WEIGHING IN: Jarrett (left) in conversation with Minister Daryl Vaz at the conference.
FOR Janet McLean Carless, nothing compares to the pleasure of coming back home to Jamaica, in spite of the myriad social ills hampering progress. The Pennsylvania-based travel agent is among the hundreds of foreign-based Jamaicans who’ve flown in for the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference, which is currently examining key national issues at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Downtown Kingston. Carless welcomes the return of the conference after a two-year hiatus, chiefly because it allows patriotic, overseas-based Jamaicans to come home and have their say in how things are being run.
“A conference like this is very important because we need unity in making Jamaica stronger and helping to solve the major problems facing the country,” she told TALLAWAH, during an interview Monday evening at the Little Theatre, where JN Bank and the NDTC hosted a cocktail reception and special performance of the dance company’s 2017 season for conference delegates.
Carless, a certified air-travel specialist who runs Jan Mack Travel and Tours, hopes the conference fulfils its maximum potential, when it comes to spotlighting problems and generating solutions. “I hope that we Jamaicans who live abroad and have returned home for the conference will get a better understanding of the issues. We get our information from news websites, but being here we get a better sense of what’s really happening,” she said. “The crime situation impeding the growth of Jamaica is a big issue worldwide, and people here need to be aware of what is really keeping the country down, because the international public is keeping a very close eye on us.”
Last held in 2015, the Jamaica Diaspora Conference takes place every two years. This is the seventh staging, having been started in 2004. Among the issues explored so far in sessions at the 2017 conference are crime and justice, health, education, immigration, human capital and economic growth. “All of the sessions so far have been informative,” offered Janice Miller, the high commissioner to Canada.
Chair of the organizing committee, Jamaica National’s Earl Jarrett, says an event like the Diaspora conference is not just a great medium for issues and answers, problems and solutions; it offers opportunities for networks and alliances to be formed. “My hope is that by the end of the conference, people would have connected. Already, we see a number of task-forces being created. People are creating networks and bonds of friendship to benefit Jamaica,” Jarrett told TALLAWAH.
He expressed optimism for the future growth of the conference. “For one thing, I’m pleased with the turnout,” he said. “We had over 1,300 registered participants, and my hope is that the nature of the conversations that we have at these conferences will continue to have a real sense of purpose.”