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Startup Hub Caribbean
Facebook has partnered with Parallel18, an accelerator for startup companies that is part of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, to provide support for 10 startups in the Caribbean. The program is called Facebook’s Startup Hub Caribbean and it is a 12-week program that started in May 2019. This program can tremendously benefit these technology startup companies and the communities that they work in.

The 10 companies selected are from Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic and the partnership chose all of them because they provide a product or service that focuses on goals that better their communities. These include gender equality and employment opportunities. These companies will be able to grow and expand into other markets under the support of Facebook and Parallel 18 through their free services and mentorships.

Possible Benefits

The unemployment rates in Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are currently 7.7 percent, 8 percent and 5 percent. Although these numbers do not appear high, it comes to a total of about 785,000 people that are unemployed. Although providing support to these 10 companies will not completely fix the unemployment rate in these countries, they should be able to grow and provide jobs to their communities with enough support from Facebook and Parallel18.

Agrobeads

Other than creating jobs for various communities, these start-up companies are providing real change and solutions. From Puerto Rico, Agrobeads is one of the 10 companies that Facebook has chosen to help. It provides capsules with water and nutrients to farmers in areas that are susceptible to droughts. According to Agrobeads, the capsules allow for the watering of crops and plants every two weeks instead of daily. Facebook’s support of Agrobeads will allow communities in the Caribbean to have greater access to locally grown foods and a more stable income for farmers.

Edupass

A company focused on providing assistance to those who are underprivileged, Edupass originally formed in 2014. It provides information and assistance to those in the Dominican Republic going through the admission process to university or college. Education is the key to growing a strong workforce and with the support from Facebook’s Startup Hub Caribbean program, Edupass will be able to provide assistance through its admissions experts. These experts will be able to guide students through the application process, help transition students into life at college and provide students with tutoring and the opportunities for internships.

Hacker Hostel

From Jamaica, Hacker Hostel is a company started by Akua Walters that trains and markets Caribbean developers for remote jobs in North American countries. Walters created the company because he saw that talented JavaScript developers were leaving the Caribbean to pursue jobs in developed countries. This was a major problem because the people who were leaving to obtain jobs in developed countries could potentially provide solutions to help with problems in developing nations. Now with the support of Facebook and Parallel18, Hacker Hostel can help better train and prepare software developers to work for North American companies remotely.

Looking Forward

With the creation of Facebook’s Startup Hub Caribbean program, Facebook and Parallel18 are able to provide assistance to young companies that have created solutions for communities around the Caribbean. Although these companies focus and work to benefit their own communities, they could potentially expand to areas outside the Caribbean with the tools, workshops and mentorships from Facebook.

Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

Deep within this tropical paradise lies a history of discrimination based on sex. From job titles and pay to violence, women on the island of Jamaica have often been seen as second place, however, that is slowly changing. The United Nations encourages full integration of women in the development process, ensuring their “fundamental freedoms on the basis of equality with men”. Climbing the ranks, women in Jamaica are leaving their mark and breaking down barriers. Holding 28 percent of chairs in senate, women’s empowerment in Jamaica is making headway. But it is not an easy road. Although there is a high number of women running for offices, the amount elected is significantly less.

While encouragement for women’s participation in politics is present, many view the opportunity with angst. Verbal abuse, discrimination by male colleagues, and lack of support from their counterparts are some experiences many women have faced. According to the fifth periodic report submitted to the United Nations the word “sex” is absent from the Jamaican Constitution, preventing a person from utilizing their constitutional rights where such discrimination is present. Currently, parts of legislation are being reviewed which include the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offenses Act to bring attention to these areas.

Appointed in December 2009, and re-appointed in January 2012 Kamina Johnson Smith is the Senator and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. As a believer in a better Jamaica, Smith states that the government is committed to the achievement of gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment in Jamaica.

The Women’s Empowerment Principals (WEPs) is a list created by the United Nations stating several ways to encourage women to be apart of the workforce in an influential and enriching manner. At a recent consultation representatives of Jamaican companies who had signed onto the WEPs partnership were Island Grill, Sandals, RUBiS, Facey and Facey Law, JMMB and Women Entrepreneur Network (WEN Caribbean)/Zinergy International.

