GoodHeart | Diane Pollard’s big heart beating for philanthropic projects
Diane Pollard, the president and chief executive officer of the Issa Trust Foundation, has over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. She founded a non-profit in the late 1990s and, while on vacation in Jamaica, presented a proposal to Couples Resorts’ Alex Ghisays, which led to the hotel sharing its goals to give back to the community.
On her return to the island in 2003, Pollard was ready to put her plans in motion. “There was something about the people and the children that pulled me,” she said, calling the moment one of “realisation for me, that this is what I should be doing”.
Pollard’s profile on the Issa Trust Foundation website shares that while passing by in a vehicle, her eyes happened to meet those of a four-year-old boy standing in his underwear on the side of the road. It was a chance meeting, but Pollard said just the few seconds of interacting with him gave her a life-changing sign. It was at that point she knew she wanted to help underprivileged children even though she did not have a lot of money to contribute herself.
It wasn’t long before Pollard was volunteering as Issa Trust Foundation’s vice-president of operations in the earliest planning and implementation stages of its programmes.
“There was always part of me that wanted to run a non-profit but never knew what that would look like. This is my passion and always has been a passion. I had very loving parents who instilled in me the value of giving back. My family came from a farming community; dad had three jobs, so we were taught to work hard and be honest while mom was extremely involved and had belonged to a programme - she is one of the reasons for me doing this. So, when I got to Jamaica, it was like a ‘aha!’ moment and Couples Resort made it happen,” Pollard told The Gleaner.
She added, “I love what I do, but at the same time, it’s difficult to talk about me because a non-profit is about so many individuals working behind the scenes and on the ground.”
The foundation’s mission has been heavily rooted in community-building, providing resources for children to have access to education and promoting and improving health care and other services that increase the well-being and development of Jamaica. It has contributed to Free Hill and the Oracabessa primary schools in St Mary and St Ann, respectively, and the Happy Hearts Early Childhood Institution in Negril and has also assisted organisations like the National Health Fund with the acquisition of pharmaceutical drugs and supplies geared at boosting inpatient and outpatient care. Couples Resorts has been instrumental in supporting the volunteer programme and actively encouraging philanthropic attitude in their guests, said Pollard, as “without them, we would not be able to achieve certain things and would not have a place for our volunteers to stay”.
COVID-19 has been a very tough time for all non-profits, said Pollard, and she has been focused on the foundation getting personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies needed.
“For the western region, we had donated a 40-foot container of PPE, as well as ventilators, defibrillators, nebulisers and ultrasound machines valued at over $US300,000 and turned around to do the same thing in the northeast region with supplies. The entire year we have been helping the Ministry of Health to provide what is required down to hand sanitisers. We have also helped with acquiring approximately 175 tablets,” Pollard shared, adding that there is more the foundation is aiming to do but, “we want to focus on reaching out to companies and their employees, or people who just want to just give their five minutes to help uplift their community”.
She is already strategising plans to execute another ‘Vision Mission’, which for about six years, has assisted 7,000 children with getting glasses. “The Michigan Lions Group (of which she is a member of) partners with the Lion’s Group in Jamaica to help get the glasses itemised and shipped, and there are about 1,200 glasses in our warehouse at this time,” she said. “It depends on the Government and what they would allow when the new school semester starts and if the schools also allow groups in. There are so many children in need of glasses, and if they can’t see, they can’t learn. So, that’s kind of what we are looking at right now.”
Pollard, who is a hardworking 64-year-old mother to two sons and a grandmother of four, does not hide her love for children and said she misses being able to interact with primary school students, as she has not been able to travel back and forth as she would normally do.
“It’s been about a year; I am usually in Jamaica six times a year. I miss being on the ground to speak to the doctors and nurses and the children, especially those at-risk children. Lots of children are suffering in the country. We’d be making a bigger impact if we were able to bring in the volunteers as we used to,” she said.
“In order for future generations, for our children to be successful in their lives, like all of us, we all need someone to give that extra push, and for them to excel in what they do, they need to be healthy. The children, in particular, have taught me to really never give up about the power of prayer, although it is seeing that from them that really intensifies it. I just want them to know, don’t give up, and for the older persons to just believe in them - they are our future. I also put emphasis on the humble request to anyone who wants to partner, and not only make a measurable and sustainable donation to the country through our programmes, but to join us,” Pollard continued.
To donate to the Issa Trust Foundation, visit issatrustfoundation.com/donate/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a good story you’d like to share? Email us at email@example.com.