open.  However, I do hope to apply the knowledge I garner to aid in the development of Jamaica’s financial sector. I also hope to take a more deliberate approach towards helping other people discover their full potential. Presently, I am making some strides in this area since I have set up some tutoring sessions for the students from my alma mater (Vauxhall High) for eight hours every third Saturday. My friends and I have done three of these sessions thus far and we are  receiving some positive feedback.

What advice would you give to the people reading this blog to help them realize their full potential?

Focus on your dream. Don’t see yourself as a victim of your circumstances. Instead, use your circumstances as motivators. Develop the drive, determination and discipline to achieve your dream no matter what. Develop confidence and belief in yourself and the discipline that you need will come automatically.

 Timar-graduation

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5 Things to Learn From Tessanne

lilililili So many articles are now being written about Tessanne and so many people are sharing their thoughts about what we can learn from Tessanne's journey. However, Tessanne's success has made such a huge  impact on me and has given me a new drive to pursue my dreams that I had to ensure that I penned my thoughts. Each person's life story is unique but I believe that there are five things that we all can learn from Tessanne's success that can help us to make our dreams come to life.

Believe

This is such a simple word that we often take for granted but it has the power to help us change the world or contribute to the wealth of potential in the graveyard. Although Shaggy was the one who suggested the idea of auditioning for the Voice to Tessanne, she still had to believe in her talent and use this belief to capitalise on this amazing opportunity. It must be noted, however, that her belief did not equate to arrogance or over-confidence. Despite the resounding praises from coaces and fans alike, Tessanne remained gracious and humble. Her warmth as a human being shows that it is not enough to believe in your abilities. Instead, that belief must be coupled with an appreciation for others and an ability to show love and compassion to supporters and naysayer's alike.

Get Up and Get Moving

Imagine if Tessanne had listened to Shaggy's advice but allowed the fear of rejection to overcome her. Where would she be now? Tessanne had a dream and she was determined to do what she needed to in order to make that dream a reality. However, auditioning for the competition was just the first phase of the journey. Week after week she had to put in several hours of rehearsals and coaching sessions to ensure that each night she delivered a stellar performance. As the old Jamaican saying goes "If yuh waan good yuh nose haffi run" which simply means that you have to be willing to work hard for what you desire. Dreams don't become reality overnight...they take weeks, months or years of persistent work and dedication.

Be Open to All Possible Outcomes

Tessanne was never over-confident. Each week there was always a look of great relief on her face when Carson stated that she was one of the people America saved.  Tessanne knew that her journey to the finish line was not guaranteed and she was willing to use the knowledge she had garnered from this experience to take her one step closer to her dreams. Thankfully, she did not have to go the latter route but sometimes the latter route is the reality. If the latter route becomes your reality then always remember that failure is never final and use your experiences to propel you even closer to your dreams.

Surround Yourself With Good People

In her inner circle, Tessanne had the support of well wishing friends and family who had been there with her from the very beginning. She didn't surround herself with people who told her she can't...she surrounded herself with people who told her she can. The people we allow into our inner circles can make or break our dreams so we need to be wise about who we allow to enter.

Never Give Up

After so many years of being a back up singer and performing her and there at concerts, Tessanne was becoming frustrated. She was nearing the point of giving up but, this opportunity came ans she is now reaping the rewards. Imagine if she had given up a year or two years ago. Never give up on your dreams regardless of how long it takes for them to become reality.

I have always loved Tessanne's song "Hideaway" and I knew she far surpassed her competition on the Voice. She is one of my heroes and I will use these guiding principles to propel me into a bigger and brighter future.

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A Lasting Bond

lljljjkljklj The past thirteen weeks have taken us on a whirlwind journey as we followed Tessanne Chin's progress on one of the best reality TV series,the Voice. Week after week we were blown away by her amazing talent and it is no surprise that her cover of the song "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" is now at the number sixty four position on the Billboard Top 100 Chart. Despite her amazing talent, however, she could not have gotten this far without the strong support system of her family, friends and Jamaicans both locally and internationally. One of her biggest supporters is her husband Michael Cuffe Jr. and, over these few weeks, I have observed some striking and powerful dimensions of their relationship that I believe many of us could emulate in our own relationships.

