Young preacher provides meals through food bank

FOR much of his life, the generosity of Jahzeal Clarke has allowed many less fortunate Jamaicans to occasionally secure meals, which he describes as his effort to reduce hunger islandwide.

The 27-year-old created an initiative called ‘Good Samaritan Food Bank’ at Golding Avenue, Kingston, late last year to seek assistance for those in need.

“I know that hunger is real among our people and as a young man, I do not believe I am limited to do certain things. I am just looking out and thinking big, and with God’s help we can really make a change instead of being a part of the problem,” Clarke told the Jamaica Observer.

The youth evangelist, who operates Jahzeal Clarke Ministries, explained that he has been able to find a lot of needy people through evangelism.

“Through my ministry, I have been going all over Jamaica to highlight persons who have stories which have been overlooked – the single mothers, children, the young man who wants a push – as they do not have the platform to get their stories out there and capture the hearts of those who [wish to] help,” he said, noting that he uses social media to aid his passion.

“As I grew older, I told myself that it wouldn’t make sense to wait on people to give me the platform to help. I created my own platform, then people in Jamaica and overseas would reach out to help,” he added.

Recently, Clarke said he received help from a few foreigners who paid his airfare to New York, where he managed to pack and ship more than five barrels with food items such as rice, flour, sugar to assist with his mission.

“I also benefit from the food banks [overseas] that help me to pack barrels to bring to Jamaica too. I realise that it is a good initiative and I can do so much for our people here if we had that much support,” said Clarke, noting that The University of the West Indies (UWI) students, community residents, along with scores of Jamaicans, have volunteered to help.

Some of the food banks he said he obtained food items from include Food Bank Association of New York State and Food Bank of Central New York.

Growing up in Mona Commons, St Andrew, was rough for Clarke. He noted that his mother died when he was 10 years old and his father was hardly present.

As a result, he was left in the care of his neighbour, Joyce Watt, who ensured that he had meals for school. Since then, he has been performing small acts of kindness.

“I have been inspired from school days. Being somebody who grew up without a mother, and a father who was not really around, I know what it means to be hungry. When it came on to summer holidays, I knew that if I was at school I would get my nice lunch,” said Clarke.

He recalled sharing his lunch with his former classmates at St Andrew Technical High School, where he was also head boy.

“My neighbour, Joyce, used to prepare sandwiches for me every morning. In my class, there were 30 of us. I can tell you that the one sandwich she put in my bag – everyone would get to taste it. That’s the type of heart that I have, I share what I have with everybody,” he said.

While Clarke declined to point out one experience, he noted that he gets a lot of joy from helping people.

“Just being out there issuing food to the homeless and in my community, I realise that people would usually ask for money but now they want food,” he said. “I have spoken to people who have not eaten for two days because they are out of a job, as the pandemic has made situations worse. Sometimes people would spend their last bus fare to come and get food – those things bring tears to my eyes.”

Clarke plans to extend his initiative to other parishes and will continue to spread kindness every chance he gets.

“Even though I am in Kingston, I want to have branches in different parishes. That is my vision, that every parish in Jamaica benefits from a food bank, but we have to start somewhere. We need everybody to play a part,” he said.

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