5 Online Resources to Help Chemistry Students ace This Year’s C-SEC Exams

The Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (C-SEC) Exam season has started.

It’s a season that many students along with teachers and parents approach with some trepidation, some optimism, and others with much skepticism. Especially when it has to do with Mathematics and hardcore science subjects such as Physics and Chemistry.

And one can hardly blame them. Over the last decade or certainly in the last three years, Math and Science CSEC pass rates from year to year have shown little improvement. Exam results show a consistent decline in student performance in these subject areas.

Look at these stats.

For the purpose of this post, I’ve lifted these quotes about performance in the Science subjects from the 2016 report posted by the Caribbean Examinations Council, the examining body that sets C-SEC exams for Caribbean students. On their website,www.cxc.org, the examination body reported “a mixed performance in the science subjects this year” with results recorded as follows:

Chemistry saw a three per-cent decline in performance this year when compared with 2015 with 56 per cent achieving acceptable grades this year compared with 59 percent in 2015.

There was a seven-point decline in performance on Integrated Science this year when compared with that of 2015, sixty-four per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 71 per cent in 2015.

Physics and Human and Social Biology improved marginally, the exam body reported.

It noted, “Performance on Physics improved marginally with 63 per cent of entries achieving Grades I-III this year compared with 61 per cent in 2015,” and  an “eight-percentage-point improvement in performance on Human and Social Biology this year, 53 per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades compared with 45 per cent in 2015.”Though a specialist area, Agriculture Science students performed best overall in this area of science,  with CXC.org reporting as follows:

“Both Agricultural Science Double Award and Agricultural Science Single Award recorded very good performance this year with slight improvement in the Single Award and slight decline in the Double Award. Ninety-two per cent of entries for Agricultural Science (Double Award) achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 94 per cent in 2015. Eighty-nine per cent of entries for Agricultural Science (Single Award) achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 87 per cent in 2015.”

Following the release of the results each year, the media has put a spotlight on the issue. The ensuing discussions have brought some insight into the reasons why the majority of Jamaican candidates are failing the Science subjects. C-SEC students have complained that the questions are challenging while some STEM educators here believe this is because students here are not making the necessary connections with real life and chemistry. One Ministry of Education STEM consultant who shared her views

One Ministry of Education STEM consultant who shared her views on a TVJ produced panel discussion, convened in 2015 to discuss the concerns over the declining pass rates in Math and Science, believes that the root of the student’s difficulty in addressing these ‘application’ level questions on exams stems from poor classroom preparation.hat same discussion, Math and Science teachers were challenged to integrate more high-level thinking and deeper learning strategies in their classrooms.

Out of that same discussion, Math and Science teachers were challenged to integrate more high-level thinking and deeper learning strategies in their classrooms.

Of course,  these are strategies that will benefit students right across the national curriculum, but Science and Math subject requires a stronger push at this time if we are to see an uptick in the C-SEC Math and Science pass rates. The Ministry of Education has also launched campaigns like the observance of National Mathematics Week and a

The Ministry of Education has also launched campaigns like the observance of National Mathematics Week and a Math Counts Expo to help primary school children engage in the subject.

To address the inherent fear for Math among citizens said to be the Ministry also embarked on television advertising to encourage Jamaicans to embrace Mathematics instead of fearing it. An emphasis on STEM in the school system and an e-Learning portal where students can freely access learning resources for Science and other subjects form part of the government’s plan to turn around the attitudes of Jamaican students and their parents to the Sciences.

One may argue that in this age of information and the world wide web, finding resources should never have been an issue for any student or teacher seeking supplemental material to expand on topics.

As a parent and teacher, I have found that there are enough free resources online to draw on, but it appears that many of us, especially our students, are not doing the needed research or maybe do not know where to start looking. Hence, the purpose of this post is to show you a few resources that will help prepare your child or student, if you’re an educator, tackle the C-SEC Chemistry curriculum. If your child is in lower school, these resources will also give them a head start in their Science studies.

The resources I’ve listed here are engaging and will help the Chemistry student learn the concepts faster as well as help them make those important real world connections. This is not a complete list, but you’ll find some interesting content to get your student or child interested. Here they are.

1. Science 360

Web page: (http://science360.gov/topic/Chemistry)

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Science360 is an up-to-date view of breaking science from around the world. The Science360 Video Library is a curation of the latest science videos which immerses visitors in the latest wonders of science, engineering, technology and math. The videos are provided by scientists, colleges and universities, science and engineering centers, the National Science Foundation and more. According to the site developers, Science360’s mission is to engage the general public, science junkies and students alike in the cutting-edge discoveries and big science stories of the day.

2. Ted-Ed video lessons

Web page: (http://ed.ted.com/periodic-videos)

Kids wishing to learn the entire periodic table can view a full TED-ed Lesson on each and every element in the Periodic table created by the team at Periodic Videos. Choose an element from the table found here: lessons allow kids to watch a video hosted by scientists on the element. Videos include demonstrations and explanations of the element. Students and teachers can Watch the video. For a short quiz on what was learned, click on THINK. To learn more, use DIG Deeper to find additional resources that will help your child/student see how the science is applicable in the universe. Join open and guided discussions through the Discuss button. All the videos are created by video journalist Brady Haran, featuring real working chemists from the University of Nottingham.

3. Nature Chemistry

Web Page: nature.com

Nature Chemistry is an open access monthly journal dedicated to publishing high-quality papers that describe the most significant and cutting-edge research in all areas of chemistry. Select from any of the free open access articles and blogs available on nature chemistry to tap into a comprehensive and rounded perspective of “applied” chemistry that will enable the deeper thinking required by the CXC Chemistry curriculum.

Follow the site’s Sceptical Chymist blog (http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/) and in particular the Your Element Round Up post found at http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/2012/09/in-your-element-round-up.html for a round-up of essays done on elements in the periodic table. To access the series of essays, click on each non-faded element tile and it will links out to the essay about that element in the journal. These are currently free to access, the website informs.

Nature Chemistry also publishes review articles, news and views, research highlights about important work reported in other journals, commentaries, book reviews, correspondence, and analysis of the broader chemical picture beyond the laboratory — including issues such as education, funding, policy, intellectual property, and the impact chemistry has on society. In this way, the journal aims to be the voice of the worldwide chemical community. Use this subject index to find what you are looking for.

4. Khan Academy

Web Page: (https://www.khanacademy.org/science/chemistry)

Khan Academy is among a growing number of sites called open education resource sites which offer learning resources to the public free of cost. Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study a range of subjects at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. “We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We’ve also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content,” the website declares on their About page. The site owners tout the site as a global classroom, noting that resources are available in more than 36 languages in addition to the Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese versions of the site.

5. Slow Motion Science films

Free! Slow Motion Science videos deliver as advertised: explosive methane bubbles, water rockets, Coke+Mentos bombs, and microwaved CDs– all in super-slow motion. The videos are a labour of love from the U.K.-based creator, Sam Hankin who recorded science experiments, a total of 30GB worth of video footage, in high resolution at 400 frames per second to 3000 frames per second. The videos were then compressed into a web-friendly format for our viewing pleasure. Physics and chemistry teachers will find among the collection, great lecture supplements and topics for inquiry-based learning. For students, the videos will be a treasure trove that you can use to demystify those abstract chemistry concepts.

So, there you have it. Five links to Chemistry resources which will help lift your child/students Knowledge, comprehension and application profiles in the next Chemistry examination.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so feel free to share any additional resource that you’ve come across and that you could recommend.

Wish you every success in your upcoming exams.

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News Update: New Principal for Cumberland High following Recent Disciplinary Breakdown

photo-of-broken-rear-mirror-on-Brydson's-car-allegedly-broken-by-student

Car belonging to Cumberland Principal, Michael Brydson showing mirror broken allegedly by a female student who was reportedly involved in a dispute with the Principal on the school compound last week Friday

News Update on Cumberland High.  Friday, April 28, 2017

A new principal is to be appointed for Cumberland High come September 2017. According to Minister of Education Ruel Reid, the contract for acting principal, Michael Brydson ended last month and apparently will not be renewed. A breakdown of discipline and an altercation between a female student and Mr Brydson brought about the Ministry’s intervention.

Last week, the Ministry of Education reacted to cries from staff and school leaders for improves safety and security for teachers and students at the Cumberland High School. The intervention by the Minister rose out of a dispute at the school which put the school under intense media glare for the greater part of last week. On Thursday, it was announced that two security measures were to be implemented to return order to the St Catherine-based school campus.

This report was filed last Friday.

As a result of several high-level meetings that took place this week between the Minister of Education, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, school administrators and stakeholders, work will start immediately to erect a long-awaited perimeter fence around the school while an assistant Dean of Discipline will be deployed at the school to boost security and safety, reports released by JIS and RJR News confirmed on Thursday.

The corrective actions come after the Ministry and school came under week-long media scrutiny for what has been described as “a break-down of order” at the school after a dispute involving acting principal of the school, Michael Brydson and a female student of that institution last Friday, April 7, 2017.

Here is a timeline of the incidents leading up to the recent announcements.

photo-of-michael-brydson

Michael Brydson, Acting Principal of Cumberland High School, St Catherine Photo Credit: RJRNews Online

According to media reports, last Friday a female student used a stone to break the windscreen of the car belonging to Acting Principal, Michael Brydson after he reportedly chided her for using  expletives in his presence.

