Sisters Receive PM Medal of Appreciation
With the utmost poise and graciousness, honed from decades of experience as well as extensive training, sisters Andrea and Colette Francis, have been steadfastly serving the nation as members of the customer service protocol team at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA).
For a combined total of almost 60 years, the siblings have been part of the welcome party at the NMIA in Kingston, where they are the first and last point of contact when overseas Heads of State, royalty and other dignitaries visit and depart Jamaica.
In recognition of the exceptional job they have been doing, both sisters were among the 65 recipients of the Prime Minister’s Jamaica 55 Commemorative Medal of Appreciation for contribution to nation building, recently.
Speaking to JIS News following the ceremony held on the lawns of Jamaica House, the sisters share that while they are honoured to have been recognised for their diligent work, they are simply doing what they love – serving the nation.
“We love serving, we grew up in a family that is always helping. My parents, they were always helping people. My mother, especially, taught us not to be selfish, to give more than we would ever want to expect at any time. We just keep giving, and giving for us is service (to the nation),” the older sister, 56-year-old Andrea, tells JIS News.
She notes that they have worked very hard over the years, striving to maintain the highest level of professionalism and courteousness, while “going the extra mile to provide quality service”.
“This is how we operate every day…We go above and beyond in our line of duty. We are forever consistent, and whatever we do, it’s for our country not for self, and we are very grateful, very thankful to the Government of Jamaica to have recognised us in such a special way,” she adds.
The sisters, who have been trained in diplomatic procedural matters, State protocol, and business etiquette, have so endeared themselves to all persons they have come in contact with, that diplomats who have ended their tour of duty in Jamaica still stay in touch with them.
“Working with VIPs and diplomats has taught us a lot… . Being acquainted with all these VIPs and diplomats from all over the world, it has strengthened our whole demeanour in life. We know how to operate with everybody,” Andrea says.
For younger sister, 52-year-old Colette, the siblings were “destined” to be protocol officers, serving the public with distinction.
“We don’t know how to do anything else, but just to do our best. This (area of service) just comes naturally to us,” she says, adding that she is also appreciative of the recognition. “We don’t work for awards, but if they do come, we are quite happy and we’re quite grateful,” she says.
Andrea, who has served for almost 30 years, while her sister has given 27, quipped that having been protocol practitioners for almost three decades, “naturally we have been doing something (right), which is why we have been there for that long”.
Both sisters say they are proud to have given so many years of service to the public through airport operator, NMIA Airports Limited.
“We are so happy to be working for the NMIA Airports Limited, and we hope we will continue to give our best for as long as we can go on. We will forever be giving our best,” they tell JIS News.
In their capacity as protocol practitioners, the sisters have served six Prime Ministers, four Governors-General, Ministers of Government, Members of Parliament, Senators, Mayors, Custodes, Diplomatic and Consular Corps, and other VIP members of the public and private sectors. This is in addition to serving foreign dignitaries, such as Heads of State of CARICOM, Commonwealth countries and other foreign governments.
They have also supervised the Protocol/Customer Service Department of the NMIA, and regularly volunteer in different capacities at national events, including the Custos of Kingston Annual Christmas Treat for the family and inmates of the Tower Street Correctional Centre.
The sisters, who are deeply involved in community service, are also Justices of the Peace for the Kingston Chapter, as well as Lay Magistrates.