A Letter to the Editor for Advocacy

Working on a project promoting eHealth: the use of Information and Communication for Technology (ICT) for health, I realized (as I searched online newspapers) how little information there was. I decided,  therefore, to put some information out there. The opportunity came for me when local journalists uncovered a lack of security for medical records in Jamaica’s two main public hospitals in Kingston. Here, I thought, I could make a case for electronic medical records, an area in eHealth.

I decided on a letter to the editor because:

1. It would be fast.

Because a letter to the editor is a simple opinion piece, I wouldn’t have to worry about carefully validated research or including the opinions of experts (interviews). All I would have to do it write my own opinion (in half an hour) and send it to the editor.

2. It was more likely to be published. This because the letter to the editor is specifically designed for participation from the public. Also the timeliness of the issue (the fact that it was responding to a recent lead story) would help.


The letter ended up highlighted as Letter of the Day and I received 10 comments on the online story (which is great for starting a conversation on the matter). For being chosen for letter of the day I also received a prize of a book voucher, which I donated to a school.

Defining Health…for me!!!

Jamaican track stars dancing after victory
(Source: http://bit.ly/pouW8t)

Health is having the opportunity to enjoy, compete, make choices and fully participate in life. Health in the Caribbean is related to the very SPIRIT of a person. Our traditions are as strong today as they were over 100 years ago when we would sing and dance even under the oppression of slavery, indentured servitude and eventually the fight for national independence. Today we still SING, DANCE, PAINT, SCULPT, DRAW, STORY-TELL, EAT, SWIM, RUN and PLAY with the same energy, with the same spirit, from the city of Kingston to even the town of Livingston on the shore of Guatemala. This is to be healthy, Caribbean style.

Originally posted on the blog of Soroya Julian on October 9, 2011.

Jamaican born UN Representative in the Eastern Caribbean Moves on to South East Asia


Office of the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Barbados and OECS


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has appointed Ms. Michelle Gyles-McDonnough, a national of Jamaica, as the Resident Coordinator of the United Nations System’s operational activities for development in Malaysia, effective July 1, 2013.  Ms. Gyles-McDonnough also will serve as Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Malaysia, with additional responsibility for the Republic of Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, and will have overall responsibility and team leadership for the coordination of UN development activities in these three countries. 

Ms. Gyles-McDonnough leaves Barbados on 29th June after a successful five-year tenure as UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Barbados and the OECS. During her tenure, she significantly raised the visibility of the development challenges facing small island developing states and mobilized other development partners to work together with the UN to support Barbados and OECS member states to address the impacts of climate change; make the transition to more sustainable energy future; strengthen capabilities to assess and manage disaster risks and impacts; and improve citizen’s security, well-being and life chances, among other key development areas.   

Prior to her posting in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ms. Gyles-McDonnough was Programme Adviser in the Executive Office of UNDP, and Regional Adviser in Jamaica.  She has also served in the United Nations as Coordinator for the Grenada Recovery Programme following Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and Chief — UNDP Caribbean Sub-Regional Resource Facility in Trinidad and Tobago which she was instrumental in establishing in 1999. Before joining UNDP, Ms. Gyles-McDonnough worked with the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Washington D.C. as Member of Cabinet and Adviser to the Secretary-General. She was Legal Adviser/Alternate Representative for the Embassy of Jamaica and Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the OAS, and also practised with Winthrop Stimson Putnam and Roberts as an Attorney specializing in international trade. Ms. Gyles-McDonnough began her career in 1990 in Zimbabwe as a Law Clerk for Harare Legal Projects Centre.

Ms. Gyles-McDonnough holds an M.A. in Public Administration from Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, USA, a Juris Doctor (with honours in International and Foreign Law) from Columbia University School of Law, USA, and an A.B. in Economics with a minor in French from Bryn Mawr College, USA.

She will move on to the South East Asia region, initially with her two children, Sydney (age 11) and Liam (age 7).  Ms. Gyles-McDonnough is married to Ambassador Lorne McDonnough, CEO of the CARICOM Development Fund.


*Extended* UNICEF JA launches #HashCon2012: An Advocacy Challenge for Jamaican Bloggers




A #HashCon is where influencers in the Jamaican social media world come together and talk about an important issue for a week via their blogs. At the end of that week, the blogger with the most votes on his seleted post wins. However, the main goal is to shine a spotlight on a pertinent issue facing Jamaicans; key information is shared, important discussions take place and hopefully, progress is made in the way we advocate for our most vulnerable.

UNICEF is partnering the with Jamaica Blog Awards to use the first #HashCon to help commemmorate this year’s World AIDS Day (December 1) with our fellow advocates around the globe. The focus of WAD 2012 is women and their role in creating an AIDS-free generation. An AIDS-free generation is finally within reach and women – from mothers and caregivers to healthcare workers and policy-makers – are essential to realizing this goal.

#HashCon2012 runs from November 24-December 7 and the topic we’ll be hashing out is “Positive SHEroes: Strong women working towards an AIDS-free generation”. We hope to get posts about women demonstrating strength and resilience in the face of the epidemic and on eliminating new HIV infections among children. Participants can write personal features, opinion pieces, essays or vlogs and all written pieces must be at least 500 words long. Bloggers and readers have until November 30th to nominate their posts on jablogawards.com. Voting opens on December 1 and bloggers can and use their social media channels to promote their posts and get as many votes as they can; using the hashtag #HashCon2012. Voting ends at 11:59 pm on December 7. The winner is judged based on online votes and a judging panel consisting of staff from UNICEF and Eve For Life. THe winner receives a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which will be awarded at the Jamaica Blog Awards, January 19 2013.

For more info follow @UNICEF_Jamaica on Twitter.

Happy hashing!


Focus on Changing Caribbean Eating Habits: Claire Haynes – TEDxYouth@Bridgetown Talk

A group of inspired and talented young professionals from TEDxYouth@Bridgetown recently held a 2-day event in Barbados entitled ‘The Big Questions’. The event was attended by secondary school students from across Barbados.

One of the featured speakers was Claire Haynes who delivered a powerful presentation entitled: ‘How the Catelli Girl Got Out the Box’. The presentation focussed on the urgency of re-evaluating traditional Caribbean eating habits and shifting away from diets comprised of highly processed foods to healthier diets consisting of more natural, organically based foods.