Following a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this month GraceKennedy (GK) is hosting four university students of Jamaican heritage from the USA, UK and Canada in Jamaica, as participants in its 2022 Birthright Programme. The programme is designed to anchor the students’ roots in Jamaica’s rich heritage and culture.
This year’s Birthright participants are Jada Allison, a graduate of Wellesley College, USA; Chardonnae Deslandes, a graduate of Harvard University, USA; Debbie Buck, a third-year student at the University of Winnepeg, Canada; and Olivia Hylton-Pennant, a graduate of Cambridge University, UK. The young women arrived in Jamaica on June 1st and will complete the programme on July 8th.
On Wednesday, June 8, the Birthright participants and representatives of the GraceKennedy Foundation (GKF) paid a courtesy call to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, at the Ministry’s office in downtown Kingston. Senator Johnson Smith commended GK for its commitment to the programme, which she explained encourages second and third-generation Jamaicans living overseas to come back home, deepen their Jamaican roots and stay connected.
During their visit to Jamaica, the 2022 Birthright participants will intern at a GK subsidiary, visit Jamaican attractions, and participate in the Jamaica 60 Diaspora Conference.
The Diaspora Conference is being convened by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade between June 14 to 16 and will bring Jamaicans from across the globe together to discuss issues of national importance. Senator Johnson Smith told the Birthright participants that she looked forward to hosting them at the Conference, and specially invited them to sit in on the conference’s keynote address by Jacky Wright, Chief Digital Officer of Microsoft.
Caroline Mahfood, CEO of GKF, highlighted that through its overseas missions, MFAFT is one of Birthright’s strongest partners and thanked Senator Johnson Smith for their contribution.
Other partners of the 2022 GK Birthright programme are Caribbean Airlines, Jamaica Tourist Board, Island Car Rentals, Jakes Hotel, FLOW Jamaica, Go Jamaica Travel, Juici Patties, Restaurants Associates Ltd, Convenient Brands Ltd, Restaurants of Jamaica Ltd, Bob Marley Museum, Joy Spence Appleton Estate Rum Experience, Jamwest, Rose Hall Great House, Urban Development Corporation, YS Falls, Port Authority of Jamaica, and the National Gallery of Jamaica.
Mahfood explained, “What Birthright ensures, is that when Jamaicans living abroad have children, and those children have children, they get the opportunity to learn about Jamaica, and experience their heritage and culture first-hand.”