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Sunday November 18, 2007 CARIBBEAN CHURCH NEWS
 
Prize $$ used to aid
Kingston dump dwellers
 

Quite a few things have happened since Trinidad-born humanitarian Father Gregory Ramkissoon won the Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence (ANSCAFE) prize for Public and Civic Contribution.

With his prize money of TT $500,000 the priest developed a groundbreaking project. “We have started the Ministry called ‘Christ in the garbage’.”

Fr Ramkissoon won the ANSCAFE prize in its inaugural year, 2006, along with Arts and Letters Laureate Robert Yao Ramesar, of Trinidad & Tobago, and Science and Technology Laureate medical researcher Professor Terrence Forrester, of Jamaica.

The prize was conceived as a way to reward and motivate those working to the benefit of the region. Originally a biennial award, it will be given annually from January 2008 when the next set of laureates will be announced. They will receive their prizes in a gala ceremony in Trinidad & Tobago in April.

Fr Gregory Ramkissoon
Fr Gregory Ramkissoon

Although born in Trinidad, Fr Gregory Ramkissoon has lived in Jamaica for most of his life and heads the Mustard Seed Community there. With the ANSCAFE prize money the programme has been expanded to assist families and individuals living in the rubbish dumps of Kingston, Jamaica, by providing training, clothing and food so they can become more self-sufficient and “pull themselves out of the garbage.”

He has also been working assiduously on developing a MOU with the University of the West Indies to have a diagnostic centre for assisting children with psychiatric problems; he travels often to help raise funds in the UK, Canada and the USA, where the seven initial chapters he developed years ago have increased to 16 through collaborations with various schools and missionaries.

r Ramkissoon developed the Mustard Seed Community in 1978, when as a lecturer in Geography at UWI, Jamaicahe began a ministry in a low-income community situated at the gates of the University Hospital and saw the many socio-economic needs of the community. Among the needs he identified was a care centre for children with disabilities.

Through volunteer efforts and donations he built a wooden building, the beginning of the Mustard Seed Community. Now headquartered in an inner-city community, Fr Ramkissoon lives and works at the Mustard Seed office location. From this location, the Mustard Seed Community serves those around it with day care, educational facilities and home feeding programmes for the poor and elderly.

ANSCAFE nominees are chosen by committees from Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, the OECS and Trinidad & Tobago. A Regional Eminent Persons Selection Panel, chaired by former Trinidad & Tobago President Sir Ellis Clarke, vets the nominations and names the laureates.

“The prize represents a recognition of excellence in our people and an incentive that we hope spurs them on to greater achievement. That's the key; this is not a lifetime achievement award.  This is what makes our award unique,” said Maria Superville-Neilson, ANSCAFE Programme Director.

Laureate Fr Gregory Ramkissoon’s dedication is apparent. He recently answered a question about managing his hectic schedule with “I sleep standing up.” Through it all his optimism is infectious, like his laughter; and through daily meditation and obviously a great deal of faith as well as creativity, Fr Gregory Ramkissoon continues to illuminate the lives of others.

About the ANSCAFE

The ANSCAFE is the primary project of the ANSA McAL Foundation. The Foundation merged the ANSA Foundation, formed in 1986 to assist charitable causes, and the McAL Foundation, formed with similar aims in 1981. The merger was effected on November 17, 1993.

Among its achievements, the Foundation has built the ANSA McAL Psychological Research Centre at UWI, St Augustine, and the ANSA McAL wing of the Diagnostic, Research, Education Centre for the Hearing Impaired (DRETCHI) for the Trinidad & Tobago Association for the Deaf. The Foundation is chaired by Dr Anthony N Sabga.

From 1991 to 2003 the Foundation received one per cent of the profits of the ANSA McAL Group. By investing this endowment, the Foundation is now self-financing, independent and able to undertake in perpetuity the significant commitment of the ANSCAFE programme.

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