Popular Ocho Rios businessman and philanthropist Joseph John Issa, CD received the insignia from the Governor-General of Jamaica, His Excellency The Most Honourable Sir Patrick Linton Allen, at the national
and awards ceremony at King’s House on Heroes Day October 17, 2016.
Inspired by the words of late American journalist Charles Kuralt who once said “the love of family and the admiration of friends are much more important than wealth and privileges,” Issa has dedicated the medal to his family and friends.
“This is for my wife and children,” he says, as he holds up the insignia, adding, “especially my son and daughter whom I want to grow up believing that hard work and a good heart will pay off in the long run…it’s a proud moment for us…I am humbled by the recognition for doing what comes naturally to me.”
And to his many friends who have encouraged and supported him throughout the years, he says, “This is for you too…it’s a lasting manifestation of your contribution,” citing in particular, Father Howard James, a Roman Catholic Priest in the parish of St. Ann where Issa’s Cool Group of companies is headquartered.
Father James, who was born in London, England and raised in Jamaica, left the country as a boy and became the first Caribbean national to be ordained a priest in Britain. He met Issa in 1998 when he came to work in Ocho Rios as a priest. He says, “Joey always struck me as a kind, very generous and capable man.”
Touched by Issa’s philanthropy over the years, Father James has several recollections, including the day his car broke down ten times and it became clear that the church needed a reliable vehicle. “Joey led the charge to get the money, most of it from him without any burden on the parish,” noting “this is the measure of the man.”
When Issa, who is also a Eucharistic Minister of the Catholic Church was about to get married in 2003, Father James had already left Jamaica, but Issa, who had kept in touch asked him to return to conduct the ceremony. He says, “The generosity of the man is such that he asked that a collection be taken at the wedding to help educate young people.”
“Joey did the same thing for his 50th birthday celebration,” the priest also recalls, “when he told his friends and loved ones not to buy presents, but instead make a financial donation to the church to help the less fortunate and educate children.”
Issa’s many philanthropic gestures have also been praised by the media in Jamaica and the United Kingdom where, as a student at the London School of Economics (LSE) he founded the ‘Educate the Children Fund’, which raised over £3,000 to purchase Mathematics and English textbooks for students in Jamaica and other Caribbean islands.
When he returned from university he established ‘Global Education 2000’, which focuses on improving the physical condition of schools, increasing literacy among young children and fostering better relations between schools and the communities in which they exist, and with their counterparts in the United States (US). Since then, several local schools and teachers have benefitted through exchange programmes with US counterparts.
Issa also founded the ‘Cool Charities/Holy Cross Scholarship Fund’ which, along with other educational programmes, has been described by the Jamaica Observer as “a cool half million a month to education.” According to the newspaper, the scholarship programme also includes ‘Computers 3000 Education’, a project which donates air conditioning units and computers to educational institutions, thereby making for a more comfortable learning environment and giving more students access to the worldwide web.
Today, Issa’s philanthropic quest for less fortunate Jamaican children to receive a good education, to which he was privileged, continues through Cool Charities, a subsidiary of his multi-faceted group of over 50 companies, which defines his business strategies that have been likened to those of his colleague Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group of over 400 companies, whose ‘Centre of Entrepreneurship – Caribbean’ located in Montego Bay Issa supports as a mentor for young entrepreneurs on the programme.
A highly recognized multi-award-winning business strategist locally and internationally, where he is leveraging his Cool Group, Issa’s national honour is as much for his contribution to Jamaica’s business landscape partly through his presidency of the St. Ann Chamber of Commerce, as it is for his corporate citizenship, which Father James seems to value even more.
Says he: “While many will speak about his business skills, I speak to the good husband and father, churchgoer and philanthropist. He has never said no…I try not to bother him too much, but he has told me never to be afraid to ask him for help for others. So I believe it was only right that a national honour should be given to him so that everyone can know about the generosity of this very kind man.”
Not known to get carried away by his own success and wealth, allied with his desire to contribute to the education of children, Issa finds much comfort in a quote by late 19th century teacher, attorney, soldier, writer and Freemason Albert Pike from Boston, Massachusetts, where Issa studied at College of The Holy Cross in Worcester, graduating valedictorian and cum laude while becoming Jamaica’s youngest Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Self-taught with the distinction of being the only Confederate military officer with an outdoor statue in Washington, D.C., Pike’s sentiment resonates with Issa when he wrote, “What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
Today, 125 years after his death, the Albert Pike Memorial Temple in Little Rock, Arkansas is a historic Masonic lodge listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Wikipedia.