Hundreds of Jamaicans, braving minus 25 degrees celsius weather, packed two venues in Canada to pay tribute to Olympic gold medalist, Melaine Walker.
The events, which took place recently at the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) in Toronto and the Jim Durrell Centre in Ottawa, were organised by the Jamaican Diaspora Canada Foundation (JDCF), and served to also highlight the work the group is doing in the community of Rose Town, Kingston, Melaine’s birthplace.
Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Evadne Coye, who was the patron for the Ottawa event, paid tribute to Melaine for the honour and prestige that she brought to Jamaica with her gold medal win at the Beijing Olympics.
Advising that in the future, the High Commission will be organising a major fundraising event for Rose Town, Ms. Coye implored the audience to support the efforts of the JDCF in developing the community.
Consul General to Toronto, Anne-Marie Bonner, also lauded Melaine for her outstanding performance, calling her a “phenomenal woman”.
“We here in Toronto would like to add to the many tributes and accolades showered on the ‘Princess’ since August. We want you to know that we love you, we respect and honour you for your service and the glory, which you have brought to our little country. I wish you all the best for your future as an athlete and whatever else you may choose to pursue,” Ms. Bonner stated.
President of the Jamaican Diaspora-Canada Foundation (JDCF), Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, said the JDCF’s work in Rose Town is “greater than us. We are partnering with the community to help develop and build it. All that the people of Rose Town want is a chance and if we can give someone else the opportunity to succeed, this world is going to be a better place.”
Noting that there are more than 300,000 Jamaicans, who call Canada home, the JDCF President said “if we all join together we can move mountains.”
In Toronto, Jamaican-born City Councillor, Michael Thompson, presented Melaine with a book on Toronto, which he said was a gift from Mayor David Miller and the City Council. Former Member of Provincial Parliament, Alvin Curling, also praised the hurdler for her achievements.
Melanie, for her part, acknowledged “the love she was feeling from everyone.” She also commended the work of the JDCF in her community. “It was a “dream come true when I heard that the Jamaican Diaspora group in Canada was working with Rose Town. I always envisioned my community as a residential area and wished that one day, it could be a better place. I hope that Rose Town knows that there are people behind them and hope that in the future, we can see a better day,” she said.
Speaking about her phenomenal win at the Olympics, Melaine said it was just her time. “God believed I was ready. I wasn’t going to let it pass. I am very determined to do whatever I want. I have an inner self that always tells me Melaine, you can do it.”
She urged the young people present to work hard, be determined and disciplined, and always give the extra effort. “Life comes with hurdles and barriers that you must cross. Sometimes, you will stumble but you will eventually get over them,” she stated.
Listing her brothers and parents, Jennifer Wilson and Jephat Walker, who accompanied her to Canada, as her heroes, Melanie said her greatest fear would be to see her family fall apart because “together we are strong.”
After finding out that Melaine had celebrated her birthday on January 1, the crowd in Toronto burst into a robust ‘Happy Birthday to you’.
Also travelling from Jamaica were Michael Black and Norah Blake, President and Acting Treasurer, respectively of the Rose Town Benevolent Society.