What does it take to raise nearly J$200 million and distribute thousands of food packages and masks in 52 communities islandwide? A lot of coordination and hard work.
However, hard work is rewarding, says Anthony Brissett , finance officer for United Way of Jamaica (UWJ).
The UWJ was selected by the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) to manage the funds collected by the organisation for its COVID-19 relief efforts.
While most of the work for the relief effort was conducted remotely, it fell on the shoulders of Brissett, to become UWJ’s primary ‘boots on the ground’.
According to Brissett, having such responsibility made him feel really good, as it gave him the opportunity to be involved in a national effort.
“I was able to in some way help those who would suffer the most from COVID-19, those who either never had a job or had lost their job due to the virus. Those who needed the PSOJ care packages the most,” he said.
Brissett explained he had to open a total of four bank accounts in order to get the project going, adding that he masked-up from early on in the pandemic to ensure he got the required signatures for the accounts.
He added that the process involved some amount of footwork, however, it was worth the effort when he considers that the PSOJ Response Fund raised millions of dollars to benefit thousands of Jamaicans.
Brissett, who is currently pursuing his MBA in Finance at the UWI, also noted that he was required to prepare weekly financial reports for PSOJ; detailed reports that tracked, among other important measures, donations and disbursements.
He went on to explain that these reports were primarily guided by UWJ’s CEO, Winsome Wilkins, who assisted in reviewing the report and ensuring that staff members fed information to Brissett in a timely fashion.
“Everything was laid-out in Excel spreadsheets and every week data was collated, reports written and submitted. We never missed a deadline,” said Brissett, beaming with pride.
Conceptualised by PSOJ president Keith Duncan, the COVID-19 fund was launched soon after the virus appeared in Jamaica.
“We reached out to the PSOJ, with the help of UWJ’s Governor and PSOJ VP, Mariame Robinson, highlighting several projects for which United Way of Jamaica had served as fund manager, including national disasters like Hurricane Gilbert, Hurricane Ivan and even the earthquake in Haiti where we managed funds sent via United Way Worldwide to assist that country. The PSOJ was convinced and invited United Way of Jamaica on board as Fund Manager of its Covid19 Response Fund,” said United Way’s chairman Marcia Forbes.
“UWJ is pleased to have served the country, along with others like the JDF and the JCF,” she added.
UWJ has over 35 years’ experience in fund management, having managed money from the USAID and many other global entities.