From email@example.com Mon Jun 5 05:37:23 2000
Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Jean Brown Finds Her Niche
By Dionne Jackson Miller, IPS, 1 June 2000
KINGSTON, May 31 (IPS) - When the environmental movement started to become popular in Jamaica a decade ago, many of the people involved at the community level were white foreigners, sparking criticism about the alienation of locals from the process. But that did not stop Jean Brown from jumping right in.
Brown remembers those early days of the movement very well. "You really found that in the past, most of the people at the helm of organisations were ex-pats (ex-patriates)."
"I think it (joining the movement) had to do with my personal conviction that what was being done was good, it was necessary, and I was already doing some of that on a small scale within the school," she says trying to describe what sparked her interest as a black Jamaican in the environment.
Brown has been a teacher now for 19 years, and has very few regrets about her choice of career. Although she originally intended to become a nurse, a chance assignment while still in school to work with trained teachers at a local college pointed her in a new direction.
Even Brown's expressed disappointment in teaching are for the most part, indicative of her commitment to her profession. "I get discouraged when students I want to move at a very rapid pace seem to be lagging, and I also get discouraged because of the treatment that teachers get," she says.
"When you look at teachers salaries and compare that with others who have never given an extra hour for free as teachers do, they get five times and 20 times (our salaries)."
For her then, involvement in the environmental movement was a natural extension of her commitment to education.
So when the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society (NCRPS) decided to start celebrating Earth Day activities about 10 years ago, and involved the schools, Brown realised that she had found her niche.
"I recognised that they were doing basically the same things I was already incorporating at school, and we got really excited, and ran with that Earth Day back in 1991, and I just continued with the organisation," she says.
Brown moved from Chairperson of the Earth Day Committee to Vice President of NCRPS, and up to the position of President which she has now held for about five years.
Throughout that time, the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society has made its mark as one of Jamaicas most active environmental groups, lobbying government for years for the eventual establishment of the Negril Marine Park, the second marine park to be established in Jamaica.
The organisation also mobilised the community to work with overseas experts to install mooring buoys, to prevent boats from anchoring on the reef and damaging delicate corals.
The NCRPS has long been recognised as a force to reckon with in Negril, the tourism resort at the western end of the island , and is now working with other groups to transform that area into a "green resort".
But true to her background in education, Brown describes as one of her proudest achievements the junior ranger project, started several years ago to teach environmental concepts to children.
"We became a bit frustrated when we found out that the adults weren't running as quickly as we thought they should have with the whole business of environmental protection. So we decided to change focus a bit and concentrate on the younger ones," she explains.
The junior programme covers children 10 - 17 years old throughout primary and secondary schools, and has so far included more than 1,000 children.
The children work on environmental projects like clean-up campaigns, are trained in sea moss cultivation to teach them alternatives to fishing, and are taught to help with composting programmes at their schools.
The programme has been adopted by other groups around Jamaica, and according to Brown, has received regional recognition as well.
"Most recently, the Caribbean Conservation Association in collaboration with a Darwin Initiative funded project has also embraced the project and are using it in an environmental education pack that has been developed for Caribbean schools and schools in the UK. I represented Jamaica in the writing of that pack, so I really feel proud of that," she says.
Negril hotelier Sylvie Grizzle says much of the environmental awareness in the schools is due to Browns work.
"She has a lot of dynamism, and is extremely good at pulling out the best in the children, she has a lot of imagination and capability," says Grizzle.
A single woman with no children, Brown does not restrict her activities to the environmental movement.
She is also a Director of the Negril Chamber of Commerce, Vice Chairperson of the Negril Environment Protection Trust, Youth and Christian Education Director of the New Testament Church of God in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland, works with the local governmental cultural promotion agency, and even finds time to sing with a local group.
Having grown up as one of the older siblings in a family of four girls and seven boys, Brown learned very early on how to shoulder responsibility, something she continues to do today.
For her, seeing first hand the change in attitudes and behaviour makes all her work worthwhile.
"It's a great thing to see so many people from so many different communities, with different interests recognising the fact that even if I live in one of the most remote areas of the watersheds, my actions and my attitudes in that remote area can impact in a very, very negative way on a natural resource from which myself, my children and my childrens children can benefit, so that has been a great thing," she says.
[c] 2000, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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