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Jamaica Social Stock Exchange responds to crisis

As the cases of COVID-19 increases and our health care system buckles under the weight of the demand for care; the real value of the Jamaica Social Stock Exchange’s (JSSE) becomes an even more effective tool in the fight against the coronavirus.

THE JSSE’s financial contributions have already been significant – more than $16 million to date and another $19 million in an affiliated project, the value of it can no longer be quantified exclusively in financial terms.

Since the start of the pandemic, the JSSE has been mobilising funds locally and in the Jamaican Diaspora to create what it says is “social value” that is measurable.

The Mona Tech Engineering Services, which operates out of the Department of Engineering at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona under the leadership of Dr Paul Aiken, has an agenda to grow out a business arm to provide maintenance and repairs services for highly technical equipment including biomedical ones.

With the advent of COVID-19, Ventilator Repairs was a special project launched just under a year ago, which is now being hailed as a success for having saved the Ministry of Health over $34 million in replacement cost of new equipment.

The team from Mona raised $3.4 million and were then able to resuscitate more than 18 ventilators that were out of commission for over two years.

The repairs done by the Mona Tech Engineering Services were possible using the biomedical equipment parts purchased exclusively from contributions to the JSSE COVID-19 Relief Fund from well-meaning individuals and corporate donors who gave donations of various amounts.

The JSSE’s COVID Ventilator appeal is but one key success stories JSSE has had since the pandemic has hit our shores.

“We have created a platform designed to pool small and large sums to support sustainable activities that can strengthen our social fabric.

“The role of the international development agencies such as JSSE’s partner International Development Bank (IDB) remains indisputable. However, there are still sizable funding gaps to be filled and with the likelihood of the forced diversion of funds to COVID relief efforts, those gaps will continue to expand for some time.

“Out of a recognition that Jamaica was in need of a credible and transparent mechanism that facilitates wide scale participation for fund-raising in the social sector with ease and accountability, our parent company, the Jamaica Stock Exchange (JSE), lent their expertise in capital raising to the creation of the JSSE.

“Jamaicans have an ingrained spirit of philanthropy that deserves to be complemented with a transparent system that provides tracking and feedback and Jamaica has that now in the JSSE and thus far, our results indicate that people are appreciative of it,” said Nora Blake, manager at the JSSE.

Another project Teen Challenge Jamaica, one of the island’s main addiction rehabilitation centres and its’ social enterprise has also has benefited from the JSSE’s fund-raising efforts.

The St Ann-based centre and farm was close to a collapse of its revenue streams as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions last year. Situated in north coast tourism belt, revenue streams were tied to the sector that had grounded to a halt.

Like Mona Tech Engineering Services, they raised a cry.

Seeing the dire need for cash flow, the JSSE while mobilising on behalf of Teen Challenge applied the donation from the JSE Group of Companies to purchase poultry from the project’s income generating farms. Understanding the level of sacrifice being made by health sector workers, the poultry was then presented as care packages to front line workers in Kingston & St Andrew from the Ministry of Health and from the Bustamante Children’s Hospital as an acknowledgement of their service.

Eventually over $1 million was raised from the market for Teen Challenge Jamaica.

“That money was immediately used to clear outstanding bills that threatened the closure of the facility. Teen Challenge is still in operation as a result,” revealed Anthony Richards, executive director at Teen Challenge Jamaica.

“As the pandemic rages on, there will be need for more support and we are at a point where Jamaica needs all hands-on deck. The JSSE is providing a timely innovative tool to help fund well-structured local programmes that can help Jamaica to experience sustainable social development and move forward. Our vetting and reporting and measuring processes set us apart from other fund-raising structures. We value every dollar donated by hard-working Jamaicans and reiterate our commitment to accountability, with the desire to see Jamaica rebuild its economy with social development moving in tandem for a more equitable and safe country where it is our first choice to live,” Blake reinforced.