With the government’s backing, women’s empowerment in Jamaica is spreading throughout the island. In 2008, Jamaica reported 59 percent of its managers being female, one of the highest rank in the world. Increasing the growth of women workers and merging into other lanes of women’s empowerment will occur as long as the political transformation continues.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Development ProjectsThe mission statement of the World Bank is to, “end extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity.” The World Bank has funded over 12,000 development projects across the globe since 1947, and in Jamaica, these projects have provided much-needed assistance to those who need it most. Here is a list of five development projects in progress in Jamaica that are aimed toward improving the lives of the impoverished.

  1. Jamaica Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project
    Launched in 2016, this project aims to increase Jamaica’s ability to handle natural disasters or dramatic climate events via a four-part plan. The first step is to increase the island’s technological infrastructure to allow for better tracking and predicting of weather events. The next component of this project is the improvement of physical infrastructure on the island to better resist and withstand natural disasters. The third step is to improve emergency services, so that in the event of a disaster, people can more rapidly be assisted. The fourth and final component, which ties all of the parts of this project together, is administrative oversight by the World Bank to ensure accountability.  This project comes at an investment cost of $30 million from the World Bank, a worthy donation that will ensure Jamaica can withstand natural disasters to come.
  2. Early Child Development Project
    The Early Child Development Project (ECD) sets out a three-tier strategy to ensure a better future for at-risk youth. The first goal of this project is to increase the regularity of developmental monitoring, health risk screenings and emergency intervention procedures for children. The second goal is to improve early childhood education facilities through both physical renovation and program development. Lastly, the ECD aims to strengthen and improve training for early childhood education groups, i.e. the adults responsible for providing care for children.  The World Bank began this project in 2014, and has since pledged $14 million toward the cause.
  3. Second Competitiveness and Fiscal Management Program
    Commencing in June of 2017, this project is the World Bank’s most recent development project in Jamaica, with $70 million in funding. The goal is to strengthen Jamaica’s economy and financial sector through a two-part strategy. First, the World Bank aims to support legislative reforms which will enhance the development of the Jamaican economy. Secondly, this plan aims to increase the availability of fiscal management for both businesses and private citizens. If all goes to plan, this project will help Jamaica become a developed country by the year 2030.
  4. Youth Employment in Digital and Animation Industries
    This project began in 2014 with the help of a $20 million loan from the World Bank, and aims to increase employment opportunities for Jamaican youth, specifically in the rapidly expanding digital and animation industries. The World Bank’s plan for this project puts funding into each step along the journey to working in these fields, from early childhood skills training, to investing in the digital animation industries themselves to stimulate growth and job availability. This project also provides funding toward individuals carrying out research, development and innovation in these fields.
  5. Jamaica Integrated Community Development Project
    The World Bank has pledged to provide $42 million from 2014 to 2020 in an effort to improve safety and infrastructure in communities across Jamaica. This project aims to improve roads, drainage, electrical, sewage and water systems and community organizations.

With the assistance of the World Bank, these development projects will encourage Jamaica’s social and economic growth as a nation. With hope and continued aid, Jamaica may be pulled out of poverty and into a bright future.

– Tyler Troped
Photo: Flickr

Why is Jamaica PoorConsidered an upper middle-income country as stated by the World Bank, Jamaica has much to improve upon within its economy to decrease poverty rates in the country. Jamaica is considered to be one of the slowest and most unstable economies in the world, weakened by high debt rates. As for today, Jamaica’s poverty rate has improved, with a 1.7 percent growth of GDP during 2016 and an expected 2 percent for 2017. Many reforms have been instituted to reduce the country’s debt. However, Jamaica still has a lot to improve on in order to eliminate poverty. So, what are the answers to the question why is Jamaica poor? High crime, unemployment and inflation are a few of the answers to this question.

