Jamaica Gleaner / Germany-based non-profit organisation, HELP Jamaica is seeking new partners and projects to benefit inner city communities in the new year. Over five years ago, its first HELP Jamaica Educational Centre (recently branded the Cassava Piece Development and Education Centre (CDEC)) was opened.
Hilmar Keding, chairman of HELP Jamaica, has no family ties to the island, but told The Gleaner “the organisation was formed because we just wanted to contribute our little with the links we had in the reggae fraternity in Germany and around Europe.”
According to Keding, after a visit to Kingston, it became important to find ways to provide guidance, empowerment, and opportunities for individuals living in inner-city areas, thus applying the motto ‘Education for a Change’.
“People were missing a lot of what I had growing up with as a child,” he said.
His interest in Jamaica started with music, hence the approach of involving others with the same interests to get involved and give back to the music’s source starting with the education centre. “It (music) has been a major part of my life. I am a collector of reggae music. Some live tapes from Jamaican and international dances as well as clashes in Europe were sold from a website I ran up until 2007.”
HELP Jamaica passed over responsibilities to the local managers of CDEC earlier this year, Keding saying, “2017 was a year of change for us, and we do not want to rush into things as we still are a very small, though dedicated, organisation.”
The organisation has been able to continue assisting underprivileged youth and communities in Jamaica with support from local companies and even a few reggae/dancehall sound systems in Germany. They include Supersonic, Kingstone, and Soundquake; three of the most popular travelling sound systems that have acted as ambassadors of reggae at the European sound clash War inna di East, Global Clash in New York, and Caribbean Cup Clash.
Another project HELP Jamaica has used to get funds is the charity calendar, started in 2009.
“We have had different partners over the years, and whoever did partner or contribute to the production did it for free. For the first seven issues (that is, seven years), the profits went to the centre while 50 per cent went to Paint Jamaica and the other half to new projects from last year’s issue,” Keding said.
“The aim this year is to put everything towards new educational projects, with the help of Reggaeville, Manifesto Jamaica and Life Yard on Fleet Street.”
For the first time, photo-graphers worldwide have contributed to the calendar by submitting images of reggae artistes performing. It is being sold online via the organi-sation’s website. Persons who ordered early received a ‘Straight Outta Jamaica’ backpack and ‘Reggae Got Soul’ mix CD.
“The calendar is done annually. Although we close shop to accommodate the holiday period, persons will still be able to order, but may receive it after December. The new edition is made available as early as October each year,” Keding said.
German music festivals Summer Jam and Reggae Jam and Reggae Geel (Belgium) have all asked for contributions from patrons to aid HELP Jamaica.
“Currently, our main partners in fundraising are the festivals and sound systems in Germany or around Europe, especially those that expose Jamaican music and culture to the world,” Keding said.
Heo does not usually spend more than three months at a time in Jamaica and plans to visit the island throughout December into next year to make new ties and find inspiration for ways HELP Jamaica can make a difference.