He Supported Her From Beginning to End

Michael Cuffe Jr. is an established individual in his own right...he is the HRM for Guardsman Limited, works part-time for RJR and hosts the radio program "Uncensored" on FAME 95 FM. However, despite his numerous obligations he found the time to travel thousands of miles to support his wife. Regardless of the sacrifices he had to make, he was there and quite happy to be there too. How many of us are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to support our spouses or partners? We may not be as popular as Michael and Tessanne Cuffe but each of us has special milestones in our lives in which we need the support of those we greatly cherish.  Sometimes we become so self-absorbed that we neglect the needs of our partner or spouse. It's time to break the habit.

He Knew Not to Shadow Her Spotlight

I am not privy to what occurs behind the scenes but, from what I can see, Mr. Cuffe did not allow jealousy to prevail in his relationship. He knew when to step back and allow his wife to bask in her moments and he has never been cocky or arrogant about his wife's success. Some people envy the success of their spouse or partner instead of looking for ways to support him or her. How can you create a strong and lasting bond with someone if you are so consumed with jealousy? A marriage or relationship requires that the individuals who are involved support each other wholeheartedly. Learn to lovingly support your spouse or partner.

They Both Graciously Expressed Their Love for Each Other

One of the things that has been lodged in my mind is a tweet that Tessanne had posted about a week ago. She was so excited that her husband was coming and her excitement mirrored that of a teenage girl who was excited about the arrival of her boyfriend. Simple things like thi,s and the moments when they steal kisses and looks at each other, solidify the fact that they are both madly in love with each other. In an interview with GCaribbean Mr. Cuffe stated "Being married to Tessanne Cuffe is the most amazing and smart decision I have ever made". They both married their best friend and are reaping the rewards of a beautiful relationship. We all can expereince this kind of love if we are  wise when choosing our partners. Don't give into feelings of loneliness and desperation...be patient and the right person will come along.

Tessanne's journey is just beginning and I know that one thing is certain...she will always be Mrs. Tessanne Cuffe. I will always admire their relationship and pray that it continues to grow stronger as the years progress.

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The Importance of National Pride

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him" ~Abraham Lincoln National pride surges when major athletic events are happening or when Independence Day comes around. We expect that Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and the other athletes will do well and we cannot help but reflect on the contributions of our forefathers to nation building on Independence Day. However, what concerns me is the fact that national pride sharply declines when these events pass. Of course things are terribly wrong with our country but the same is true for many other countries around the world (first world countries included).

I want to challenge us to view national pride as a form of personal development by highlighting the following points: Where there is unity there is strength When the races are being broadcast it is amazing to see how quickly people gather, wherever they are, to catch the excitement. There is joy and hugs and laughter all around when we place in the top three and happiness, despite our disappointment, when we do not place. The unity that is present in these few moments is something I believe we should have in every facet of life. That camaraderie and dedication to the greater good of the country can only help to make the nation better. When we inject some hope into our country and stop the negativity we end up injecting some positivity in our own lives.

Bringing hope to the nation can inspire people to do great things We depend on our political leaders to give the country direction and work in the best interest of the poor. Although a lot of things cannot fall into place until this is done, I also believe that we each have a responsibility to have a spirit of hope for the country. So many people walk around with a chip on their shoulders because they think the country is doomed. Why don't we instead think of what we can do to bring hope to the country? Are there any community projects that we could get involved in that can make a difference in people's lives? When we learn to be positive and give more of ourself to others there is no doubt that the greatest reward we will feel is the satisfaction we get of knowing that we have made a difference. Represent your country well Wherever I go in the world I will always be Jamaican. People respond to the way we treat them and speak about our country. If we treat people harshly or only have negative things to say about our country then that will leave a bad impression on people's minds of Jamaica. If we are more positive then there is a great possibility that someone we meet will want to visit Jamaica therefore increasing the country's tourism income. These small things make a world of difference.

I challenge us to view our country differently and do what we can to build our nation. There is power in the small things we do.

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