A huge shipment with a ‘Container of Love’ is about to hit Jamaican waters soon, through the organized efforts of Hanover largest charitable group, the Hanover Charities along with Cornerstone Jamaica, a non-profit organization based in the United States.
In a recent exclusive interview with Mckoy’s News, Chairwoman of the Hanover Charities, Katrin Casserly, gave an in-depth overview of this great initiative and the parties involved in ensuring this project is achieved successfully.
“We have had this idea years now, to buy a container, fill [it] with donated items, bring it in and then [distribute the items]…Our intention is to bring in items for example, mattresses, beddings, towels for Homes like West Haven…dried and tin food items…kitchen equipment for the soup kitchen [in Lucea] and some of the school canteens; educationally essential items for school needs, shoes for kids and other school supplies;” Ms. Casserly explained.
According to the group’s Chairwoman, with the great assistance from entities such as Port Handlers, Dennis Shipping Company and the support from Owen Brown, the shipment is expected to hit the shores of Jamaica by next month and will be ready for distribution in the first week of September; “and then we’ll have a big ‘bashment’ for the schools, all the beneficiaries and volunteers involved;” the excited Casserly boasted.
She further stated that the aim is to have the ‘Container of Love’ being an annual project.
In a more detailed outline of her sponsors and team, she praised them for their team work and dedication towards the project and want to assure the public that this initiative will happen.
“When I say ‘we’ I meant myself and the Vice Chair…she’s in the states…I realized we can’t do this alone, we need someone on the other side in the US coordinating the effort there…”
However, “…When I met Gary Robinson, the Founder and Chairman of Cornerstone Jamaica (who is our main sponsors)… I told him about our container project and our aim of seeking partnership abroad with someone who loves Jamaica like we do and he said ‘okay let’s do it’…Since our meeting we have purchased a 40ft container…so it is really a great effort of teamwork,” she said.
The dedicated Chairwoman also highlighted that she works very closely with the Ministry of Education, and the Local Education Officers in order to maintain a flow of communication and updates on items needed in the schools.
“We also work with the Local Authorities, the MPs, Councilors, sometimes our Caretakers, no matter what side [party]…we just work with both of them because…I firmly believe charities should work together with government and private organizations;.” she firmly stated.
On the note of hosting a ‘big bashment’ or cook-out as outlined by Ms. Casserly, for all parties involved in the ‘Container of Love’ project, we put the question to her about her thoughts on the government’s recent announcement regarding the gradual re-opening of the country, to allow for such gatherings.
“It is about time to do that I agree, I do agree that we need to gradually open yes…I agree we should wear masks and do the sanitation…but I do not agree to now suddenly have big events…and I really think we should place more emphasis on educating the public via the radio and small community efforts. We also need to get enough vaccines, that is absolute key; this is a new type of flu so in order to get through this we all have to get vaccinated sooner or later;” Casserly emphasized.
Meet Katrin Casserly and explore her valuable contributions to Jamaica
Katrin Casserly is a Hotelier and Businesswoman who was born in Austria but have been living in Jamaica for over 30 years. She told Mckoy’s News that she originally visited Jamaica to focus on her profession as a Hotelier in the tourism industry. However, her natural love for people and to offer a helping hand saw her becoming the Chairperson for the Hanover Charities for 17 years, following her involvement with the organization for 25 years.
“I’m a naturalized Jamaican now,” she stated, as the enthused Casserly described her love and appreciation for the people of Jamaica and the country on a whole.
“I have always been grateful that Jamaica has accepted and welcomed me…and make me one of their own so I appreciate that. I always say ‘I’m culturally Austrian but I’m emotionally Jamaican…’ and I’ve certainly make Jamaica my home now;” Casserly proudly proclaimed.
With an outstanding record of the number of projects and impactful voluntary work carried out by the warm-hearted Katrin, such as being the Board Chairwoman of the Esher Primary School, our news team were only able to feature a few of her major accomplishments.
“I have always focused on Hanover Charity since it’s a very large organization where we have a lot of projects. It’s kind of two fold where we focus on education but also focus on general well-being. In terms of general well-being we have been a consistent supporter for many organizations,” stated Casserly.
With the Hanover Charities Scholarship Programme being one of the group’s most impactful initiative, Katrin walked us through the aims and successes of this project.
“Education is extremely important to us and the scholarship programme is one of the most valuable because we have over the last 10 years probably sent [approximately] 150-200 tertiary-level students back to university,” she outlined.
Casserly further stated that “…at the moment we are in the process of reading through all the scholarship applications. It’s a very stringent process but we have to make sure when we give to students $200,000, $400,000 or even a $100,000 that they understand that you have to go through a [process], which also prepares them when they will apply for an overseas scholarship (maybe), that this is how it’s done;” she pointed out.
With the deadly disease Covid-19 destroying the world and tearing apart families, there was no way it could not have impacted the flow of a scholarship programme. However, Ms. Casserly informed Mckoy’s News that despite the setbacks, the group still managed to raise the required donations and will be assisting many students this year as the needs are greater.
“We will probably help another 230 applicants this year and we are hoping we can [grant scholarships] to at least 205/210 again. We are a little bit behind in the project this year because of Covid everything is delayed but we still have managed to raise the money for the scholarships. The total donation raised for the scholarships is…between twenty four to twenty six million dollars annually;” Ms. Casserly explained.
