June 2016 when I attended what was appropriately billed as an “Evening of Elegance” at Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel, one key item that I noticed was a large placard announcing that Grace Kennedy Foods and Digicel Jamaica had together donated US$10,000 to Integrity Children’s Fund (ICF), in support of ICF’s mission. That was a significant contribution, I thought to myself.
I was immediately reminded that way, way back, shortly after ICF had embarked on its mission, the organization’s leadership soon took ICF to the point where it became one of the first West Indian charitable organizations in Atlanta to employ a paid professional staff member. In fact, so impressed was I with that visionary strategy, I published an article to let the community know more about ICF.
The article in question was published September 2006 in the Kingston College Old Boys (KCOBA) online magazine. Now, ten years later, in recognition of ICF’s overwhelmingly impressive operational successes, and in response to various requests, we are publishing the article again, exactly as it was written originally.
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Integrity Children's Fund
By Derrick R. Wright
The KCOBA online newsletter has featured an Atlanta charitable Caribbean organization just about every month for the past six months. This month we have the spotlight on Integrity Children’s Fund (ICF), a relatively young organization, but one that has an impressive record of achievement serving the poor and destitute who live in communities that are largely underserved.
What’s in a Name?
In strategic management one learns of the importance of choosing the right name for an organization. After all, the name is the organization’s identity. In essence, it should identify what the organization does. With a name such as Integrity Children’s Fund, it is quite clear what this organization does: it raises funds to benefit children. Not only that, though, it does so with integrity.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, ICF is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization established to raise funds to educate needy children in Jamaica. With a vision to provide hope and opportunity, ICF was formally launched at the Hillside Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia on Sunday, June 9, 2002.
The idea for ICF was conceived when Major Karl Chambers, ex-officer and 20-year veteran of the Jamaica Defense Force, learned of the work of Jamaican-born Lorna Archer-Stanley. Archer-Stanley, a one-time real estate executive in south Florida, gave up her home and job in the States to relocate to Jamaica to help children victimized by the ongoing gang wars in west Kingston. Out of this commitment the Operation Restoration Christian School was set up in Rema/Trench Town in 1994.
Meanwhile in Atlanta, Major Karl Chambers and a group of friends heard of the project. "We were all moved to do something to contribute to this work," he said. This group began making monthly contributions to Lorna's work. "Our contributions were not adequate to make a dent on the immense need," Major Chambers continued, “so we prayed about it and decided to research the idea of making the group a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization."
The result was ICF, a collaborative effort of Major Karl Chambers as founding president, and a group of US and Jamaican professionals with a desire to help Jamaica. The board members are accomplished individuals who share several bonds and beliefs, most important of which is their faith in Jesus Christ.
Leadership [Note: As it was September 2006].
In strategic management one also learns how important it is for an organization to have an effective and well-respected leader. When you interact with ICF President Major Karl Chambers, you quickly come to realize that he is highly effective, simply because he is confident, conscious, caring, and charismatic, among other positive characteristics. In effect, he is the consummate leader, with a military background to boot.
Other equally effective ICF board members include actor/comedian extraordinaire Dr. Chris “Sarge’ Parker, as well as Oswyn Hines, Professor Everard Barrett, Jewel Parker, Marcia Chambers and Natalya Edwards. Advisors to the board are Carol Hawkins (Legal Counsel), Rebecca Wellborn (Non-profit) and William Settle (Fundraising). The financial officer is Thom McDermott.
Effective Leadership: A Defining “Rialto” Moment
Over the past four years ICF, through the help of its corporate sponsors Air Jamaica, Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) and General Motors, has offered an entertaining and hilarious family oriented concert at Christmastime. The concerts have been produced and directed by Dr. Chris Parker, ICF vice president, who also performs on stage in his various comedic roles. Of significance, Dr. Parker has transformed a group of Jamaican children living in Atlanta into a cast of amusing and entertaining actors known as "Di Pickney Dem."
One of these concerts, held in December 2003, became a signature moment for ICF. After months of meticulous planning and rehearsals the day came for the concert. However, as approximately 450 patrons gathered at the Rialto Center in Atlanta to be entertained, the unthinkable occurred: the electrical power to the stage area of the Rialto failed. According to the Rialto staff, that was the first in over 10 years that the center experienced a power failure at an event.
In the end, the concert was held in the lobby of the Rialto Center, with the audience huddled together in close quarters. Despite the enormous challenges, Dr. Parker and his cast pulled off a remarkably entertaining performance, much to the delight of the patient audience, who had waited over 2 hours for the delayed start of the program, singing Christmas carols as they waited. According to Maj. Karl Chambers, the big lesson for ICF was, "Just like how ICF was able to overcome its hopeless state with the help of its friends and supporters in the audience, so will the at-risk children of Jamaica overcome their hopeless state, through the help of ICF and its donors worldwide!”