Most criminal activity in Jamaica is related to gang activity and use of illegal drugs. Police data confirms the occurrence of many murders in 2017, with an increase of 19 percent and a total of 639 people killed from January 2017 to June 2017. This represents an average of four murders per day. This places Jamaica’s homicide rate among the top five highest national homicide rates in the world.

Jamaica also experiences increasingly high unemployment rates within the population. The Statistics Institute of Jamaica reveals a slight decline in unemployment, with a rate of 12.9 per cent as of October 2016 and 12.2 as of April 2017. This clearly shows there was only a slight improvement between 2016 and 2017, but the rates are still high as of today.

Another reason Jamaica is poor is its high inflation rate – averaging 9.54 percent between 2002 and 2017. As of July 2017, Jamaica’s inflation rate had declined to 4.4 percent. Jamaica has been known to spend half of its income on imported good for basic necessities. The country relies mostly on goods such as food, gasoline and clothing. Its high reliance on imported goods creates an increasing deficit, endangering the state of its economy and keeping people below the poverty line.

After asking why Jamaica is poor it is also important to ask what the solutions are to end poverty in Jamaica. By reducing Jamaica’s crime rates and having more employment opportunities, Jamaica would increase its chances to improve its economy and become richer in more ways than one. Seeing Jamaica’s slight improvements in recent years, it offers some hope for eventually ending poverty in the future.

Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr


Jamaica is known to be an upper middle-income country. Yet, it is one of the slowest-developing economies in the world. Its poverty rate has improved, decreasing from 19.9 percent in 2012 to 18.7 percent today. Although there is a significant improvement, there are still present causes that answer the question, “why is Jamaica poor?” Crime, unemployment rates, reliability on imported goods and other social conflicts contribute to poverty in Jamaica.

Jamaica constantly faces crime and violence. It has an above average crime rate as well as high poverty levels. People commit crime usually when they are in need. Because of poor conditions, there is a need to steal food out of hunger or other circumstances. These criminal acts are a direct effect of Jamaica’s impoverished state.

Unemployment is a great challenge many Jamaican families go through. The unemployment rate is around 12.9 percent as of the end of last year. This creates difficulty for children trying to go to school. With no education, there is no social growth within the community. This is another answer to the question “why is Jamaica poor?”

Jamaica’s education system requires most schools to have fees. This creates a barrier for many households because they cannot afford these fees. Limiting children’s education limits their opportunities to reduce poverty in the country, and the cycle continues.

With an 8.29 percent inflation rate and high reliance on imported goods for daily necessities, most of Jamaica is scraping its way through survival. And so, why is Jamaica poor? Jamaica’s public debt, unemployment and crime rates have weakened the economy over the years. While Jamaica has many in poverty now, it does not mean it is its fate. With organizations working to reduce poverty around the world and Jamaica’s significant improvement, the country has a developing future.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Over the years, diseases in Jamaica have been exposed as well as evolved. These diseases have been tracked and analyzed and placed in a data chart to keep the residents and travelers informed. A common informer is the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

The information it provides is updated every year, and as of this year, the CDC has provided information on recent common diseases in Jamaica. The list it has provided includes hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever and the most recent cases of the Zika virus.

Hepatitis A may be caught throughout the country, through contaminated water and food. Hepatitis B through contaminated needles or blood product. While hepatitis A may be cleared in a week or so, hepatitis B is highly infectious.
Typhoid can also be caused by contaminated water and food in Jamaica. The disease is transmitted orally, when someone with poor body hygiene may infect the food and water being served.

Yellow fever is a virus spread when bitten by an Aedes mosquito but cannot be spread from person to person. Symptoms may disappear after a week, but there may be cases in which symptoms go into the toxic third phase.

The Zika virus is a hazard in Jamaica and is the first thing presented in the health information section of the CDC website. The Zika virus is a disease in Jamaica that is also spread by mosquitoes. When people are bitten by these mosquitoes, they are infected and other people may be infected by human contact.

The risk is most dangerous in pregnant women and women who are trying to get pregnant. The infection in these women may cause birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control strongly recommends pregnant women not to travel, being extra cautious if they do, and using condoms during intercourse.