The girl later told reporters that the administrator had hit her with an implement he had in hand at the time which conflicting reports described as a stick; another report said it was a rule. Her mother has subsequently claimed that her child was abused.

On Monday, April 10, teachers at the school then reportedly staged a sit in to protest attacks on staff,  RJR reported.

The Gleaner reported on Tuesday that classes were disrupted for the second day at the school. Representatives from the Ministry of Education led by Director for Safety and Security in Schools at the Ministry, Sergeant Coleridge Minto visited the school and had a meeting with the restive teachers on the same day.

On Wednesday, Mr Brydson spoke to the media denying an allegation he said was circulating that he had physically assaulted the teen.

RJR News attributed these comments to the Cumberland High Principal who was speaking in an interview with the media house:

“That is very unfortunate that an incident like that happened…and just to clarify that that beating, and ‘boxing’ and stepping in the girl’s back – that never took place and would never happen under my watch,” he asserted.

“Pressed as to whether he did beat the student with the stick, the principal responded: “The child was reprimanded and she got upset over it, ” RJR News Online reported.

teachers-at-Cumberland-High-protest-indiscipline

Classes were disrupted for two days at Cumberland High. Here, restive teachers at Cumberland High stage a sit-in protest.

Ministry Moves to Correct Security Complaints

Following the much-publicised incident in the media, Minister of Education, Mr Ruel intervened and summoned the acting principal along with the school board to a meeting. Minister Reid told Cliff Hughes of Nationwide News that discipline and order had broken down at the school and the Ministry would be taking steps to correct this. It was also disclosed that the school has been without a Principal since the passing of former principal Ms Dahlia Black in 2015. Mr. Brydson has been acting in the position since then. The journalist questioned why the school which has been deemed a failing school since 2012 had not warranted action on the part of the ministry and school officer prior to this.

Following the week’s spotlight, other problems facing the school have come to the fore. One issue, the lack of a perimeter fence has long created security and truancy issues for the school, Mr. Brydson told the radio station.

News that this perimeter fencing would be immediately addressed by the Ministry of Education was relayed by Mr Brydson who expressed pleasure at the development.

“Mr. Brydson states that this is being corrected,” an RJR article reported, quoting the acting principal as saying this:

“The ministry is working on the fencing as we speak because the last time we had an incident like this, we were promised some advancement in the work and so far we have done some measuring and I am expecting some work to start through this new budget,” he outlined on RJR’s Beyond The Headlines on Wednesday.

He said this would prevent students from going over the fence “as easily as they now do” and also prevent outsiders from invading the school property.”

The report was corroborated by a JIS report released on Thursday which also stated that the school would also be getting an assistant Dean of Discipline.

For the full report, follow this link.

A November  2016 report also carried by the JIS documents the long-standing  security issues faced by the school.

According to that report, the issue had been first brought to the Ministry of Education late last year after “students at the school were recently attacked by outsiders who gained access to the compound.”

In an interview with media personnel following a meeting at the school on November 14, Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid reportedly told the media that the institution would be provided with funding to acquire additional private security personnel.

The Ministry of Education had also “committed to putting in place several medium- to long-term security management strategies at Cumberland High School in Portmore, to mitigate the possibility of any further breaches,” the JIS produced report noted.

Mr. Reid had also promised that the Ministry would also be supporting the school in procuring and constructing perimeter fencing, which will make students safer as well as reduce the potential for truancy.

The Minister had also noted that the school was granted permission to hire an additional dean of discipline.

This week, the principal said that requests previously made to the Ministry of Education for more special education teachers had not yet been addressed.

Ministry technocrats attending that November 2016 meeting included a range of  school stakeholders, including acting principal Brydson: Deputy Chief Education Officer of School Operations, Dorrett Campbell; Assistant Chief Education Officer of Guidance and Counselling, Fern McFarlane; Director for Region Six, Maxine Headlam,  Board Chairman, Rupert Pryce; Education Officer, Barrington Richards; Member of Parliament for St. Catherine South Eastern, Colin Fagan, and other stakeholders.

The school’s Dean of Discipline, René Level, and Director for Safety and Security in Schools at the Ministry, Sergeant Coleridge Minto, were also in attendance.

Coming out of the 2016 meeting, the minister had reportedly told the media that the school’s leadership had been tasked with putting in place a school-improvement plan and that the Ministry would be “working along with stakeholders to customise the curriculum to meet the needs of the cohort at Cumberland High.”

“We want Cumberland to be a centre of excellence where every student that comes here will excel, but we need to customise our instruction programme to meet the students where they are and take them to the level we want them to go,” Minister Reid had pronounced at that time.

But apparently, this is still in the pipeline. In his interview with Nationwide on Wednesday last, the Minister tendered a similar discourse. He stated that the school’s continued failings were tied to the school being established as a feeder for students with low scores in GSAT Examinations in the region.

He said that he would be taking a personal interest in the school towards resolving its most pressing problems and expediting necessary actions to turn the school around. He also said on air that a new Board would be appointed to replace the current one and that the Ministry would look into restoring leadership to the troubled institution.

Subsequent reports have not provided any further update on the promised new board appointments.

Investigations continue into the assault claims tendered by the student and parent against the school principal.

Up to press time, no updates had been issued on the outcome of these investigations which are being conducted by the Ministry of Education and the Children Services Department.

 

 

Portmore Basic School Gets Generous Cheque from JCAA to Support School’s Certification Goals – Portmore Citizens News

 

Principal-Marlin Avenue Basic School - accepts - representational - cheque - from - JCAA's Rohan Campbell

Principal of the Marlin Avenue Basic School in Portmore, St. Catherine, Margaret Campbell, accepts a representational cheque for $809,309.31 from the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority’s Deputy Director General, Regulatory Affairs, Rohan Campbell. The presentation was made at the school on Monday, April 3. The cheque will be used to assist the school in achieving full certification under the Early Childhood Commission 12 Operating Standards for Early Childhood Institutions. Photo credit: Contributed Photo/JIS

 

On Monday, the Marlin Avenue Basic School in Portmore, St. Catherine received over $800,000 in financial aid from the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA). The gift will boost the school’s efforts to achieve full certification under the Early Childhood Commission’s (ECC) 12 Operating standards for Early Childhood Institutions (ECI).

According to a release from the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), on Monday, April 3, Deputy Director General of Regulatory Affairs at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), Rohan Campbell, presented the cheque valued at $809,309.31 to the principal of the School, Margaret Campbell, to assist in the certification process.

“We saw it as a great opportunity to assist. As an organisation that values Jamaica’s development, we have always had a great interest in supporting education. We are in the business of regulation and, therefore, appreciate the need for standards in early-childhood development,” Mr Campbell said.

The elated principal, Mrs. Campbell, was close to tears as she accepted the much-needed donation.

“We were strapped for cash and this injection will assist us to achieve certification. We are so grateful for the help of the Early Childhood Commission team and others who offered their support,” she said.

The funds will be used to improve lighting in the classrooms, establish a playground and repaint playground equipment and the school building.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for St. Catherine South, Fitz Jackson, who contributed the perimeter fencing for the school, added his support for the early-childhood standards.

“It’s a universally accepted fact that preparation of a child at the early-childhood level bears significance at the primary and secondary levels,” he noted.

Marlin Avenue Basic School was opened in 1979 and has 28 students enrolled and five members of staff, including two trained teachers.

The school has, so far, met 72 per cent of the operating standards required for certification by the ECC.

The 12 Standards for the Operation, Management and Administration of Early Childhood Institutions cover the areas of staffing; development and educational programmes; interactions and relationships with children; physical environment; indoor and outdoor equipment; health; nutrition; safety; child rights, child protection and equality; parent and stakeholder participation; administration and finance.

 

 

Why I Almost Lost My Lunch Today

police-tape

I nearly lost my lunch today. Someone in my Facebook news feed decided it was nice to post a photo of a woman’s body chopped into pieces and neatly arranged beside each other on the ground.

Well, let me tell you, it was not amusing. I didn’t lose my lunch after all, although I came close, but I lost my temper, and I left the poster a piece of my mind.

In short, I told her to take it down as it was nauseating and dark and evil and unconscionable.

I’m not the only one revolted by this newfound appetite some people have for death images. The complaints on and off air have been getting louder, with even the Minister of National Security using a Nationwide news interview yesterday to appeal to people to stop sharing fake pictures on social media.

stop-sharing-crime-pics

There are three possible sources of these photos that are circulating chiefly on Facebook and WhatsApp.

  • The killer himself or herself.
  • A police officer on the crime scene
  • A member of the public

 Killer with a Camera?

Let’s say it is the killer. Far-fetched? Not if you watch cop shows or read the studies I shared in this post.

I find it disturbing that someone could stand over a person cut to pieces and calmly take a photo then go and post that on social media. I don’t get that kind of sadism. Am I the only one who has wondered who could be holding that camera?

When civilians are posting photos of bodies they discover and voice notes which indicate they know much more than the police about a murder or can say where a missing girl is found before reporting it to the police, it begs common sense for the police to summon these persons and interrogate them. As long as it doesn’t breach the rights of the person, I can see no harm if the police trace individuals who post such updates, summon them and find out where and when such photos were taken, what time they arrived on the scene and what they saw. This kind of collaboration could help to find any connection with the killer.

