Excerpt from Share News

Robert Ready was turned on to Food for the Poor (FFP) while serving as Canada’s top diplomat in Jamaica.

In 2013, he spent a day with the late Ray Chang and his crew of workers that built Accompong Basic School.

Organized by FFP, the school was funded by the Ray Chang Foundation and financial resources raised through Jamaica Homecoming Canada initiatives five years ago to mark Jamaica’s 50th independence anniversary,

“When you are High Commissioner of Canada to Jamaica, there are various kinds of co-operation that go on between the two countries,” Ready pointed out. “A lot of it is larger development projects that are in the security and justice areas. Those are really good programs, but they tend to take place between government agencies and there’s not a lot of hands-on that a high commissioner can get with some of those projects.”

Ready and his wife, Joanne, got involved in some of the smaller local projects that Canada is funding or Canadian volunteers are engaged with.

It was through the school build that he became familiar with FFP.

“I was just so impressed with the dedication of the volunteers and the local staff,” said Ready. “Often when you think of non-governmental organizations, you wonder whether the money is getting where it is supposed to go. What I learnt fairly quickly was that Food for the Poor in Jamaica ensures that money donated for school builds does what is supposed to do. It struck me as a really professional organization, one that has a good and solid reputation and that donors can rely on.”

Replacing Donette Chin-Loy Chang as the FFP board chair recently, Ready shared the board and executive director Samantha Mahfood vision for the organization going forward.

FFP Canada works across the Caribbean and Latin America, building strong and prosperous communities through basic aid and sustainable community development.

“We will continue to build on existing partnerships, grow partnerships in other areas like collaborating with Canadian companies doing business in the Caribbean and expand the number of monthly donors,” he said. “A lot of time, people are not in a position to come together as a family and donate enough money to build an entire school. But they can give a little bit every month. It should not be underestimated how important that is not only to sustaining organizations, but just making sure that we are in a position to respond to the ongoing needs down here.”

Expanding the board of directors to attract more diverse expertise is also on the organization’s radar.

“As a former government official, I can help the organization link in with the Canadian and other governments,” he said. “We have got people on the board with expertise in marketing and the travel industry, the financial sector and law. They have their own networks that we can plug into and that could help us expand the work we can do. Overall, we are going to try to take what has been an organization that has really done well in the last 10 years and try to extend the reach of it across Canada and get it recognized as a charity that can be relied on to do first-class projects internationally.”

Ready and his wife enjoyed the three years they spent in Jamaica.

“Some of the friendliest people and welcoming organizations are what we found in Jamaica,” he said. “We were met with hospitality and warmth everywhere we went. Those years in Jamaica were probably some of the best of our lives.”

While in Jamaica, Ready also represented Canada as non-resident high commissioner to the Bahamas and non-resident consul general to the Turks & Caicos and the Cayman Islands.

In 2015, he retired after 36 years with the federal public service.

Prior to going to the Caribbean, Ready was a chief air negotiator and director of the Investment and Service Trade Policy at Foreign Affairs & International Trade.

He also worked with the House of Commons, the Saskatchewan government and the department of Western Economic Diversification and Investment Canada.

“I am active in my local community and just trying to wind down from an active professional career to something where I am still able to make a contribution,” he pointed out.