GLEANER- AUGUST TOWN, St Andrew, is one of many communities that will soon reap the benefits of the various enrichment projects scheduled to be carried out over the next seven years by the recently launched, United Kingdom (UK)-based, Windrush75 Anchor Heritage Education programme.
To commemorate the start of the collaborative programme, members of diaspora communities from Canada, the UK and the United States hosted the Windrush Five Communities Anchor Festival in African Gardens Square, August Town, yesterday on Labour Day.
The festival came ahead of a National Church Service set for today, the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush’s departure from Jamaica with somewhere in the region of 500 immigrants from the island who were bound for the UK. The HMT Empire Windrush was responsible for bringing one of the first large groups of post-World War II West Indian immigrants to England, where they would go on to make significant contributions to rebuilding the country.
In addition to the church service and a panel discussion scheduled for tomorrow, the Jamaica Library Service is also set to host a Windrush Travelling Exhibition from May 29-June 22, the anniversary of the ship’s arrival at the UK’s Tilbury docks in 1948.
More than 300,000 Caribbean nationals were transported to the UK during this period as Britain leant on immigrants to help deal with its post-war labour crisis.
However, in 2018 the British government discovered that it had incorrectly recorded the information of those who had been given permission to remain in the UK, causing many of them and their descendants to be wrongfully deported.
The primary objectives of the heritage education programme include community economic development, increasing cultural respect and passing on a legacy to young people by giving them chances to play a significant part in determining cultural outcomes.
Rudi Page, chief executive operator of Making Connections Work Limited – a policy implementation management consultancy specialising in community development and diaspora affairs – told The Gleaner that the programme was heavily invested in activities that would support young people and restore communities while “inspiring inclusive, peaceful, caring enterprising neighbourhoods”.
Page, who also served as the programme director for the festival, disclosed that the activities were planned in line with Vision 2030 – Jamaica’s national development plan, and would be observed annually on May 23. Going forward, that day will be known as Descendants Day.
During the opening ceremony, Page, alongside other diaspora members and community heads, unveiled an anchor which is to symbolise hope, strength and belonging. A sign was also contributed to the space.
He added that the programme was supported by local partners such as the Community Development Committee, the Social Development Commission and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund.
Professor Martin Levermore, independent person for the United Kingdom’s government Windrush Compensation Scheme, has encouraged more locals to come forward and share their stories in order to determine whether they are eligible for compensation.
He was speaking with The Gleaner during the Windrush Five Communities Anchor Festival held in African Gardens Square, August Town, yesterday.
The scheme, which was launched in 2019, is designed to compensate individuals who have suffered loss in connection with being unable to demonstrate their lawful status in the UK.
“I’m here to listen, I’m here to gather information that will shape and improve the compensation scheme,” he said, adding that, to date, £70 million (over J$30 billion) has been paid out.
He added that more could be done to break down the barriers currently existing and to ensure that “the appropriate level of understanding of what the scheme can or cannot do is imparted to those who may be affected”.
Levermore, who took over the position in 2021, informed The Gleaner that more than 17,000 people received their British status confirmed, of whom 2,791 were Jamaicans.
Currently, 368 people have been granted temporary indefinite leave to remain in the nation, and the remaining 387 people have permanent indefinite status.
“But we haven’t gone far enough,” he said, noting that a greater sense of trust needed to be established between the UK government and the Jamaican people.
He sought to remind persons that his presence in the island was not “to build expectations but to be able to say there is a rational, logical system and approach that is now established so, if you feel that you have been, in any way, denied of legitimate status or financial restitution, a scheme is there that is working, not just for Jamaicans, but across the Commonwealth.”