The passionate Katrin expressed how she wished she could be able to assist more students as she realized there are several youths in the parish of Hanover with a lot of potential but are only lacking the resources to realize those potentials.
“The students are grateful but we also make sure that we are taking part in also being part of nation building…we have the ability to raise this money [and] to give back, so let’s give back where it’s most needed and what I’ve realized in all my years here is that we have extremely bright young people. They have everything except resources, so as long as we can aid there we will. I wish we could have 400 [students] but we haven’t reached that stage yet but we have to start somewhere at one point right?” uttered the passionate Chairwoman.
Another new project that will aid the development of young, brilliant Hanoverians in which Ms. Casserly along the Hanover Charity group are looking forward to undertaken, was also firstly shared with Mckoy’s News.
“Prior to Covid-19, we have had discussions about implementing an Alumni Programme for past students who are now graduated and are now in the working world but [due to] Covid all of this have been delayed as well because It would’ve been a get together with 30 or 60 of them. [My suggestion was that] they would create their board and once every quarter they would send a report back to us on how they can make plans to impact the community;” Casserly outlined.
She further highlighted the impact that this Alumni Association will have on the young people of Hanover.
“Also with the Alumni Programme we could also start a Mentorship Programme because many of the students want to work and you still have to pay off student’s loan so you can’t put money into the programme yet but you could be a mentor to a student who is right now going through the struggles that you went through five (5) years ago. So we are definitely going to do that but it’s probably delayed into next year;” she noted.
Additionally Casserly pointed out that there is a variety of organizations that rely on the Hanover Charites for an annual grant. One of which is The 4H Club in Hanover that is said to also receive a grant every year, which aids them in order to facilitate all the programmes they have in the parish.
As outlined earlier by Ms. Casserly, the Hanover Charity group operates in two folds and in terms of well-being/welfare, one example of such successful welfare in which the noble group stretched and offer its services, is to the soup kitchen in Lucea called “The Kitchen of Love.”
“It’s managed by the Hanover Ministers’ Fraternal but Hanover Charity is the main sponsor of the soup kitchen and it has been in existence for at least three (3) decades. [Both groups] work very closely so when they were about to close because of the shock of the Covid last year in March, I said to the two Co-Chairs, please let’s rethink this and we [the Hanover Charity], will help you to keep running [and] even during Covid we did not fold, we continued cooking,” said Casserly.
However, due to the Covid impact, Mckoy’s News learnt that some persons who worked in the soup kitchen had to be laid off but this therefore created new employment opportunities for others as the group was in operation all throughout Covid, in order to feed the needy in various communities.
“The volunteers who cooked there are 60 years and over so we have asked them to take a little rest during this time of the pandemic and look towards younger Ministers or younger volunteers and we found them. They came there and helped and therefore the soup kitchen never closed; so every Tuesday we feed between 500-700 persons. It’s been taken to the community by ministry members who drive [and delivered] food to those who are either bed bound or the elderly and others come to collect at the door right there in Lucea. It’s the consistency as well that Hanover Charity has always been there for them and once we commit to a project we will be a constant to assist and help;” she assured.
Our news team also enquire if there was an increase in the number of Hanoverians seeking assistance from the group this year due to the pandemic.
“Absolutely, everybody has been impacted, one way or another…but we are more blessed than others who have had very little before but now have even less because of Covid…so yes there is a lot more need and that’s why I think the ‘Container of Love’ is so timely this year and we have to just make it happen,” she firmly stated.
Despite being asked this question so many times during interviews, Ms. Casserly says she still finds it really hard to specifically point out what motivates her to continue doing the self-less work she does yearly.
“Boy you know how often I’ve been asked this question and I…I just, I just love people…I just love all good people,” she stuttered at first then burst into laughter.
She continued expressing her love and motivation to help by stating.
“I’m saying if some of us have the ability to get something moving in this direction why not? I could not be that selfish not to share that. Also…now in Covid it could be easy to just say ‘okay sorry, can’t do it this year, let’s give it a break,’ but how do tell students I’m not gonna’ pay 50% or 40%…of your tuition this year. I could not be responsible for personally breaking so many hearts.”
“…It is just something I’ve always enjoyed doing and always will enjoy doing as long as I can, so I can’t really tell what motivates me. I guess it’s motivates me, when we would have our meetings (before Covid), where we would hand out the cheque and they collected their donations…it was wonderful to see their smiling faces. This is why we go over the stress of making sure we raise the money, this is why we do this because we can share some goodness in this world;” Casserly expressed sincerely.
FUN FACTS ABOUT MS. KATRIN CASSERLY
In closing with a Mckoy’s News round-up question, Ms. Casserly was asked to name one fun fact about herself to which she responded with great laughter.
“You know I hardly do any other activities…but I do like my own company…I like solitude. I live in a countryside which I’m grateful for because that mean you can really be one with the world…I do love cooking…looking after friends and family…and in terms of sports, I do enjoy yoga and skiing,” Casserly chuckled, as she confessed that she really do enjoy these sporting activities but just don’t take enough time to engage in them, due to work.
Natasha Williams- Mckoy’s News Senior Writer.