Inside the interrogation room, the police should be able to check cameras and phones to see the date and time said photos were taken.

If it can be proven that the image was sent to that person, the police should follow the Fcebook Shares trail until they find that person.

There are other recent activities I noticed on WhatsApp that could warrant some attention from the police as well. Let me say first though that the channel could be a useful tool which citizens are using to identify criminals, but only if it’s being done responsibly.

People are sending around photos of persons they deem “rapists” and abductors” without providing any evidence. This is a dangerous practice. Anyone –someone I offend or someone who has a vendetta against me — could very well decide to tarnish my reputation on social media by posting my photo and things about me that are not true. With the society in an angry mood over the recent spate of murders involving women and young girls, that “suspect” could find himself lynched by an angry mob jungle justice style, no questions asked.

The public should be warned and educated about the dangers of this and using the App to help rather than harm.

Facebook, the owners of WhatsApp should also monitor the spread of fake news which came under the spotlight during the American election campaign, and continues to thrive on WhatsApp spreading conspiracy theories about people. This kind of culture can only serve to incite more violence and contribute to the growing crime problem in Jamaica.

Police Sharing Crime Scenes

My reason for pointing fingers at the police as a possible poster lies in previous media reports about officers being chided by the Police Commissioner for sharing crime scene photos on social media. It’s a practice the American police have had issues with as well.

One such notorious offense occurred in 2006 (before Facebook’s preeminence). As was reported in US media, photos of an 18-year-old woman killed in a car accident went viral after two highway patrolmen shared them via email. The young woman’s family suffered years of torment from morbid pranksters who spread the photos, posted them on a MySpace memorial page and sent emails that either contained the photos or derogatory comments.

The Los Angeles Times reported that four staff members were fired and three disciplined at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif. after photos of a victim with multiple stab wounds showed up on Facebook — despite federal laws and growing zero-tolerance hospital policies.

In the United States, the practice evoked the public’s wrath and calls for such postings by law enforcement officers and hospital emergency workers to be made a felony.

With no law to punish those public servants who choose to join the crime paparazzi here in Jamaica, it’s hard to bring those who practice the act to justice. But the cries from citizens who are sickened by the practice will no doubt get louder.

In the image I saw today, the photo shows no one else at the scene. Now, I don’t know if this could be based on the angle the photo was taken from, but this photograph appeared to be taken from close range. I just hope it didn’t come from one of our law officers.

Civilians on Crime Scenes

It would come as no surprise to learn that this photo was taken by a member of the public who was on the scene.This is a typical, almost cultural scenario in Jamaica.

Recently, someone was shot by gunmen in my area. After about half hour I heard activity and voices outside my gate. When I went outside, I saw that a crowd had gathered in the vicinity where the man had been shot.

Curiosity got the better of me and I went to a nearby shop where some officers were standing. I enquired who had been killed. The lady who turned out to be an officer in plain clothes told me she did not know. People had gathered on the periphery on the street where the man was killed.

I stood there in the crowd for a while and was there for about half an hour before an officer came over and told us to disperse as they were going to cordon off the area with police tape. This to me was a redundant decision taken too late as the area surrounding the scene where people stood would have been contaminated, and any possible clues disposed of by the shooters already trampled on.

Grief Porn

But back to this nauseating photo that nearly made me lose my lunch earlier. All I can say is this shooting and then sharing of homicide scene photos by crime scene paparazzi is a vile practice.

I understand it goes by the name grief porn, which is defined as hyper-attentive, intrusive, and voyeuristic activity engaged in by people when there is a disaster.

The practice did not originate in Jamaica. Most of us would recall the early presentations that we oohed and aahed over when that woman fell into the tiger’s lair at the zoo and was speedily snatched by the animal, never to be seen again, or most recently the famous shooting of that baboon trying to drown a small boy who had fallen into his bathing pool. The one that left me shell-shocked by far though was a stomach turning, horrifying gaslighting video showing a Pakistani lady who supposedly had converted to Christianity that someone thought I’d want to see. I said that left me shell-shocked? How can I get the vision out of my mind of the charred bodies of that family (children included) whose house was allegedly razed by a family member in Spanish Town last year. It was a close up that left me imagining the deceased’s torturous final moments. It left me traumatised and depressed.

So it seems to me we are feeding a morbid and unhealthy fascination with death and suffering in this country. The way I see people falling over themselves to shoot a video or photo of victims at an accident scene while someone bleeds out unassisted is inhumane. It sort of reminds me of same vultures congregating around roadkill and fighting for the first pick at the entrails.

It’s an underbelly of Jamaica that makes me want to gag, and one must be careful not to get caught up in it’s demonic and barbaric tentacles.Having to view it in my newsfeed as I did today leaves me feeling tainted.

Feeding a Killer’s Ego

I can’t help but wonder whether the sharing of photos of these murdered women is not stroking the ego of her killer somewhere and egging him on to go after another defenseless woman or girl. Recently, the police expressed similar sentiments about their reservations in sharing too much crime data. These monsters get their rocks off people’s grief and suffering. As shared in this post What We Must Start to Stop Jamaican Femicide (See Census Idea) , the psychodynamic elements of the perpetrators of these mutilations must become a subject for analysis as one of the priorities of the security minister as he prepares to release another raft of crime measures.

Do you really want to be used by this blood-sucking villain?  

Ready for Your own Body Shots?

Every time we create and share fake death photos of girls gone missing, reduce human bodies to roadkill, collect crime scenes and accident scenes as though we are collecting tokens, we become a little more inhumane; we traumatise our souls and our psyche; we breed fear and paranoia in the population; we make it more difficult for people in real danger to get help and for the police to solve cases. Finally, collectively we break down the last vestiges of civil society.

Soon it won’t be the chickens but the John crows who will come home to roost. And the worst part is that we may be the twitching mutilated roadkill on pieces of plastic paper whose remains these paparazzi will plaster all over the internet. Is that the last memory you’d want your loved ones to be left with? Is it your job to help further the grief of these people who did you nor the killer any wrong?

Would you want to see your body parts framed on some sick person’s wall? Because that’s kind of what we are doing here, only that the frame on our wall is our social media screens. 

One last thing . . .

The Minister of Security has to do more than appeal to people to stop this horrible business of posting homicide crime scene photos and fake photos on social media.

I believe that the force of law and a zero tolerance policy for public servants who are guilty of this must be implemented, and it must have sharp teeth.

I understand that Facebook is quite cooperative and willing to work with law enforcement officers to get these photos down so I would recommend that the Police Commissioner initiate that request to Facebook.

The use of cameras by people at crime scenes should also be banned, even if it means that the police obtain technology to jam any phones in the area of the crime scene until the body has been removed and the crime scene processed.

Anyone who is seen on a crime scene when the police arrive should be arrested.

Sounds harsh? Order must be returned to our communities. It will help the police solve more murders and help us live longer. And I will be happy not to lose my lunch when I check my newsfeed in the near future because of shock and disgust.

Your Turn

What do you think would help stop this crime scene paparazzi behaviour and sharing of such scenes on Facebook and WhatsApp? Do you agree with my recommendations?

 

What We Must Start In Order to Stop Jamaican Femicide (See Census Idea)

o-violence-against-women-facebookToday, an anti-violence campaign requesting  Jamaican women and all citizens to wear black clothing for a public show of solidarity and protest against recent murders committed against women and girls in the island gathered some support in pockets across the island.

People on social media have also been putting antiviolence message filters around their profiles and posting Stop Violence Against Women memes. A street protest was also planned. 

Let me say, I wholeheartedly endorse and support any stand taken to increase awareness about violence against women and girls that seems to have grown in momentum since December, moving from domestic to something more sinister and serial in appearance and odour.

img-20170206-wa0000

As I pause to grieve over the latest image of a partly nude female body with bloody puncture wounds all over her chest and upper torso, it leaves me frustrated that these murders are happening everywhere across the island now, have been happening repeatedly in seasons, but only few are being solved by the police. As a woman’s body is found, the news elicits loud public outcry and then goes deafeningly quiet until another spate happens again.

With the majority of murderers still loose, which of us as women can feel safe?

So this pause for thought made me question whether our collective or individual gestures like social media campaigns, colour code protests and even blog posts like this one make a difference.

My conclusion? These can make a difference if they are pressuring the police and government to do more. It can help if the result is more awareness and urgency to take personal safety and security more seriously. But in the end, these are gestures, and require sustained follow up and deeper study to upend the root of the crimes targeting women and any demographic in the country. If violence affects one, it affects all. 

So, at this juncture the dark forces attacking the wombs of this nation demand that we each examine the crime scenes with much more analysis and from different filters in our search for the patterns of killers behind these murders. I say ‘we’ because this introspection must start at all levels to stop the violence. The solution will not be found only in the forensic science toolbox of the police.

My post will look at the psychodynamics surrounding the femicides and gender-based violence in our country and my take on some possible actions we should commit to collectively and individually to tackle these root issues.

The partially decomposing body of 15-year-old schoolgirl, Shineka Gray turned up in bushes in Irwin Meadows, St James about five days after she went missing. She was last seen on January 29 at the Bogue taxi stand.

