Fostering development in St Thomas
St Thomas born philanthropist Gary Foster was brought to tears when he spoke about his true inspiration for retiring from a prestigious job overseas at just 35 years old, and returing to Jamaica to help his fellow men.
In his preteens, Foster migrated to the United States, and worked his way up to becoming the vice-president of Rush Communications, a large media company owned by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.
Foster, who hails from White Horses, St Thomas, also served as a goodwill ambassador to the United Nations, where he travelled to approximately 120 counties and saw poverty and suffering.
He said this triggered memories of his own upbringing in Jamaica, where he was raised in poverty, primarily by his grandparents.
“I did not have an easy life growing up. I moved from yard to yard. My grandmother (mother’s mother) was in the Spanish Town Infirmary, and I used to go and visit her throughout the days and on weekends, and believe it or not, she was a big help to me,” Foster said.
“She used to give me little lunch money, and little things to go school because when people visited the infirmary they used to give away things and she saved it to give me.”
When Foster got the opportunity to go to the US, he did not have a proper pair of shoes, and it was his grandmother who bought him a pair.
Unfortunately, she died during Foster’s first year in the United States.
Still a child at the time, Foster was not in a position to assist, so the Government had to bury his grandmother. But he made a pact to do great things in her honour.
To fulfil his promise, Foster said he spent much of his time reading and engaging in uplifting activities, which afforded him the opportunity to meet many people in high places.
“I worked with some great ones like Jesse Jackson, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Louis Farrakhan [for whom he served as adviser],” Foster said.
He also noted others with whom he rubbed shoulders, including Russell Simmons; Andrew Cumo, who is the current Mayor of New York; Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs; Denzel Washington, and Reverend Al Sharpton, a renowned civil rights activist.
Instead of using these relationships to extract things for personal gains, Foster said he asked for assistance in helping his country, St Thomas in particular.
Over the years, Foster has done extensive work in White Horses and surrounding communities. He and his associates have clothed and fed community members, sent many students through school who have matriculated into the professional world, and spearheaded many projects, including sports and education-based projects for the community.