These common diseases in Jamaica are being analyzed as cases come in. The information brought forth will make travelers and residents more safe and aware.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr


Jamaica attracts people from all over the globe. Its beaches and comfortable atmosphere make it a dream destination for everyone from tourists to expatriates to some retirees. Due to how quickly currencies can appreciate and depreciate, calculating exact figures for the cost of living in Jamaica is difficult.

Living Expenses
As of the time of writing, one USD is worth $128.85 Jamaican Dollars (JMD). As an upper middle-income country, the island’s government has made many efforts to invest in and improve the living conditions of its people. One result of this investment is that buying certain foods (excluding milk) locally instead of importing them is the more economically sound option. However, everyday items such as toothpaste are more expensive on the island.

How much one should expect to pay for rent depends on location and size of the space. According to Expatistan, a site dedicated to helping expatriates by providing indexes of the costs of living around the world, renting a furnished 900-square-foot apartment can cost either $104,114 JMD ($814 USD) in an expensive neighborhood or $59,998 JMD ($469 USD) in a more average neighborhood. These prices drop considerably with a reduction in the size of the dwelling.

Living in a furnished 480-square-foot studio apartment goes for about $82,673 JMD ($646 USD) in an expensive neighborhood or $42,091 JMD ($329 USD) in a more average area. Additional utilities and amenities increase these totals, especially considering that Jamaica’s national minimum wage increased last March to $6,200 JMD per 40-hour work week and $8,854 JMD per week for Industrial Security Guards.

Education
Primary school education in Jamaica is mandatory and free, although other schooling materials do add to the cost of living in Jamaica. Each September, a parent can expect to pay anywhere between $300 and $400 USD per child at the elementary-school level for books, uniforms and mandatory auxiliary fees. These fees allow schools to continue operating and making improvements. A child can be turned away if these charges are left unpaid.

Retirement
If one is looking to retire in Jamaica, there are many factors to consider. These factors include housing, food, utilities, transportation and healthcare. Some services and appliances such as washers, dryers and dishwashers are uncommon due to import costs and there is not enough power to run them. In that same vein, a backup generator is a recommended investment.

Public transportation in Jamaica is not known to be the most punctual or comfortable. To get around this, having a car of one’s own is also recommended.

As for healthcare, the island’s clinics and hospitals provide their services for free, but they are also frequently described as unreliable. Kingston and Montego Bay are home to the best facilities on the island, so living there and taking out a proper health insurance policy covers quite a few bases.

Overall, Investopedia concluded that, given the cost of living in Jamaica, one could retire comfortably with a savings of $200,000 USD (approximately $25,668,730 JMD).

For those living on the island, the cost of life in Jamaica seems to be somewhat of a struggle to maintain, especially if many obligations need attention (such as children). However, that is not to say it is impossible. Perhaps if the minimum wage increases again like it did last year it will be easier for people to meet their needs.

Jada Haynes

Photo: Flickr


Jamaica is an island country situated in the Caribbean Sea, consisting of the third-largest island of the Greater Antilles and housing a population of 937,700 people. It is the third most populous Anglophone country in the Americas and the fourth most populous country in the Caribbean.

Jamaica is a small developing country that is seeking to promote human rights, safeguard the rule of law and protect refugees facing persecution. Here are 10 quick facts about Jamaican refugees:

  1. Jamaica has a comprehensive refugee policy that addresses many factors for refugees.
  2. An asylum seeker has to be classified as a political refugee in order to qualify for refugee status in Jamaica.
  3. In 2015, a report released by the United Nations (U.N.) Refugee Agency showed that Jamaicans made 836 applications for asylum.
  4. Jamaicans are seeking asylum in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.
  5. Jamaicans are the top asylum seekers in the Caribbean.
  6. There is no proper identity registration currently in place for Jamaican refugees.
  7. Lack of documentation of Jamaican refugees makes it hard for these refugees to have social and economic rights.
  8. Employers are not aware that Jamaican refugees do not need work permits to work in the country, which creates unnecessary unemployment.
  9. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has recommended that asylum-seekers and refugees should be provided with recognized identification cards.
  10. Currently, there are only 12 refugees from other countries in Jamaica.

