Six ‘heroes’ recognized at Virtual Jamaica Diaspora Sustainability Symposium  

By Lincoln DePradine

Sir Patrick Allen

Jamaican-Canadian Dr Sylvanus Thompson is not new to receiving awards. However, he still was flooded with that warm feeling of being recognized among six overseas-based Jamaicans by Sir Patrick Allen, Governor-General of Jamaica.

Thompson, a Fellow of the Canadian Health Service Research Foundation and former associate director and food safety lead for Toronto Public Health, has received various forms of recognition over his career, including the Jamaica Diaspora and Friends Champion Award in Health and Mental Health.

On June 16, at a “Virtual Jamaica Diaspora Sustainability Symposium’’, presentations were made to the 2021 recipients of the Governor-General’s Diaspora Achievement Awards (GGDAA) for Excellence.

Sylvanus Thompson

Thompson and the other five recipients were chosen as “heroes’’ for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

“My contributions and service were not done with the intention of being recognized. However, the recognition for outstanding service is well appreciated,’’ said Thompson, who has been engaged in several COVID-related research studies, outreach programs and other activities at the local, provincial, and national levels.

Governor-General Allen, remarking on this year’s awards’ presentation, called it a “special tribute to these recipients for their dedicated service; many of whom have been on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Congratulations on your award and I hope that you will use this platform to strengthen your service’’.

The GGDAA was established in 2008 to recognize excellence among Jamaicans 18-35 years old and also those above 35. Altogether, nearly 50 Jamaicans in the Diaspora have received Achievement Awards for Excellence.

Dave D’Oyen

Dave D’Oyen, a youth leader and Social Justice Fellow at the University of Toronto, was the second of the two Jamaican-Canadian GGDAA recipients. Among his activities was organizing and hosting a discussion on COVID-19 involving Black youth and the first deputy medical officer for the City of Toronto.

Thompson, CEO of Dr T Food Safety Consulting Services and the holder of a PhD. in public health administration and degrees in environmental health and food safety, has been involved in a COVID-19 research project on factors contributing to higher rates of Coronavirus in African-Canadians, compared to other groups.

He also was the lead for a community event held at the Jamaican Canadian Association to recruit study participants and to provide information aimed at reducing vaccine hesitancy in the Black community.

The U.S.-based awardees, Dr Trudy Hall and Cassandra Campbell, were complimented by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Audrey Marks, for “giving sacrificially of their time, energy and resources towards the betterment of the lives of others at home and abroad’’.

Hall, during the surge of Coronavirus cases in the US, was given responsibility for the 145-Bed COVID Alternative Care Site for Maryland.

Campbell, a former White House employee during the presidency of Barrack Obama, is a program manager at Facebook and used her social media expertise in the fight against COVID-19.

Bishop Llewellyn Graham and Amani Simpson, an award-winning creative director and entrepreneur, both are “outstanding representatives of the Jamaica-U.K. community’’, according to Seth George Ramocan, Jamaica’s High Commissioner to United Kingdom.

Graham joined frontline workers in delivering services to vulnerable members of the Jamaican community in the UK.

For his part, Simpson’s role included participation in an online campaign, “Our Lockdown’’, which was aimed at helping young people to cope with the challenges of the COVID shutdown of economic and social activities.

Thompson, who also has served as director of public health and the environment for the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation, is encouraging Black Canadians to consider vaccinating on the basis of “informed’’ decision-making.

“The Black communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID -19. Race-based data shows that Black Canadians are far more likely to get sick and be hospitalized than other ethnic groups.  Furthermore, death rate is two times higher in neighbourhoods with racialized residents,’’ he told The Caribbean Camera.

“In spite of this, the highest rate of vaccine hesitancy in the City of Toronto is among Black people of African and Caribbean descent. Based on the higher risk of being infected, hospitalized or even die from COVID-19, persons in the Black community are encouraged to get information from credible sources and make informed decisions about being vaccinated.’’