Regional News

Over the past several months, an invisible and deadly disease has ravaged almost every corner of the globe, including the Caribbean. Many families, government agencies, organisations, and even countries have halted normal operations and adopted new protocols to preserve life and safety. Charitable causes have increased exponentially in response to the needs of the vulnerable. UWI Global Giving, too, has increased its momentum.

The 2020 UWI Global Giving campaign, initially slated for one week in August, shifted from its traditional focus on infrastructure development, research and scholarship funding to specifically addressing new issues arising in society due to this pandemic. “It was appropriately extended beyond a one-week event to a month-long appeal,” explained Minna Israel, Special Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor of The UWI and the Campaign Chair for the Global Giving Programme. The extension was to support students and parents that were negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus.

“Nearly 10,000 students—approximately one in five— have experienced financial instability and negative social circumstances of the COVID-19 fallout,” Israel said.

The pandemic certainly demanded a radical shift in approach as many planned fundraising events, which usually brought the alumni and the community together, were either cancelled, postponed or delivered virtually. However, the patrons of this massive campaign were not deterred. Israel explained that the campaign focused on encouraging a large number of individuals to give small amounts. The response has been phenomenal.

“The initiative has seen donations from alumni and friends of The UWI exceeding this year’s target of US$500,000”,Israelenthusiasticallyrevealed.Intimeforthe start of the new academic year, which began in September, the campaign has already offered 35 scholarships valuing up to US$5,000 each, and established two endowment funds totalling US$350,000. “Even more encouraging is the fact that contributions are still coming in on the online donation platform,” In its 5th year since the launch of UWI Global Giving, the response suggests that the goal of building a philanthropic culture is being realised.

UWI Global Giving was conceptualised by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The UWI, and the inaugural campaign launched on August 1, 2016— Emancipation Day for most of the region’s territories. The programme pays tribute to that past while raising the spotlight on education as one of the most critical means to freedom, particularly for the current generation of youth.

It was a direct response to the fact that regional governments’ subventions to The UWI, while significant, were insufficient to adequately cater to the path of advancement which the university has been exploring. Israel stated “there was a growing need to diversify revenue sources”, and so, Global Giving was birthed. This inspiring concept sought to engage the alumni and other stakeholders in philanthropic efforts to increase access to education. It operates annually under the theme, “Emancipate, Educate, Donate”.

UWI Global Giving applauds the visionary creator of the project, Vice-Chancellor Beckles, who continues to lead this effort of sustained student development. Earlier in May, he rallied the university’s senior executive leadership to allocate a percentage of their salaries for three months towards a student hardship fund called UWI Cares, providing the foundation for the 2020 crowdfunding campaign.

The entire UWI community of alumni, students, friends, private and public sector corporations and international bodies are recognised as superheroes in UWI Global Giving Campaign 2020, especially as they continued to show invaluable support during this crisis. Amazingly, one of their biggest donors is a 93-year-old alum, Dr Doyle Slifer, who not only made an incredibly substantial contribution but encouraged others to donate and add the initiative to their wills, as he has done.

Minna Israel is no stranger to the financial world. She has had a long and successful banking career in the Caribbean. On her journey, she shattered many glass ceilings. Israel is Scotiabank’s first female Country Head in the Caribbean and Latin America, and the first female president of the Jamaica Bankers’ Association. In 2017, she was recognised with the “Women Making a Difference Award” from the International Women’s Forum, sharing the stage with other remarkable women, including former US First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I built my foundation on The UWI,” says Israel, who attained a Bachelor’s in Management Studies at UWI Mona, which she describes as a personal investment with highly anticipated returns which she now enjoys. In 2011, she was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree at The UWI. She shortly thereafter re-joined the UWI family and was appointed Distinguished Business Fellow at the Mona School of Business & Management (MSBM). After 18 months of pro-bono work with the university, increasing alignment with the private sector and mentoring final year business students, she was selected as the special advisor on Resource Development, to the Vice-Chancellor.

In this capacity, she led a team that spearheaded engagements and solicitations for financial support from corporations, international partners, foundations and alumni, which helped to propel The UWI’s development, and impacted its standing as the number one university in the Caribbean and among the top in Latin America and the world as ranked by Times Higher Education.

Re-emphasising that “all of us can make it happen”, Israel recognises all past and present donors and patrons of UWI Global Giving, asserting that “this is one of the ways members of the UWI community can make an impact at the university by contributing to Caribbean development by ensuring the future of the region’s human resource capacity.” Among these patrons are notable figures such as Sir Rodney Williams, Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda; Ms A Missouri Sherman-Peter, Ambassador, Permanent Observer for (CARICOM); Sir Colville Young, Governor General of Belize; PJ Patterson, former Prime Minister of Jamaica; Sir SW Tapley Seaton, Governor General of Saint Kitts and Nevis; Justice Anthony Thomas Carmona, former President of Trinidad and Tobago; Sir George Alleyne, former Chancellor of The UWI and Dame Pearlette Louisy, former Governor General of Saint Lucia.

We are almost at the end of this year, but the 2020 Global Giving Campaign is far from over. The impact has been far reaching, but particularly important as The UWI community navigates this new normal while assisting many affected students.

As Vice-Chancellor Beckles, puts it, “This is the time for our young people to embrace university education. It is not the time to retreat. One step back is to place their future, and that of their family, community and nation on the back burner”.

UWI Global Giving is creating these opportunities uninterrupted.

Persons are encouraged to routinely visit the Global Giving webpage at to stay in touch, become an advocate and inspire others to give to this noble cause.

Jody Robinson is a final year student from Jamaica completing a master’s degree in Social Work. She serves as the Deputy Vice President of the UWI St Augustine Guild of Students 2020/2021.