With governments stretched to the limit of their capabilities to provide educational support to its young people seeking higher education, there is an increasing demand for private organizations and individuals to step in and fill the vacuum.
Last Saturday night, the non-profit Independent United Order of Solomon Pride of Toronto Chapter #12 Lodge presented $26,500 in scholarships to nine third-year medical students, including six who are enrolled in the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus program.
Led by Jamaican-born Order of Ontario recipient Lloyd Seivright, the organization has presented 108 scholarships in the last 21 years.
Jamaica’s High Commissioner Sheila Sealy-Monteith congratulated the award winners and acknowledged the lodge for staying the course in supporting students pursuing medical careers.
“Here in Canada, you are fortunate to have comparatively easy access to a good education at all levels,” she said in her keynote address. “Government-provided educational support gives assurance for many who may not otherwise be able to fulfill their desire to formalize their knowledge and to secure the career of their choice.
“The situation is not necessarily the same in other countries, especially those in the developing world…Ours is a system which was inherited from the British and which over the years has been honed to take on a more regional and national context. This is a major undertaking in an economy which is not performing as anticipated and where the needs outstrip the ability to provide for them.
“We know that we are not alone and that provides small comfort.
“One way in which these efforts find support is through the actions of private individuals, corporations and even the educational institutions themselves in the scholarships that they offer. I often wonder if anyone has ever stopped to take an inventory of the many scholarships, bursaries and grants which are made available. They are myriad, yet the remarkable thing is that as many as there are, they are still not enough. It’s no secret that the need remains great and we are grateful to those who take up the challenge to assist.”
Sealy-Monteith said her Ottawa office receives numerous requests from Jamaican students performing exceptionally who are unable to take up offers to study abroad because they don’t have the financial means.
“They are seeking help,” said Sealy-Monteith who has two UWI degrees. “I shall have to turn them over to you Mr. Seivright as I do not have a budget for this and you clearly do a better job at it than I can. My best effort is to encourage them and to refer them to others who may be able to help…The Pride of Toronto has sought to kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, in providing scholarships to medical students, making it possible for our countries to count on an expanding team of medical professionals.”
Deidre-Ann Ennis had the distinction of receiving the 100th scholarship since the program was launched in 1990 when she was just three years old.
“I am very much aware of this landmark and I will cherish the honour and the award,” said Ennis who aspires to be an obstetrician/gynecologist.
She was presented with a $1,500 Independent United Order of Solomon-sponsored award.
Hitesh Reddy, Gayan Smith and Tracey-Ann Brooks were the recipients of $5,000 UWI scholarships while Cornwall College graduate Andre McDaniel received a $2,000 scholarship awarded by Ted Ryan in memory of late Trinidad & Tobago Consul General Cyril Blanchfield who passed away in April 2003.
Aspiring 20-year-old pediatrician Natalya Rose was presented with the Denham Jolly-sponsored $3,000 award to honour the memory of late Jamaica Prime Minister Michael Manley who died 14 years ago.
University of Toronto medical students Miranda Boggild and Michael Chan received $2,000 and $1,000 scholarships respectively while Magali Boizot-Roche, who is on an exchange program in Germany, was the winner of this year’s Kay Baxter Memorial $2,000 award co-funded by the Toronto Sun.
The former Jamaican diplomat who served in Ottawa and Toronto passed away in January 1998.
In addition to scholarships, the lodge has distributed thousands of dollars worth of medical supplies, including wheelchairs, across Canada and the rest of the world in the last 33 years.