DR. ARUN KASHYAP: MUSTARD SEED COMMUNITIESNov 21, 2014
· The Most Reverend Hon. Charles Dufour, Arch Bishop of Kingston and Chairman of the Board of Mustard Seed Communities;
· Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon – the inspiration, founder and guardian of the Mustard Seed Communities;
· Other members of the Board, Representatives of the Mustard Seed Communities; and
· Distinguished ladies and Gentlemen
· A very good evening to all of you!
I am very privileged to be here to welcome you to this wonderful exhibition of Ceramics and Paintings organized by Mustard Seed Communities. And, I am deeply honoured to be the guest speaker at this august occasion. Please let me elucidate; an association with this esteemed international charitable organization – in fact, the largest non-governmental organization in the Caribbean and Central America - is by itself a soulful joy; and it reached a crescendo when asked to share my thoughts with all of you. It is evidenced by the fact that I accepted the invitation enthusiastically and without even checking the date of the event. Unfortunately, when I found out the date coincided with my mission to Singapore and that is where I am at this time. I sincerely regret not being with all of you in person at the event today. And, I had been looking forward to it. I am grateful to my colleague, Elsie Chounoune, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP who agreed to share my thoughts with you. Elsie and I had undertaken our first visit to Jerusalem Children’s Home, Spanish Town - a Mustard Seed Community together.
Mustard Seed Communities is a faith based organization - the inspiration of Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon, a Roman Catholic Priest who established it in 1978 as a manifestation of his commitment to totally dedicate his life to the love and service of God and community. This is the first time I have been requested to be a speaker by a faith-based organization and, you may have guessed from my name – I am not a catholic. My presence here reflects the ingenuousness of the mission undertaken by the Mustard Seed Communities and it unreservedly demonstrates the universality of their vision, message and efforts. They have successfully and lovingly provided hope to the abandoned and disabled children living in desperation. As you would have also surmised, the term children speaks to all - children and adolescents, and adults who need the caring, healing and prayers for their looking after, growth, acceptance and inclusion. Even though such a message signifies the core of all faiths and prayers, it is only a selected few – like the Mustard Seed Communities and its Board - act to honor it by transforming the message as their lifelong mission. Additionally they gently harness their actions to kindle the spark in us to join them in this noble and dedicated community enterprise, and work together to translate the common vision of an inclusive community into a reality. A community that comes together to creating hopeful opportunities for all and empowering them to build a better quality of life for themselves, their children and their neighbors lays down the first step to transform the world for the better.
As Lao Tzu – one of my favorite poet and philosopher has said “To see things in the seed that is genius.” Ladies and Gentlemen, I am in no doubt that I speak on all our behalf, when I voice that Mustard Seed Communities epitomize and manifest these wise adages. (As an aside and as a full disclosure in line with the United Nations work ethic, my wife is a Catholic. It is a redeeming feature for me not to mention my catholic tasteJ).
In the thirty six years since the establishment of Mustard Seed Communities in 1978, it has focused and committed itself to several programmatic themes that aim to provide highest care to the most vulnerable and the marginalized population and that have significant parallels with the work of the United Nations in Jamaica.
For instance, Mustard Seed Communities offer residential care to children challenged with Mental and Physical Disabilities Programme at its seven homes on the island. It also “Dares to Care” for children living with HIV AIDS who have either been abandoned or orphaned as a result of the disease or represent pregnant teens in crisis.
When you visit the Mustard Seed Communities – please pay a visit if you have not already done so – you will have the pleasure to spend time with “Little Angels” who are benefiting from early Childhood Education and Special Education classes at its Little Angels Learning Centres. Recognizing the vital role of education in improving the quality of life of the disadvantaged children, Mustard Seed Communities is targeting the expansion of special needs education.
Recognizing that dedicated caregivers are integral to the achievement of its mission and the success of its work, Mustard Seed Communities develop Institutional Capacity through in-house and distance learning skills building for staff and offer certifications to caregivers.
I believe you would also be familiar with Mustard Seeds Communities’ radio station, ROOTS 96.1 FM in Kingston, which is currently also the largest urban community radio station in the Caribbean and Central America. It plays an essential role in sharing and advocating on the activities, achievements and mission of the Mustard Seed Communities.
Ladies and Gentlemen, all these captivating endeavors require resources – both human and financial to deliver the indispensable services, and ensuring their improvement and sustainability. With its dedicated creativity and a diversified earnings’ strategy, Mustard Seed communities seek to generate income through growing vegetables, fish farming, egg and chicken farming, bakery, bee keeping, livestock rearing (sheep, goats, pigs and cows), pottery making, and creating greeting cards from local banana leaves.
A question you could ask would be as to how the United Nations in Jamaica is planning to partner and support the commendable work of Mustard Seed Communities if we have an overlap with many of its activities? Our initial exploration has started and the Small Grants Programme of Global Environment Facility led by UNDP is working with the Mustard Seed Communities in Jacob’s ladder to enhance and sustain water supply for the inhabitants by (i) developing rain harvesting facilities; and (ii) by improving management of water imported from other areas to supplement existing catchments. Jacob’s ladder houses over 80 young adults living with mental and physical challenges and the project aims to provide these young adults with a home that has adequate water supply and enable them to live out their lives in a safe and nurturing environment.
While underscoring my personal commitment to contribute to advancing the mission of Mustard Seed Communities, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming to toady’s exhibition of Ceramics by Potter Patrick Hall of Mustard Seed Communities and Paintings by guest artist P J Stewart.
Patrick has over twenty years’ experience working with the medium of clay and his work you will notice is guided by Jamaica’s most famous potter, Cecil Baugh. He has been awarded silver in twelve JCDC competitions. I have had the pleasure of watching him work and creating pieces that are sought after – and support this charitable organization.
A celebrated and a prolific fine art painter and theatrical set designer living and working in Jamaica, P J Stewart brings mysterious intimacy of the subjects that are drawn from here own personal experiences. Whether it is her atmospheric figurative work and portraiture or beautiful floral studies, she celebrates Jamaican culture with a pageant of colour.
The great Henry David Thoreau – my other favorite philosopher wrote that "the smallest seed of fruit is better than largest fruit of happiness". The work of Mustard Seed will continue to bear much fruit in the lives of the children including those in the Caribbean far into the future. It is a special gift that we can enjoy some "fruits of happiness" today, too, as we feed our spirits with beautiful pottery of Patrick Hall and artwork of PJ Stewart.
Our deepest gratitude to Mustard Seed Communities for all they do. And our heartfelt congratulations to the creative artists for sharing their personal values and therapy for the mind and contributing towards sustainability of this unique charitable organization. Thank you to all for joining us this evening. And, I look forward to being with you again soon.