Vision, Goals, Objectives
According to its Web site, ICF’s vision is “to inspire hope in the lives of the children of Jamaica through increasing their access to quality education.” Their motto is simply “Changing a nation one child at a time, through hope and opportunity.”
Though not clearly identified as such, ICF’s main goal is to provide educational support for children in all 14 parishes of the island of Jamaica within the next ten years.
To that end, the related long-term objectives are:
· To establish a consistent donor community, and
· To provide support for 10,000 children throughout all the parishes of Jamaica by the year 2010.
Not surprisingly, ICF has a strategy for achieving its long-term objectives. It will grow its operation in phases, it reports.
Essentially, a two-year pilot phase commenced shortly after the ICF 2002 launch, where two schools in Trench Town, Jamaica, began to receive financial support. The two schools include Operation Restoration Christian Basic School, and Covenant Community Church Basic School. These schools, co-located on Collie Smith Drive, provide education for students from the adjoining Kingston communities of Trench Town, Rema, Arnett Gardens and Rose Town. On successful completion of the pilot phase, other schools across Jamaica will be identified and supported.
ICF also has a set of planned support activities. These include:
· Student support
· Teacher training and development, and
· Infrastructure acquisition and maintenance.
ICF’s Record of Achievement – A Few Examples
In September 2002 nine out of ten students at the Operation Restoration Christian School in Rema/Trench Town in Jamaica passed the Grade Nine Achievement Test. The amazing feat about this was that five of these teenaged students were unable to read and write three-letter words two or three years prior.
The achievement at Operation Restoration Christian School brought cheers from many quarters, but in particular to a team of 8 Jamaicans living in Atlanta who formed the founding board of ICF.
Meanwhile, Operation Restoration Christian School has been making a mark in western Kingston. The remedial program started with four teenage boys and since then more than 600 students have enrolled.
One of the students attending Operation Restoration Christian School is Andre Annakie, a former illiterate gang member and gun-toting teenager from Arnett Gardens who enrolled in the “Youths off the Streets” program at the school in September 2003. “When I came to the school, I could not read nor write; I didn’t know the sound of vowels. I was angry and frustrated! I felt like nobody!” he said. “The school made me come to myself and helped me change my bad attitude. I am still improving.”
Andre struggled for months to learn to read and write but Lorna Archer-Stanley refused to give up on him. Today he is the supervisor of a student workforce that does custodial work at the school, and a prominent member of the “Youths off the Streets” group. “Mrs. Stanley makes me feel good about myself and makes me feel like someone because when I couldn’t read I used to feel like I was nobody. I regret some of the things I used to do and I only used to preach badness and was getting involved with the gun but I see it for myself now…the book is better than the gun,” Andre wrote in a letter published in the Gleaner on June 19, 2004. Through the financial support of ICF Andre has successfully turned away from the gun and has embraced the hope of education.
ICF also supports the development of the Joy Town Learning Centre in Trench Town. Established in 1994 it is housed in a building that doubles as a basic school for some 150 students on weekdays, and as the Joy Town Covenant Community Church on Sundays.
ICF is the school’s main overseas partner, and continues to play its part in allowing the Joy Town Learning Centre to realize its vision to make the school a model for learning. In addition to a monthly donation of US$1,200 (JA$75,000), which goes towards paying the teachers, ICF recently contributed US$1,200 (JA$75,000) which was used to install two 1,000-gallon water tanks, complete with pipe fittings, pumps and pressure tanks, for use during periods of water lock-offs and natural disasters. [Note: Conversion rates were Year 2006 rates.]
To date, ICF has raised and sent over US$80,000 to these schools in Trench Town. The funds were raised mainly through walk-a-thons, corporate, and individual donations. ICF is also widely known in Atlanta for its annual hilarious family oriented concerts and elegant Wine and Cheese Parties. In 2006, ICF broke new ground raising funds outside of Atlanta for the first time, by staging highly successful walk-a-thons in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and San Francisco. Walk-a-thons will be held in several new cities across the USA in 2007, as well as London, England.
How to Help
Supporters can help in a number of ways:
· Regular financial commitment
· One-time donation
· Getting involved in ICF's activities.
The opportunities to help are not mutually exclusive, ICF explains on its Web site. As such, ICF encourages supporters to participate in as many ways as one can. “The offer of prayer is of utmost importance as Christian values and principles serve as the underpinnings of the mission that we are called to accomplish,” ICF explains.
ICF is recognized by the IRS as a Tax Exempt 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the United States. This means that all contributions from residents and citizens of the U.S. are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.
How to contact ICF [Updated].
Integrity Children's Fund
P.O. Box 4402
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Submitted by Derrick R. Wright using information from the following sources:
· An ICF promotional article provided by ICF President, Major Karl Chambers
· ICF’s Web site at www.integritychildrensfund.net [Year 2006]
· Prior and current discussions/interactions with the ICF president, and
· ICF’s written response to a specific question related to the “Rialto Moment.”