On Sunday, the body of another  young woman, a Burger King employee was found in a barrel in St Thomas. And even this evening, more news come via WhatsApp that another young woman’s life has been snuffed out

These are the stories that have been populating news reports since the start of December 2016. Two suspects have now been held in connection with Grey’s murder, something  I’m sure offers little solace for the deceased’s family and her community who now mourn.

Out of the discussions swirling around the airwaves, one of the recurring topics that is coming to the forefront is personal safety. As Shenika was last seen at the taxi stand, the discussion has turned to how to stay safe when taking public transport, especially taking unlicensed taxi operators.

START THESE ACTIONS:

  • Download and use the Stay Alert app. This is a free application made available by the Ministry of National Security for citizens to use. Two of its key safety features allow the user to send anonymous reports to the police and make contact when in distress.
  • Facebook Live. If you have the Facebook app, create a Facebook live video for friends once you get into the taxi or anywhere else you are facing a threat.
  • Keep a Taxi diary noting down the license plate number and any other data you can gather about your driver, location picked up and destination. Let your family members know about this diary so should anything happen, you’ll be helping to solve your case. Sounds morbid? That’s how the cookie crumbles.
  • Pay attention. Stay alert to your surroundings. Look at taxi drivers, strangers, anything odd. Do not enter transportation where you are the only commuter. If you are the last one left after others have exited, exit too.
  • Avoid late travel. If you have to, try asking someone you know and trust to come and get you. If you have to take public transport, keep your family or friends updated on your whereabouts at regular intervals depending on the length of the ride.
  • I propose something that has become cliche these days, and to which we turn deaf ears, and it’s as simple as this. We, each of us, must start to be each other’s keepers. Not just for girls and women, but for our neighbours. Watch out for others.
  • Pepper spray, sharp implement, some strategic defence moves? These will all come in handy. Leave a wound. Scream. Fight for your life.

So let’s turn to the factors that may be contributing to violence against women and what we should start doing to stop femicides, beyond the crime plan.

Start boycotting Brands Whose Ads Glorify Violence

We as a society have to accept we have played a role in sleazy gender profiling and violence. We may not be the ones physically slitting, slicing, raping and stabbing women

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but do you know that buying into advertisements such as the ones above glorify violence against women by making light of rape, domestic violence, and other misogynistic violence or profile them as sexual objects, we are not as blameless as we’d like to believe.

What are little boys made of?

Marginalised men.

Failing men.

No good men.

More women graduated this year than men.

How many times this year have you seen or heard these phrases on your radio or television? Lots. Repeatedly over the last 10 years, I have been audience to these public castigations of our Jamaican males. 

While there is plenty data to support the perception that many of our men are cruel, prison birds, poor fathers, cheats, lazy and uneducated men and many of our women are progressive, hard working, victims, and independent, perhaps it’s time to realise that we have unintentionally or intentionally planted an impression that men are less worthy and important.

It’s a question begging to be asked: Could the current increase in femicide in the country be the curse of the chickens coming home to roost?

Could our acculturalization that little girls are made of sugar and spice and all that’s nice, and little boys (men) are made of horrid snails and puppy dog tails have set up a fixed mindset in our males that has lowered their sense of self-worth and increased envy towards women?

CONCLUSION: It is quite plausible that the increase in stress levels in the society, female leadership, increasing financial independence of women and the perception of low male inequality and worth has helped create angry men who are now exacting their dominance recovery revenge on their girlfriends, daughters, wives, female colleagues, strangers, female leaders, and female interests in their countries.

ACTION: Make the gender playfield equal for men and women again. While we will always see antisocial behaviours, with some effort we can emphasize and communicate a more positive image about the Jamaican man and showcase more good male models. The media can level the playfield with more balanced discussions, more male presence on panels so the male perspective is heard. 


The Disorders that Make Men Hate, Hurt and Kill Women

It’s time to look beyond the obvious to the root of femicide, the psycho-dynamics or pathology of the criminal who kills women.

Pathology is the study of a particular subject- a disease. It is the diagnosis of an abnormality through careful examination of the constituents of the diseased body. When crime is considered to be a disease, the psychodynamic elements manifest and is precipitated as/by disorder and disruption of existing social norms and values. It is precipitated by mental illness, stress, disorganization in society, and anti-social psychopathological mindsets.

And many times, the first signs appear in behaviour patterns during childhood and youth and left unattended transition into adulthood. One homicide researcher, Vernon Geberth has found a clear link between early manifestations of antisocial personality disorder in the childhood of some serial killers.

According to the DSM-IV, the essential feature of the disorder is to be found in patterns of irresponsible and antisocial behaviors beginning in childhood or early adolescence and continuing into adulthood. Lying, stealing,truancy, vandalism, initiating fights, running away from home, and physical cruelty are typical childhood signs. In adulthood the antisocial pattern continues …

Geberth’s article entitled Psychopathic Sexual Sadists: The Psychology and Psychodynamics of Serial Killers (1995) discussed a study which examined a population of 387 serial murderers, who killed (under various motivations), three or more persons over a period of time with cooling-off periods between the events. The author identified 232 male serial murderers who violated their victims sexually. The author then employed a case history evaluation protocol based upon the DSM-IV criteria of Antisocial Personality Disorder (301.7) and Sexual Sadism (302.84) to examine the population of 232 serial killers, who had violated their victims sexually. The research found certain pattern among killers with Antisocial Personality Disorder.

With findings like this, we are forced to confront the pressing question that is begging to be asked: What quality of parenting allowed these boys to run amok and untreated with these behaviours? Why were these red flags ignored?

Still another expert has also identified the role of parents in the pathology of boys who hate and hurt women. In this case, British psychotherapist, Adam Duke author of “Why Men Hate Women” puts the responsibility for boy’s misogynistic behaviours squarely at the feet of their mothers. In an interview with The Independent, Duke explained that a boy’s hatred against his mother usually begins in infancy when a perception of rejection leads to him later punishing women for not providing the perfect love experienced in infancy before he had to make the psychological separation necessary to ‘learn’ to become a man.

Another study from the University of Montreal has linked boys’ aggression and anti-social behaviour to their mothers. The study established that boy’s testesterone levels in infancy were “not inherited genetically” as widely believed, “but rather determined by environmental factors, mostly early environmental factors which the child experiences in relation to its mother both before and after birth,” the lead researcher reportedly divulged in the May 7, 2012 report published in Psychoneuroendocrinology.

CONCLUSION: Too many of our men have been socialised poorly. Many have been emotionally neglected by their mothers soon after being weaned. Poor parenting and unstructured homes have helped created boys who hurt and kill women in adulthood. The red flags were there, but for some reason were seen as inconsequential. Except that now we are reaping the whirlwind of these antisocial behaviours.

START SOME ACTION: So much for the saying, Boys will be boys. This finding will make it necessary for mothers to start scrutinising how they behave around their sons. Parenting education and economic support have to become a priority so Jamaican mothers with troubled boys can gain access to early psychotherapy and parenting interventions if we intend to change the trajectory of these boys before they become men.

Eliminate Male Bias In Classrooms

Some educators believe that single-gender classes and schools, female-dominated classrooms, less attention paid to boys’ learning styles could help promote gender inequity and male marginalisation in our schools. While I have no documented evidence of the gender disparities in Jamaica schools, the education outcomes for boys in this country seem to suggest that girls are advancing and boys are straggling behind. Making our education system equitable for boys and girls have to be a part of the psychodynamics we look at as we contemplate the way forward.

Teacher preparation colleges and churches can also help change the outcomes by upskilling and enabling teachers to teach boys according to their learning styles. Parenting for fathers must be part of the social intervention as well.

Churches have a role to play too in helping with the spiritual development and engagement of males in their communities.

Sexist Cultures Contribute to Femicides -Study

The high rate of sexual harassment in Jamaica, manhandling of women, and the projection and treatment of women as sex objects is often scoffed at as normal male and cultural behaviour. But this next study puts our “sexist cultural practices” under the microscope.

Underscoring the connection between sexism, misogyny, and violence, Rodriguez Gilda, researcher/author of this study: From Misogyny to Murder: Everyday Sexism and Femicide in a Cross-Cultural Context points out that everyday sexism which devalues women does play a role in the culture of violence against women. Gilda had this to say:

 …femicide is not only related to other forms of explicit violence
against women but also to everyday acts of misogyny that contribute
to the creation of a culture of sexism and devalorization of women
and their lives. These everyday sexist acts are often ignored or
minimized, in such a way that their connection to large-scale forms
of violence against women is obscured.

He went on to note that the disconnect between everyday misogyny and femicide in much of popular and media discourse is problematic for two reasons:

the mischaracterization of gender-based murder as simple killing, without a misogynistic component, which makes it difficult to address the root causes of such violence. Secondly, when “small” incidences of sexism occur, they are more easily dismissed as inconsequential and even harmless. My argument is that commonplace sexist practices lay the conditions for femicide and for the political discourse that surrounds it.

CONCLUSION: Sexism and misogynism are root components of gender-based murders.Although we have grown as a society, there are still worrying traits of sexism in our society. We see it being played out in domestic violence and other forms of violence carried against women and girls.

START SOME ACTION: Unmask gender-based murder. The government and leaders of institutions should weed out evidence of sexism in our institutions. The police must treat crimes related to sexism as potential signs of more serious gender-based crimes. Treating the symptoms and addressing the pathology of our crime and criminals becomes mandatory to cinch the problem.

