Jamaica conjures up images of beautiful beaches, reggae music and cruise ships, but underneath this breezy exterior lays a country beleaguered by problems. The education system in Jamaica is failing to serve students, particularly those who are poor and disenfranchised. About 60 percent of children who have completed the sixth grade cannot read. Guns and drugs are common in many neighborhoods, and Jamaica frequently has the sad distinction of having the world's highest murder rate.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean region has the second-highest rate of HIV in the world after sub-Saharan Africa. Infections in Jamaica often go undetected because of the great stigma attached to the disease. And the country's geographic position in the Caribbean makes it particularly susceptible each year to the string of hurricanes and tropical storms that batter the region.
After more than a 20-year absence, Catholic Relief Services reinstituted programs in 2003 that work to build the capacity of our partners to better prepare and respond to emergencies, to develop a national HIV and AIDS plan for the Catholic Church, and to engage in peacebuilding activities. The program is managed from the CRS Dominican Republic office with in-country support from the Archdiocese of Kingston.