Financial services PwC and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) are two of the entities that have teamed up with the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) in the execution of the PSOJ COVID-19 Jamaica Response Fund to help frontline workers and vulnerable groups and communities across the country cope with the fallout from the pandemic.

Donations to the Fund, which has a target of J$250 million, are earmarked to subsidise the food security and health service needs of the target groups.

PwC has pledged $4 million to the initiative, as well as human capital and technical support. Territory leader Leighton McKnight said the company was keen to support the response fund since the programme mirrors the company’s own social responsibility ethos.

He explained that the firm has adopted an “all hands on deck” approach, with employee volunteers forming a task force to coordinate the packaging of essential items and distributing them in the targeted communities.

“The tourism sector has been heavily hit, remittances are down; it reflects good social responsibility to help the most vulnerable among us,” McKnight said. “So many people are experiencing challenges at this time.”

The PwC has also assigned a team to offer technical support to the PSOJ and the Government of Jamaica for developing protocols for reopening affected sectors of the economy, notably tourism and education.

“We are in the process of providing computers to aid UTech,” McKnight stated, adding, “I encourage all of corporate Jamaica to come on board to help, because corporate responsibility is important. No contribution is too small.”

The PSOJ COVID-19 Jamaica Response Fund is a private, public, social sector partnership managed by the umbrella business organization, the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS), the United Way of Jamaica (UWJ), and American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) with logistics and distribution support from the Jamaica Defence Force and the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

It was established to raise and distribute resources for the protection and welfare of Jamaicans in 25 of the island’s most vulnerable communities.

At risk groups, comprising people over the age of 65, those with underlying health or mobility issues, and those with general increased risk levels will receive aid in the form of the delivery of food packages and/or prepared meals. The response fund will also offer support to displaced individuals – defined as people residing in communities that have recently or historically experienced high levels of unemployment – through food kitchens and food packages.

While organisations such as PwC coordinate its own teams, it’s the JDF’S marshalling of the broad logistics effort that gets the relief aid into the homes of the families that need it. That effort is supported by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the Social Development Commission, Jamaica Customs, a list of volunteer organisations including the Jamaica Red Cross, Food For The Poor, and police youth clubs, as well as the ministries of National Security and Local Government.

According to logistics co-chair Brigadier Radgh Mason, the JDF utilises the JCF’s geographic command structure to help map the distribution of the packages to the respective communities. Mason further detailed that the command boundaries are reviewed under the supervision of the JCF’s divisional commander before the drop-off strategies are adopted.

“The main distribution hub is located at Derrimon Trading/Sampars, where the putting together of the care packages are done before they are taken out for distribution to the various parishes,” the brigadier stated, adding that it’s volunteers who undertake the task of packaging.

“We have received about 11,000 packages so far, and we are expecting another 6,000 this week,” Mason said, adding that the team expects to distribute a “minimum 6,686 packages next week”.

To avert mass gathering and ensure compliance with physical distancing guidelines, the logistics co-chair disclosed that volunteers are located in the actual communities to do the deliveries.

“The door-to-door deliveries also promote a more intimate connection with the at-risk individuals,” he said.

Mason said the PSOJ COVID-19 Response Fund was a “great partnership… a model partnership between the government and private sector” which should, in the future, encourage “interest groups, stakeholders, leaders of communities, and politicians to come together to help the vulnerable.”

“I wish, for future endeavours, that this model is used to help the country going forward,” Brigadier Mason said.

He added: “It’s always good to see the JCF and the JDF working together with civilians and gaining public trust because it will help both institutions to better protect the public.”

The PSOJ COVID-19 Jamaica Response Fund was initiated in April and is expected to run for the next couple of months.