We all get famished, especially when we get too busy in our jobs and have no time to actually sit and eat as we maneuver through the day. The thought that many people do not have the option of eating to alleviate hunger, because they just can’t afford it, becomes more and more heartbreaking to fathom.
Food is one of the necessities for survival. The poverty rate was at 14.3% in 2007 and at 16.5% between 2008 and 2009 in Jamaica as revealed by The Jamaican Survey of Living Conditions. In 2010 the survey found that the poverty rate rose to 17.6 per cent. Further surveys indicated that the poverty rate rose to 19.9 percent in 2012, and continued to rise in subsequent years.
Hope comes not in the form of the government, but from concerned people among the younger generation who see the need to help those who are less fortunate. One of those concerned persons is Jordan Bennett, a Jamaican philanthropist who has successfully launched a non-profit organization which has garnered the support, partnership, organizations, and the aid of thousands of persons.
“From as long as I can remember I have had a deep passion for helping the needy.”- Jordan Bennett.
His grandmother was a strong influence in his life as she too would prepare food packages and distribute them to people within her community; that stuck with him growing up and shaped him into the selfless person he is today. He was no stranger to helping those in need, as one highlight in the decision to making philanthropy a life goal, was him raising JMD$20,000 from selling sweets to assist his fellow peers with their graduation fees while attending Kingsway High School. He is the son of producer Mikey Bennett and brother of Nicky B, recording artiste, one would think he would take to the music industry, but his calling was to be a beacon for the less fortunate.
The organization operates out of 2B Grafton Road, or Grafton Studios, in Vineyard Town Kingston, Jamaica. Other than providing feedings for what seems to be society’s outcasts and destitute, the organization also facilitates visits to children homes, families and schools within the inner city areas.
“It’s not only about feeding persons; it’s also about socializing with them so that they can develop a certain amount of trust in us. We have to be very sensitive towards them because aggression can drive them away and so we have empowerment seminars on how to interact with them so that we can be more understanding and respectful to them.” – Jordan Bennett on Youthlink.
In 2012, at the age of 17, he was motivated to embark on a mission to launch the non-profit Feeding of the 5000. His mission is to help in fostering an independent society that is wealthy and healthy and driven by a strong sense of self, as well as to build an organization that fills hearts and souls, not just bellies, with love.
Jordan, who graduated from the Northern Caribbean University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, is an ardent Christian and he conceptualized the name from the biblical story of the feeding of the multitude with a mere five loaves and two fish by Jesus.
Though outcasts of society, in many ways, their strangely triumphant unison of “thanks” and “tenk yuh“ are sufficient, not only to plant broad and genuine smiles on the faces of their benefactors, but the smiles are powerful enough to chip away years of destitution and melancholy that otherwise occupy the faces of these beneficiaries.
Adapted From the Column post by Christopher Burns in the Jamaica Observer entitled: Thank you Jordan Bennett, the Gov’t cannot do it all.
Under the motto ‘Young Jamaicans Helping Jamaica’, his vision is to also stimulate nations to become free from hunger, and he has already made a difference. The organization is mainly comprised of like minded youth volunteers attending university and high schools, who actively support Bennett’s vision.
“The core of our volunteers is basically between the ages of 18 and 25, so we are surrounded by an abundance of youth. There is also a very vibrant atmosphere, and we make the best use of it. I’m grateful to reach this far, and I hope to inspire a lot more young people because a lot of persons want to give back. They just need the first step.” – Jordan Bennett.
Bennett recounts his first ever feeding in April of 2012, where he and his team went out and fed two-hundred and fifty persons in the small inner-city communities of Kingston and St. Andrew. A box lunch, drink, and cake was provided to each person. While it was a one-off project for Bennett, it sky rocketed into something more in the subsequent years. The first year saw over one thousand five hundred persons fed throughout the two feedings (April 2012 and December 2012)
“We went out to different communities. We mainly targeted the inner-city communities and we had assistance from the police, my friends and three family members and we went out and we served,” Jordan tells JIS News.
The CEO of the Feeding of the 5000 was overwhelmed by the love and support at the times of the feedings, as well as at fundraising events to offset the costs which were not covered by kind donations or sponsorships. The Feeding of the 5000 has been featured in magazines, newspapers, local television, and radio stations in Jamaica and in international documentaries. The organization has received support internationally from people living in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States; through inspirational words, barrels containing donated items, and money from fundraisers held on their behalf. Bennett recently said:
“To be honest, this has grown in every aspect since inception – more than my own expectations – much of which is due to the exposure that we have been getting from the different media outlets such as yours. We finally have our website up as well, which will help us to go even further,” – Jordan Bennett in an interview with Jamaica Gleaner.
In the same year of inception (2012) and in 2013, he was awarded with the Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Youth In Service. He was also recognized and awarded for his service by the Environmental Health Foundation Social Wellness Youth Award.
“I was doing this selflessly; out of pure joy in making someone else happy. I wasn’t selling anything, I was giving back and to be honored with the highest level of national recognition as a youth, for doing this, is something that I’m truly thankful for and it pushes me to continue. I didn’t even know anything about The Prime Minister’s Youth Awards prior to my nomination.” – Jordan Bennett on Youthlink.
In December 2013 the organization fed and clothed one thousand seven hundred persons and in 2014 cumulatively they fed over 2,000 persons in the August and December 2014 events.
In December of 2014 Bennett looked to feeding another five-thousand persons after he reached his first goal of feeding five-thousand. He would not have imagined that the team would have achieved the second target so soon in 2016. He then celebrated the milestone with a fundraising party, which was also a success, in commemoration for their feeding expansion to other parishes like St. Catherine, St. Ann and Clarendon.
In 2015 Bennett and his team of volunteers and partners took to the streets with the staging of another feeding and had one in January and another in April. The January 10th event was launched in the form of a Grocery Bag Drive where groceries were given to families in the Kingston, St. Andrew and St. Catherine area. In 2016 the target set at ten thousand was accomplished; there was also an increase in the number of volunteers who participated.
In the future Bennett has sights on becoming an entrepreneur, but he will forever be dedicated to growing his organization; a promise to the people. Thousands of persons benefit from the volunteers’ kind donations and warm embraces and in turn express their genuine and heart felt gratitude; something you can’t buy in stores for Christmas.
He desires to teach skills to the homeless and less fortunate so that they can become more independent and sustain themselves and attain a better life.
“As young people, we are doing so many good things, but there is always room to do better.” – Jordan Bennett.
By Alexandra Daley
Photos courtesy of facebook.com