By Dennis Kabatto – The Conference room on the third floor could barely hold the two dozen, mostly Caribbean media representatives who converged at the luxurious Kimberly Hotel to cover GraceKennedy and Western Union for the third annual Caribbean Diaspora Forum, Media Breakfast.
Chaired by Mr. Don Wehby, Group Chief Executive Officer of GraceKennedy, the media breakfast was a prelude to a town hall meeting series featuring former prime Minister of Jamaican Mr. P.J. Patterson as keynote speaker under the topic of Caribbean Diaspora – Borderless Possibilities at Medger Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.
Primarily, the Forum’s intent is to connect the Caribbean Diasporas in the USA and Canada with their respective countries providing an opportunity to deliberate issues of importance for the advancement of the Diaspora, according to a joint press release issued by GraceKennedy and Western Union.
The speakers highlighted the expansion of educational programs for Caribbean Diaspora Youth, ‘Pride of the Caribbean’ and ‘GraceKennedy Birthright’ program as a means to counter the hardships faced by parents and hard pressed governments in funding education due to 10 years of economic recession.
Mr. Sean Mason, Regional Vice President & General Manager, Western Union Caribbean said the Pride of the Caribbean Scholarship Program, a corporate led initiative started last year by Western Union initially benefited Caribbean-born and second generation Caribbean Americans from 9 Caribbean countries residing in the USA.
However, the program is currently serving 19 countries including scholarships to Caribbean students who attend the University of the West Indies (UWI) awarding a total of US $50,000.
Mr. Mason said the aforementioned programs are an expression of gratitude for Caribbean customers continued support. “We want to support the academic endeavors of Caribbean youth no matter where they choose to seek a higher education. Our goal is to elevate our outstanding future leaders as members of the Caribbean community.”
Mr. Wehby, also announced that as part of its global expansion, his company has now acquired 85 stores in Russia and started a huge investment operations in Ghana, West Africa.
After exploring five African countries including Nigeria, South Africa and Angola GraceKennedy decided to invest and begin its operation in Ghana said Mr. Michael Ranglin, President and CEO of GraceKennedy Foods – North America.
In contrast with Nigeria “Ghana’s population is manageable, the country offers investor friendly atmosphere and it promotes and facilitate the company to set up its operation. It is in our plans to establish the GraceKennedy brand in Accra, Tema and Kumasi in 4 to 5 years,’ Mr. Ranglin, added.
The third annual town hall meeting series heads to the CBC Atrium in Toronto on May 6 and ends at the Miramar Cultural Center in Miramar, Florida on May 8.