So, how can the police deconstruct the psycho-dynamics of those with a history of violence against women? Read on to see how one country is doing it.

Femicide Census

The Security Minister and Police Commissioner are struggling to fight crime, but I’ve heard little about them collecting and studying the data to develop perpetrator profiles of criminals, including those crimes that are femicides. Maybe, if more data was being collated and tracked, we would connect the dots faster to find the perpetrators of the murder, rape, subjugation, domestic violence, female slave trafficking plaguing our society.

In February 2015, a British campaign group launched a Femicide Census, a database with profiles of every woman who was killed by a man. According to the Guardian newspaper, the campaign initiated by the Nia Project, a London-based domestic violence charity was “designed to force a recognition of the scale and significance of male violence against women.”

The record is a culmination of several years of work by Karen Ingala Smith, Nia Project’s Chief executive, who started counting Britain’s murdered women and putting their names on her own blog back in 2012.

The database collates details of the perpetrators and the murder incident itself, including the date, names, police force area and information about children, recorded motive and the weapon.

The campaign was run in collaboration with another women’s organisation, Womens’ Aid and a legal firm. The Femicide Census Report presented several recommendations aimed at prompting the government to stem the rise of violence against women.  Explains the Guardian:

. . . this will mean a public tally of the dead is kept in a more formal manner, using police statistics as well as court reports. The site will be used to store as much information as possible on the background and the crime, available for approved subscribers – the first time such details have been held together – to make research and studies easier.

Find more details on the content of the released Census here.

CONCLUSION

There’s no question as to whether the Jamaican Police has crime data. We occasionally hear crime statistics reported,  but what is the quality of this database and how thorough it is in capturing all the data remains a mystery to me. How acccessible is it? Then there is the issue of tracking, evaluating  and reporting on that data. A recent request I made to access statistics to  explain the uptick in domestic violence related crimes I was tracking for a blog post late last year did not yield a response from the Constabulary Communication Network. That was after two documented tries in December and January.

START THIS ACTION: I’m calling on the government to lead a Femicide Census to collect and publicise statistics on female victims of male violence. Not just numbers but records  that will put a face to the name and details of her life before she was killed. This will not only provide a record of the incidents and track the patterns that emerge in the murders but humanize these deaths. This kind of action is also necessary in order to move the debate from what some may see as a polarised feminist viewpoint, towards a purposeful search for solutions.

Media Influence

And of course, the silent facilitator in this constructed mayhem is our mass media (including online and social media) who profess to just be society’s mirror. You deflect responsibility very well. But you too are often culpable. Yes, you are our society’s reflector via your news coverage, when you are reporting on events that have occurred. 

But in the arena of programming that mirror role disappears, and in its place stands media as facilitator or enabler. All rhetoric has the ability to persuade and appeal. So whether it’s an opinion programme like a talk show, the lifestyle and entertainment content (music, movies and documentaries) or news items you select and share, media influences its audience. 

For good or evil, the media we tune into and allow our children to absorb  has the capacity to impact how a society interprets and accepts the moral, values and laws of society. Media helps and harms parenting as it could ultimately define the character and behaviour  of those who are part of the audience.

How we use broadcast and social media at the end of day demands responsibility. How does it benefit you to spread videos of someone butchering a woman, show the exposed lifeless body of a young woman or video of child or teen being sexually abused exposed. How is it being responsible when you spread false news about a girl gone missing? What all this exposure does is minimize public trust and promote hopelessness, fear, and inaction.

CONCLUSION

Stopping the violence against women and kids call for an acceptance of personal responsibility for our role in preserving our society. You can start today to work with your spouse and children, your community and state agencies to re-implement law, order, and respect for yourself and others in your part of your city. Love, respect, protect, and preserve the life around you. It starts with me and you.

START RESTORING LOVE, PEACE and ORDER  

  • Take personal safety actions to protect yourself. Avoid unsafe behaviours
  • Be your brothers’ keeper.
  • Make men know they are important and valued. Respect them. Engage their views.
  • Vow to stop perpetuating and facilitating crime, especially with your social media actions and entertainment choices.
  • Choose to help save instead of being a bystander.
  • Help settle disputes, not ignite or fan them.
  • Report signs of violence and victimization of women and girls.
  • Protect all children. Get help when troubled behaviour appears.
  • Start some action to stop gender-based violence and femicide.
  • Examine the psycodynamics of women killers, start using and tracking our crime data for patterns
  • Humanise and respect the dead.
  • Aim to be blameless.


Then, and only then will violence and murders, gender-based and otherwise decline in our communities.

Your Turn

The question I want each of us (parents, teachers, citizens, ministers, government representatives, state protectors, employers, workers, media communicators and users) to ponder today is this:

  • Are you entirely blameless in the gender violence? Are we enabling or helping to perpetuate this mushrooming problem?
  • How will you start taking responsibility at the level, in the space, and in the role you occupy now?
  • What can you do now to stop not only violence against women and girls but violence against the people you come into contact with daily?
  • How do you plan to protect yourself from threats?

A Gift of Blood, A Gift of Life: The Rupert Ellis Story

 

picture of Rupert Ellis with Blood Appeal account details

Cancer survivor, Rupert Ellis

A unit of blood can help someone survive life-threatening illnesses and accidents. Rupert Ellis, 62,  of Hellshire Park in Portmore, St Catherine is one example of a cancer survivor and blood recipient who is saying thanks to his blood donors this evening.

Diagnosed with multiple myeloma (bone marrow cancer) in 2015, long time Hellshire resident and founding elder of Hellshire Seventh Day Adventist Church has been fighting a cancer that destroys his vital red blood cells (these are the cells that make blood in the body) and bone marrow. This condition landed him hard in the hospital preceding his diagnosis and has since caused his blood count to fluctuate to dangerous levels and have landed him in the hospital.

As he lay on his back in the University Hospital, Mr Ellis recalls that his doctor’s diagnosis made the future look grim and it appeared that the spectre of death loomed over him.

Fighting Back 

However, with the donations of kind blood donors, a resilient faith in God, and an indomitable and cheerful spirit, he and his doctor fought valiantly to increase his blood count. His health rallied and he was able to regain his strength and an active lifestyle.
So much so that in September 2016, his doctors felt it was safe enough to cut back on his treatment which while helping had side effects that were less than healthy. He discontinued some of his treatment.

Then the tables turned. At a subsequent visit, he learnt that this decision had not produced the results hoped for and had sent his blood count into a downward spiral (falling below 5). This renewed his struggle with his cancer. Deeply discouraged, he told me during a visit with him late in December, “I got down on my knees at my bedside and cried tears to God.”

To make things worst, his doctor was coming up short in her search to find O Negative blood for him. Things looked hopeless. He had donors but none were O Negative blood donations.

A Campaign to find the Missing Type

It was Mr Ellis’ story and current situation that inspired the creation of the O Negative Blood Donation Network Facebook Group on December 26, 2016. The intent was to create a campaign that would launch an Appeal for more O Negative blood donations, not only for Mr Ellis but others facing a similar crisis.

 

campaign-blog-pic

The aim of the Group is to provide a community for persons with O Negative blood, increase awareness about blood types, match needs to donors, attract, and nurture members with information about the blood donors eligibility, the collection process as well as voluntary donation opportunities like blood collection drives, weekly local and national blood bank reserves data, and convert non-donors into  first time blood donors, one -time donors into repeat donors.

By sharing receivers’ stories, it is hoped that the Campaign will persuade the public that blood donation requires a personal commitment that starts with each person signing up as a volunteer and life saver. The mission is to increase blood donations of this universal O Negative resource at the community and neighbourhood levels inside and outside of Portmore and provide inspiration and support for those who are ill and need blood donations.

Blood donor prospects and members can sign up to donate using a form posted in the Facebook Group’s Files. This information will be collated and passed on to the relevant collection centres or Drive organiser identified by prospects.

The initiative will be adopted and promoted as a grassroots cause by Portmore Citizen’s News published by blogger and Group administrator, Karen Taylor.

Transfusions Bring Improvement 

In the last month, Mr Ellis has had approximately two transfusions from blood received from the hospital’s blood stocks and friends. The scramble to find more for him continues at the hospital level.

Speaking with him this afternoon, Mr Ellis reported positive news and steady progress following these gifts of blood. His blood count has been inching up and now stands at seven, he reported. To help his body halt his receding bone marrow, he needs to maintain a blood count level of 14.

Expensive New Treatment to cost $130,000 Monthly

He also shared plans by his doctor to start another intervention which, if successful, could help put his cancer into recession. This will, however, cost $130,000 per month, an expense he says one of his daughters has made a commitment to underwrite. He is especially grateful for a discount offered by the treatment provider to make two of the injections available free of cost when two purchases are made. He will require this dosage monthly.

Until this treatment begins to rebuild his body’s ability to fight on its own, Mr Ellis will need your gift of O negative blood. Blood donations of this type can be made to his account at the blood Collection centre at the UWI Hospital, Mona.

So What If I’m not an O -Type?

If you are not O Negative, but have another blood type, you can still donate to his account, but ensure you ask for a receipt from the collection drive staff or centre where you are donating. You can then send him the receipt so the Blood Bank at the Hospital can do an exchange when he needs a transfusion.