Most Jamaican refugees are educated at the tertiary level in Jamaica, but have sought asylum for both economic and social opportunities. The loss of the country’s skill base of working professionals has had a tremendously negative impact on the productivity and education in the country, which are important factors that drive the Jamaican economy.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Adopt a Beach
The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) are mobilizing community-based organizations, clubs and companies to adopt beaches and conduct local beach cleanups in Jamaica.

The Adopt a Beach Program will provide tools for conducting efficient beach cleanups. By promoting clean beaches, it aims to build communities and secure jobs in the tourism sector during the upcoming 2017 fiscal year.

According to Anthony McKenzie, director of NEPA’s Environmental Management and Conservation Division, NEPA and UDC will distribute volunteers across a strip of coastline for the program’s pilot phase.

Jamaica relies on tourism for sustained economic growth and employment, so it is imperative that its beaches be maintained. Tourism employs approximately 200,000 of Jamaica’s 2.8 million people, about 7 percent of the population.

With support from the European Development Fund, new projects have been developed to improve disposal systems in two Jamaican tourist resort towns. These projects will emulate the Adopt a Beach Program, promoting proper waste management and environmentally safe practices.

The management of solid wastes in Jamaica presents serious concerns pertaining to the environment, public health, society and accountability. Many urban households lack the necessary sanitation tools to ensure proper waste disposal, putting groundwater, rivers and marine life at risk. There is also concern over the development of water-borne diseases.

Beaches are often polluted by private waste disposal contractors, but individuals also contribute to the damage. People are being advised to limit disposal of plastic waste in proximity to beaches. The “Trash Free Waters” initiative sponsored by NEPA aims to reduce the use of plastic blags, some of the biggest contributors to waste.

NEPA public relations officer Deleen Powell advised Jamaicans to find alternatives to using plastic bags. According to Powell, several supermarkets and pharmacies are promoting the use of reusable bags.

The Adopt a Beach Program will help reduce marine litter across Jamaica’s coastline and secure tourist investment and job production.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in JamaicaHunger in Jamaica has improved tremendously among primary and early childhood students with the various programs and strategies implemented by The Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) and the School Feeding Program (SFP).

The Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) enabled by the Government of Jamaica (GOF) continues to play an integral role in providing free lunches for primary school students with the aim of improving the nutrition of vulnerable children and eradicating hunger in Jamaica with Early Childhood students being the target group.

The Hon. Rev Ronald Thwaites in his presentation of the 2015-2016 sectoral debate revealed the aim of the Ministry of Education to expand the breakfast programs in schools initiated to provide free breakfast for 138,000 students inclusive of PATH beneficiaries.

The Ministry assigned J$2.2 billion towards this program. The SFP in partnership with the Nutrition Products Limited (NPL) breakfast solutions ensures that all meals are made from local agricultural products.

Board Chairman of Nutrition Products Limited James E.D. Rawle gave a synopsis of the various products offered in the NPL Annual Report, “Segments of the Early Childhood Cohort, inclusive of hot solution (porridge), sandwiches, muffins, breads/cakes and an improved juice drink, made utilizing locally produced fruit puree”.

The NPL has provided breakfast solutions to 12,000 designated children located in Kingston & St Andrew, St Thomas, St Catherine and Clarendon each day. This initiative has helped to reduce hunger in Jamaica among students in Primary level institutions.

The SFP provides additional Nutribun snacks for these students in line with the strategy Ministry of Education to spend approximately 20 percent of the school feeding budget of J$4.6 billion on locally grown produces. The Ministry intends to achieve 50 percent in three years.

The Hon. Rev Ronald Thwaites revealed that 40 percent of children lack of proper nutrition and another 30 percent experience hunger on a daily basis.

“Providing nutrition in schools is adding value to the lives of our young children and the brightening of their prospects,” said Thwaites. This step towards improving the nutrition of Early Childhood students via proper victuals is a resourceful means by the GOF to improve hunger In Jamaica.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr