Christmas came early for the children of 25 Jamaican Household Workers in need, who have benefitted from a donation of 25 tablets valued at over J$850,000 from the GraceKennedy (GK) Group. The handover of the digital devices took place at the GK Headquarters on Harbour Street in Kingston yesterday and were received by a small group from the Jamaica Household Workers Union (JHWU). The 10-inch tablets include SD and SIM card slots and will provide much needed support for the children’s online schooling.
Commenting on the initiative, GK Group CEO, Don Wehby explained, “We recognised that many Household Workers are currently unemployed or underemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been struggling to meet the needs of their children who have suddenly had to make the switch to online learning. We hope that the donation of these devices will help to make 2021 a little easier for these families. GraceKennedy has a longstanding commitment to supporting education, and this year that has translated into equipping students with devices for virtual classes. 2020 has really highlighted how important it is that we take the steps necessary to bridge the technological divide in Jamaica, and this donation is another step towards that.”
Since 2014 GraceKennedy has been publicly recognizing Jamaican household workers and the significant contribution they make to society at the annual GraceKennedy-Heather Little-White Household Worker of the Year Awards. The Awards were conceptualised to pay homage to notable nutritionist, healthy lifestyle and household workers’ advocate Dr Heather Little-White, who passed away in 2013.
“Typically, at this time of year, we would be gathering to celebrate our Household Workers at our annual awards; however, in light of restrictions on public gatherings and health risks associated with COVID-19 we decided to cancel the 2020 staging of the event, in the best interest of the health and well-being of all involved. Although we were very disappointed that the awards could not be held this year, we are pleased to be able to offer this kind of support for our Household Workers when it is needed most,” said Wehby.
President and Founder of the Jamaica Household Workers Union, Shirley Pryce was on hand at the GK Headquarters yesterday to receive the devices on behalf of the members. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been really harsh for domestic workers […] many were sent home in March and some are still not working, even now. Their children have online schooling and they are struggling to get the necessary devices to go online. Earlier this year we sent out a call for tablets, laptops, phones – new or used – for our members in need, and we are so happy that GK came through for us. Grace is here for us all the time, Grace cares. We truly appreciate the support, and we invite others to come on board in the same way,” said Pryce.
Moreen Smith, Natalie Johnson and Suzanne Richards, domestic workers and members of the JHWU were also on hand at yesterday’s handover to receive devices on behalf of their children and the other recipients. Johnson who has six children in school commented, “COVID-19 has been rough […] there are only two phones in the house, mine and my husband’s and the have to be sharing them to get their work done. […] Thanks for the tablets, thanks to Grace, it’s a wonderful thing you are doing.”
The JHWU was founded in the early 1990s as an independent association and works towards ensuring fair and just working conditions and wages for household workers, the protection of the rights of women who provide domestic service. The union also provides skills training for its members.
Suzanne Stanley, Head of Corporate Communications, who represented GK at the handover said to those present, “Thank you for all of the hard work you do. We know it is not easy and this has been a challenge for everyone. We are glad to be able help out, and hope this will make the new school year a bit easier for you and your children.”