The collection of this receipt with his name on it is crucial for him to benefit from your gift to him. To send him the receipt, make contact by sending a message to Mr Ellis or me via this blog’s contact form page orthe Facebook Group so arrangements can be made to receive the receipt.

 

gift-of-blood

Blood is a gift of life. All around Jamaica every day and this very second, are people like Mr Ellis needing a blood donation, people in accidents, mothers in labour wards, babies who need a unit to save their lives. Help save someone’s life today with a donation of your blood.

Have you given before? Consider making a repeat donation by signing up and indicating your interest in doing so on the membership form and sign up forms found in Group Files.

Are you a first timer? Learn more about the process by following this blog. Don’t know your blood type? You could learn what that is by participating in an upcoming blood drive or stopping by a Collection Centre.

Set aside time to donate today. Save the date to save lives, receive your own account, and pay it forward. Join us. Open a Neighbourhood Blood Bank in your community. Make Blood reserves for your family, friends and neighbours when they need it.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2017. Karen Taylor

 

“No Thanks”: 20 Reasons Your Blood Donation Was Disqualified

blood-fact-1

Blood is a priceless commodity that cannot be manufactured or reproduced. It can only be given by charitable persons. It is easy to give blood and this blog strongly encourages those who can to consider making a donation.

Blood donations are critical in the care of cancer patients like my friend Rupert Ellis who inspired me to create the Facebook group, O Negative Blood Donations Network, an appeal and awareness campaign aimed at encouraging blood donations of this blood type for him and countless other Jamaicans  who are facing a health crisis because of the shortage of O negative blood group in the national blood bank reserves.

A blood gift can save the life of your own child, sibling, spouse, parent or friend.
However, according to the Blood Bank, because of common misperceptions and lack of understanding about pre- donor requirements, many potential donors who register either do not show up because of miseducation about the eligibility criteria and many who show are turned away from making a donation because they are ineligible.

Every time a potential donor is turned away or deferred, it reduces the survival rate for a critical care patient waiting to receive that blood. For rare blood type patients like those with O-negative blood, it can be a matter of life and death.

I’ve compiled a checklist of 20 of the most common reasons your blood donation could be disqualified or deferred at a blood collection centre. Use it to check your status.

Basic Criteria

But let’s start with the basic criteria that determine anyone’s eligibility to participate in the blood donation process.

To give blood in Jamaica, you MUST

  • be in good general health and feel well
  • be between 17 and 60 years old
  • weigh at least 110 lbs.
  • present a National Identification

Most donations will be deferred if you have a health condition that could put you or the receiver at risk. Below, you’ll find 15 health related issues which the American Red Cross Association says may cause your blood donation to be disqualified.

In most cases, you can usually make a second attempt to donate after a specific period has passed, usually a 12- month deferral. To read the full list of eligibility criteria and deferral timelines for blood donations, visit the American Red Cross. Find local information at the National Blood Transfusion Service (Jamaica).

Conditions That Will Disqualify or Defer Your Donation

Here is a summary checklist:
You may NOT be eligible to give blood if you have any of these health conditions:

#1. You are anaemic

Make sure you pay attention to eating well, especially foods rich in iron, before you attempt to donate blood.

#2. You are on Antibiotics

You are taking antibiotics for an acute infection.

According to the American Red Cross, “The reason for antibiotic use must be evaluated to determine if the donor has a bacterial infection that could be transmissible by blood. Donations can be accepted if you have finished oral antibiotics for an infection (bacterial or viral) even if you may have taken the last pill on the date of donation. Antibiotic by injection for an infection is acceptable 10 days after the last injection.”

“Blood donation may be acceptable if you are taking antibiotics to prevent an infection for the following reasons: acne, chronic prostatitis, peptic ulcer disease, periodontal disease, pre-dental work, rosacea, ulcerative colitis, after a splenectomy or valvular heart disease.

#3. You Have a High Fever

If you have a temperature above 99.5 F, you may not donate.

#4. You are Pregnant

If you are pregnant, wait six weeks after giving birth.

#5. You Have AIDS/HIV

Don’t attempt to donate blood if you have AIDS or have ever tested HIV Positive.

#6. You Bleed

Do you have a bleeding condition where your blood does not clot normally? You may have excessive bleeding where the needle is placed.You cannot donate blood if you have this condition.

For the same reason, you should not donate if you are taking any of the “blood thinners” named or not named on this list:

  • Atrixa (fondaparinux)
  • Coumadin (warfarin)
  • Eliquis (apixaban)
  • Fragmin (dalteparin)
  • Heparin
  • Jantoven (warfarin)
  • Lovenox (enoxaparin)
  • Pradaxa (dabigatran)
  • Savaysa (edoxaban)
  • Warfilone (warfarin)
  • Xarelto (rivaroxaban)

#7. You Have High Blood Pressure

If your blood pressure is at or above 180 systolic (first number) and at or above 100 diastolic (second number) at the time of donation, defer blood donation to another time when you have your blood pressure under control.

#8. You Have Received Blood Recently

If you’ve received a blood transfusion in ….less than 12 months.

#9. You Have Certain Cancers

Eligibility depends on the type of cancer and treatment history. If you had leukaemia or lymphoma, including Hodgkin’s Disease and other cancers of the blood, you are not eligible to donate. Other types of cancer are acceptable if the cancer has been treated successfully if it has been more than 12 months since treatment was completed and there has been no cancer recurrence in this time.

Lower risk in-situ cancers including squamous or basal cell cancers of the skin that have been completely removed do not require a 12 month waiting period.

#10. You Have A Cold/Flu

Postpone donation of blood if you have a cold or flu symptoms.

#11. You Have Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

If you ever received a dura mater (brain covering) transplant or human pituitary growth hormone, you are not eligible to donate. Those who have a blood relative who had Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease are also not eligible to donate. Learn more about Creutzfeldt Jakob-Disease.

#12. You’ve had an Organ Transplant

Have you had an organ or tissue transplant with the last year? Sorry, you’ll have to try again later.

#13. You Have Body Piercings

If you have body piercings (ears, body) which were performed using a reusable gun or any reusable instrument, you may not be eligible for blood donations.

#14. You Have Certain Untreated STDs

If you have syphilis or gonorrhoea which you have not been treated or have not completed all treatment, you may have to wait until you have confirmed you are free of these ailments.

#15. You are Tattooed

Blood Collection Centres will not be able to accept blood from you if you have a tattoo.

#16.You were exposed to Zika Virus

If you have been exposed to the Zika Virus, your donation will not be accepted.

#17. You are a Smoker.

Smoking eliminates you to participate in any blood donation drives.

# 18 -20. You Don’t Meet the Four Basic Criteria 

I started the post mentioning the four criteria to give blood in Jamaica. From the 17 health reasons outlined above, you should have already concluded that your state of health and wellbeing will be scrutinised. Additionally, if you do not meet the expected age, weight and ID requirements, you will be unable to proceed with your donation. Here they are again:

  • Can’t provide a National Identification Card
  • Under 17 years old
  • Weigh Less than 110 pounds

Misconception about Diabetics

Existing misconceptions by themselves are a common reason for blood donors to eliminate themselves from the blood donation exercises. According to the Blood Bank, you should be mindful of a common misperception that persons who are either hypertensive or diabetic (non-dependent on insulin) are not allowed to donate blood. This is not the case and, even if you take oral medication, in many cases you are still eligible for blood donation. 

Your Turn

Which of the 17 conditions surprised you the most or cleared up a long-held misconception that prevented you or someone you know from donating blood in the past? Share it in the Comments below.

Council’s Greater Portmore “Cactus Garden” in Dire Need of Attention

On Monday, Portmore Citizens News took these photographs of the area outside the Greater Portmore Civic Centre Complex designated and landscaped as a green space by the Portmore Municipal Council several months ago.

As seen in the photos below, the current state of the once attractive cactus stone garden is not being regularly maintained, judging by the litter composed of plastic, debris and household garbage now piling up in the area. Bundles of cut dried grass which was never removed by the weeder have become litter mounds. The once aesthetically pleasing landscape details featuring cacti plants, boulders and rocks and a walkway is now hidden under a brown, dirtier, untidy version of what it was.

Who are responsible?

So who is responsible for this? These are several possible culprits. This vicinity is a frequent hangout spot for students from nearby schools. Across the road is the bus stop where commuters also await the JUTC buses as they enter the Greater Portmore bus bay which is just behind the complex.

Across the road is the bus stop where commuters also await the JUTC buses as they enter the Greater Portmore bus bay which is just behind the complex. Vending activity takes place in close proximity. Someone has also decided this was the best place to dump their old clothes and household garbage, so some illegal dumper (s) need to be exposed as well.

The area also gets a lot of foot traffic from commuters who make their own shortcut pathways to get to the Junior Centre, Library and Post Office housed on the Civic Centre Complex after disembarking from the route buses and taxis that travel along the busy West Henderson Boulevard adjacent to the park. It is not fenced.

Maintenance Staff and Schedule

The area is now in need of attention. We hope the Mayor will see this and send the relevant authorities to clean up. A better idea would be to put a regular maintenance schedule in place for the area. If the Council can harness community volunteers to do some of this maintenance work, it could probably curb the littering from residents.

Litter Campaign addressing Users

An on-site litter education campaign to directly address the frequent users of the area like students and commuters who may be responsible for the high numbers of plastic drink bottles in the area would be a practical move. Get the schools involved. Maybe the Junior Centre’s children can put a programme together to get the message across in an entertaining but serious manner.

Finally, may I also recommend that the Council put in garbage containers or attendants to pick up garbage daily and fence off the area as well. As for the persons dumping garbage, it may be ambitious but necessary to install some security cameras in the vicinity to see if we can catch these culprits as well as criminals.

 

growing garbage heap in middle of Greater Portmore green space

In need of maintenance. This photo taken on Monday shows the growing pile of litter and plant debris that now defaces the landscaped oval, a project done by the Portmore Municipal Council months ago.

household garbage now litters landscaped space in Civic Centre Complex, Greater Portmore

Someone decided to dump their household garbage in plastic bags smack dab in the middle of the recently created green space in the Oval at the Greater Portmore Civic Centre Complex across from the Shopping Centre.                                                                                          – PCN Photo

 

neglected-stone-gardengrportmore

Cactus plants and grass appears untended.                                                           – PCN Photo

 

Cactus stone park Greater Portmore defaced

This created green area which was landscaped by the Portmore Municipal Council in the months leading up to the National elections is in dire need of attention. The area which is in front of the Greater Portmore Civic Centre Complex is now littered with drinking bottles, debris and even bags of old clothes someone dumped there.                                     – PCN Photo

18 Unforgettable Christmas Memories of my Jamaican Childhood

vintage toy truck made from juice boxes

juicebox-truckdollmarblestruck

At this time of year, Jamaicans far-flung across the globe will share some common recollections and stories relating to unforgettable Christmas traditions that defined their childhood years. I grew up in the 70’s and this season was no less special for me. Hands down, Christmas was the most magical time of the year.

Today, many of the activities and products that existed then have either been replaced or amplified with more modern versions. Nevertheless, these 18 memories I’ll share in this post have remained with me. Maybe they will trigger some of your own Christmas nostalgia that you can share stories about with your children tonight.

Memory #1. Toys to Play With

Which child didn’t love Christmas when it was the only time of year he or she got toys? Here are the toys we loved:

  • Blond-haired Barbie dolls with marble looking eyes that rolled and closed; or, if you were lucky to have family overseas and received what we called walkie-talkie dolls that cried. Whether they were skinny Barbie and Ken or cabbage patch dolls, it was all joy as we oohed and aahed over our presents every day. They became appendages we couldn’t put down. Cash-strapped parents didn’t stop our determination to have a doll at Christmas either, so when Santa didn’t send us any, we got very creative and with our mother’s help, turned perfume or bay rum bottles into dolls. We stitched up dresses from fabric scraps our seamstress mother had discarded from her client’s dresses; picked yard grass and stuck it into the top of our bottle doll’s neck, dressed her ‘hair’ with ribbons and snuggled down to nurture our own Made in Jamaica babies.
  • Marbles, yo-yos- spinning gigs, and juice box trucks with Seville oranges or bottle corks for wheels kept the boys happy. They too made what they couldn’t buy.
  • Balloons, fire-crackers, party- blowers (we called this fee-fee after the sound they made).

Jamaican children today play with iPads and Tablets. They like to play inside; our play was outside. But for me and my playmates, these simple joys were objects of our desires as children, and Christmas wasn’t complete unless we had them.

Memory #2. The Christmas weather/breeze

About midway through November, you would begin to feel it. A distinct shifting in the temperature, a mellow chill in the air. The breeze becomes more playful as though in anticipation of the Arrival. Whether you lived in the countryside or the city, it was noticeable to everyone – the cloudless sky, seemed bluer; sunsets were balmier and the sun warmer. Maybe because we saw it with children’s eyes, there seemed a certain magic and romance in the air, a special thrill that intensified as it got closer to Christmas and made everyone’s mood merry and bright. My mother would sound excited when she and the neighbour bantered across the fence asking: “Ms Mary, Yuh feel de Christmus breeze?”

“Christmas in the air.” is still a phrase commonly heard as Jamaicans welcome the approaching holidays.

Memory #3. Christmas Carol Parodies

yellow-christmas

In my days, society emphasised the religious meaning of Christmas significantly more than it did the commercial. So, the first Christmas carols I learnt were all traditional: “Go tell it on the mountain,” “Oh Holy Night,””Away in a Manger,” and “Star of Wonder.”These timeless Christmas hymns makes me nostalgic about those growing up years whenever I hear them play on radio now.

But there were the reggae cover versions of traditional  Christmas carols as well that resonated with me. (As I’m writing this, I’m playing through playlists of these on YouTube.) They are still popular today.

Almost on cue, radio stations would start playing these from late November. Who doesn’t remember Neville Willoughby’s “It’s Christmas in Ja.”, or “Joy to the world” medley (reggae version) that we sang along to? And the hilarious parodies that are so part of our ability to laugh at ourselves, like  The 12 days of Christmas or Yellowman’s Breadfruit roasting over an open fire? Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • We wish you a Merry Christmas Album– a punchy medley of Christmas reggae songs in one album performed by the Ras Family,  Don Carlos, Peter Broggs, Freddie McGregor, Michigan and Smiley, JC Lodge, Eeek-a-Mouse, Gleneice Spenser, and Pablo Blacks.
  • Have a Joyful Irie Christmus in the Sun
  • Santa Claus do you ever come to the ghetto? by Carlene Davis
  • Santa ketch up in a mango tree– Faith D’Aguilar

And so many more I can’t mention now.

Memory #4. Christmas school concerts and plays

In rural Jamaica, the Christmas concert and play at the district’s all age school was the social event of the year in my district of Scarlet Hall, St Ann. People planned for it; the kids and teachers rehearsed for weeks and on the evening, usually the last day of school, parents and the whole community came out in their numbers to spectate and laugh at the drama of their children playing the Nativity Scene. As there was no other entertainment in the district, you could expect a bumper turn out by the entire neighbourhood.

Memory #5. Very Merry Christmas class parties

st-hildasThe planning, the anticipation before the big day, ogling all the delicious food you don’t get at home, envying  the outfits of the popular girls in the class, the fashion show, dancing, whispering behind your hand at the brave girl dancing with the male teacher we all had a crush on, crashing other class parties, balloons, and decorations. O-0-oh, those merry St Hilda’s high school days…

Memory #6. Christmas work

christmus-work

This initiative was local government- funded and allowed Councilors to undertake clean- up work in their communities in preparation for the Christmas holidays. For the unemployed -men and women- it was a welcomed way to get some Christmas money in their pockets and it was anticipated each year. By the middle of November, everyone would be asking when de Chrismus wuk a gi out (translation: the work will be given out). We never knew who gave out the work, but word got around fast. People were employed on the spot once they got wind of who in the community was holding the payroll bag. With the rising sun, the machete-armed neighbours came out and the community erupted in work sounds and busyness; street sweeping, verge weeding, tree-cutting and whitewashing began in earnest. Then it became like a party – the loud laughter, men fooling with the women and women shouting to each other, stopping to get water and going back to the Christmus wuk. Then it was raked and burned; they congregated on pay day, some cursing out the payer for shortening their earnings, arguing how many days and hours they worked. When the dust settled, Christmas came around, the community foliage had been cleared, streetside verges scraped low, boulders and pavements whitewashed and our street was sparkling clean and ready for visitors.  All that.. for “Christmas deh come.”

Memory #7. Eeek! Jonkanoo!!!

jonkanoo

Oh (shivers) those oh-so-scary masked dancing figures were the worst of Christmas for children who encountered them. And unforgettable. Raggedy-dressed bands of men and one woman with drums, mouth organs, and other instruments sang and pranced through the streets of our little district and chased frightened, bawling children (me) hiding behind their mothers skirts all the way home and right up under their beds: Each band constituted a set of similar hideous characters: the clapping jackass head, the devil with the fork, belly ‘ooman’ and pitchy-patchy. That hideous creature that chased me still makes me shiver to this day. Jonkanoo band still make appearances today but mostly at cultural events. Jamaican children can breathe easy today when it comes around to Christmas.

Memory # 8. Festive Jamaican Christmas food

  • Pre-Christmas Cake and Sorrel Preparations 

In the markets, the red bulbs of the sorrel plant was another sign that Christmas was in the air. The rum-spiked punched from the sorrel plant remains a tradition of the  Jamaican Christmas. As a child, it was made weeks before Christmas day, bottled and preserved using rice. The bottles for the adults were always made with rum, and we were told we couldn’t have any of those. Plenty was made, because Ms Adlin with the plenty children and old Ms Mc down the road who doan have Christmus dinner had to get their sorrel and a piece of cake. And so the food sharing and exchange went in my house and many houses in the district. Everyone had to have sorrel for Christmas, or as we say in Jamaica, “a no Christmas dat”. We still have sorrel today, not as plentiful as it once was, but an innovative manufacturer has found a way to extract its flavour and bottle it, so we now have sorrel drink all year round on supermarket shelves in Jamaica.

Memory # 9. Plummy Christmas Puddings and Spoon Licking 

But soon it was the week before Christmas. Baking week.

  • purchase raisins, currants, and Maraschino cherries for the Christmas cake.Check
  • Make candied Seville orange peel. Check.

My oldest sister who had learnt Food and Nutrition in high school and my mother all pitched in to make candied peel from Seville oranges which were then added to the dried fruit marinating in red wine and stored high from the fingers of my thieving siblings. Boy, that sweet smell taunted us. My sister got tired of us asking, ‘When is baking time?’

Most people used the days before leading up to December 25 to get their cake baking done. Some finish baking earlier. But when it was that time, the sound of cake mixers made it known across the neighbourhood.

lick-cake

Best memories of a Christmas baking spree in a Jamaican house on baking night?

  • a chance to hold the keening mixer in the bowl while it curdled the butter and sugar (those days electrical appliances were really loud),
  • lick the wooden spoon and the baking pan when the mixing bowl had been poured. Yum.
  • sibling fights to get a share of the cake drippings.

Memory # 10. Spring cleaning in December

In Jamaican households to this day, Christmas season is when we do what North Americans call spring cleaning. New carpets, new bed linen, new curtains and new settees, and those who could afford it, new carpets. Crockery was taken out of the buffet, washed and dried ’til they sparkled and returned to their show-piece. Window panes were washed and rubbed with newspaper til they sparkled.

Whitewashed tree in back yard c 1965

Every house got a fresh coat of paint or lime. Curbs and garden stones were whitewashed, and even the coconut tree trunks were whitewashed for Christmas. Each family bought kerosene tins of lime from the man who operated the lime kiln, and whitewashed whatever could take a little brightening at the front of their yards. Rinse and repeat every December. Today, sprucing up for Christmas still holds a strong appeal for most Jamaican families, although tastes have turned to decorative paints and finishes. Christmas time continues to be the biggest sales period for paint retailers Berger and Sherwin Williams.

Poorer people swept their dirt yards clean of dust with their coconut bunker broom, red yoked their latrines, and wax polished their floors til it shone “like looking glass.” Tables received new plastic tablecloth.

Inside, the bed would be spread with my mother’s prized and prettiest chenille spread with the big rooster pattern in the centre that her brothers had brought her when they came from farm work in Canada. This prized sheet, which had graced the bed the previous Christmas Day and Boxing Day and packed away for the year, was taken out of storage in the wardrobe or dresser, washed and pressed and spread on the bed for the visitors who may pop in. A floor mat marked “Welcome” had to cover the floor at the entrance for the visitors when they came. This was essential to”take shame outa we eye,” my mother would explain. It was Christmas. Everyone’s yard had to look presentable. Poverty was never an excuse back then.

Memory #11. Grand Market

Grand market is the Jamaican equivalent of holiday shopping that comes to a head on Christmas Eve. It is the biggest vendors’ market, and vendors spilled onto every square inch of road side in town centres. Although the market started from in the morning, throngs of shoppers did their last minute shopping for gifts, clothing or groceries in the evenings which is when the parties also began. Many of us just window-shopped. Grand market is the day when the central bank report how many millions are trading hands. It’s a welcome boon for businesses who ensure they are stocked and have plenty of workers to restock all night long until shoppers call it quits at about 2 or 3 pm the next morning.

grand-market

Even the village shopkeepers did brisk business. Little one room shops were often packed with those who couldn’t go to Grand market in distant towns or who just had enough to shop locally. Even with all the hands behind the counter, shopping in a rural shop on Christmas eve was a torture in those days in rural Jamaica. There were no cashier machines to expedite the process back then. cardboard and pencil were all the shopkeeper had.

Memory # 12. Street dances

Grand market was and still is the venue for Christmas street dances. The popular sound systems pile their huge sound boxes high on top each other on every corner in town; every district square. Live DJs mixed reggae songs for those in a party mood while vibing with the crowd.  Grand Market is an all day event, but most Jamaicans come out for the evening shopping and partying that goes with this intense, thrilling event. For kids whose parents had not taken them anywhere all year, this was bonus entertainment that we waited for all year. Huge pots over open fire served up corn soup, mannish water. Ice cream bikers sold ice cream cones from their ice-cream boxes. Sweets, toys, noise. It was a celebration no one wanted to miss.

Memory #13. Christmas treats

Though not as plentiful as they are now, back in the day in my district, these mostly came from visiting tourists who came with beautiful Barbies and toy trucks and stuff our little eyes had never beheld except in books or on tv. These missions would come to the churches and distribute from there. However, the last treat I remember was, I’m sure, a culture shock, even for me as a rural child. As they tried to hand out the toys they had brought, the poor tourists were stampeded by hordes of children and parents and had to beat a hasty retreat to their bus, many of them suffering scrapes and cuts from the pillaging crowd that pushed and pulled to get the toys from them.

For the most part, though, these donation drives went well and made many children believe the man in the big red suit was jolly Santa Claus.

Memory #14

kingstonwharvesg20141215jb

Christmas barrels arrive from family abroad.

Memory #15. Christmas Houses

Christmas pepper lights on everything. We were just fascinated by them. We didn’t have Christmas trees, but we string them on windows and doors, inside the house and outside. The bushes and trees were not spared. Then as I got older, the Christmas houses started to appear like this one.

jamaican_christmas_house

Christmas Day Arrives

Memory #16. Caroling by the Methodists and Baptists

Caroling on Christmas morning is not a tradition held by many families back home. But having your sleep sweetly interrupted during the wee hours of Christmas morning with voices under your window singing “O Holy Night” just added more happy butterflies to our stomachs, and gave us an opportunity to wake up early and start playing. After all, it was the day we had longed for: Christmas Day, the day when we’d have a cake feast, drink sorrel, eat ice cream cones, go to the beach (if our father was home) and show toys with the other kids in the neighbourhood.

Memory #17. Christmas Morning Duck Bread 

duck-bread

Breakfast was the same for my entire childhood: I can’t recall what meat kind we got with it, if any, but duck bread and Best butter (not sure whether Best was a brand then, or it was just our judgement of the taste of that golden cream plastered over a chunk of still warm white bread) has been concreted into my earliest memory of the Christmas breakfast we looked forward to at Christmas. It was a tradition my mother carried from her own childhood Christmas. There was milo or chocolate tea  (which funny enough, I couldn’t stand) to go with it. Some people had coconut milk to flavour their chocolate.

Memory #18. Christmas Feast for our faces

The only time we had so much food to eat was Christmas. Christmas dinner memories today are dominated by my mother’s whole roasted chicken which she stuffed with breadcrumbs and irish potato and baked in a pan like the white lady in the cookbook did.

In some homes, they had turkey- the very rich people, mostly. Other times, my mother would pick up a piece of beef roast from the meat market which she then stuffed and turned into pot roast.

pumpkin-servingfamily-eating

If the district butcher had killed a goat, the mutton from this would be cut up and seasoned overnight and cooked down as a spicy stew mutton which Jamaicans know as curried goat. Curried goat is a dish that we acquaint with celebrations and festivities.

Rice with gungo peas is to Jamaican Christmas what turkey is to American Thanksgiving. Other times in the year, Jamaicans will pair their rice with red peas aka kidney beans. But for some reason at Christmas time, many people like to change it up and cook gungo peas which are bought still on the stalk at the municipal farmer’s market, taken home and shelled.

And then just like that, after a bellyful of sheer happiness, it was done. Christmas Day then was the end of Christmas. We were always sad when the day ended, but the warm fuzzy feeling of belonging to a family and that all was right with the world lingered.

Conclusion

I didn’t know then that each experience would have etched itself so deeply in my memory and become so unforgettable that though I grew up, they had stayed with me.

What’s more, I look around me now, just days before Christmas Day. The world has tilted in ways that don’t feel so right anymore, and I’ve long gotten over dolls and balloons. But I can live with that as long as l still have these treasure chest of memories that grew up with me.

Seeing the looks on children’s faces because it’s Christmas and still being able to enjoy most of these traditions that have withstood the modern cultural invasion on my country will still secure me sweet dreams on Christmas Eve. Christmas, my dears, is still the most wonderful time of the year.

Your turn

What is your favourite memory of Christmas from your childhood? 

Feel free to add to the list to share your own favourite memories.

 

 

NCU FM 2016 Wellness Roadtrip Gears Up in Spanish Town Monday

ncu

 

Jamaican gospel radio station, NCU FM will rev into gear its 3rd annual education and wellness cross-country campaign starting Monday, July 18.

First Light Morning Man, Arnold Kelly will be broadcasting his early morning show live from the Coore’s gas-station in Spanish Town as the station embarks on the first leg of it’s  week-long 2016 14 in 14 Education and Wellness Challenge.

Each morning show gets underway at 6:00 a.m. while the afternoon shows start at the usual Drive Time 2:00 p.m. with the show’s host, Basillia Barnaby-Cuff at the mic.

The event will see the radio station making two daily stops in major towns of Jamaica’s 14 parishes for live broadcast of their flagship shows, First Light and The Drive. According to the station, Cruisin’ will broadcast in-transit and make surprise stops at sponsors’ business places to meet and greet and take staff through aerobic workout steps.

The energetic 14 in 14 gang, which usually includes an group of NCU FM staffers will again be leading fans in each location in live aerobic exercise routines and physical game-based contests like Hulahoop and Skipping marathons and the wildly popular, NCU FM vs the Community Tug-o-War Challenge at each location.

Members of the public are invited to join in the on-location wellness games and other audience-interactive activities at each parish stop.

For more location details and fan give-away opportunities, tune in to the station which is aired on 91.1, 91.3, and 91.5 Fm or check out their Facebook page for updates during the week-long road trip.