Writer Calibe Thompson | Photography Robert Johnson
Jamaicans love a great party, sometimes just for the sake of music, wine (the waist variety) and spirits. In the case of Orville Burrell, better known as Shaggy, the diamond selling reggae artist, and his wife Rebecca, the real fun comes after their annual celebrity bash, when they’ve made proverbial truckloads of money, then given it all away!
The 2018 Shaggy and Friends concert, held on the lawns of Jamaica House in St Andrew, Jamaica, was the sixth installment of the lavish event. Every other year, it is hosted by the Shaggy Make a Difference Foundation (SMADF) to raise funds for the benefit of the island’s Bustamante Children’s Hospital.
Two-storey, white tents draped in luxurious fabric, with high ceilings, dripped with crystal chandeliers. The platinum area was heaving with partygoers. Jamaica’s elite, and a throng of well-heeled guests, packed in tight, dressed to the nines and out in force for a great cause.
A lineup of international superstars including Sting, Wyclef Jean, Third World Band and of course Shaggy himself, performed this year, with stars like Lauryn Hill, Eve, Damian Marley and Maxi Priest lending their star power in years gone by.
The stage was breathtaking, with huge LED video walls and multiple levels. The production quality was on par with any internationally televised concert.
For Shaggy though, it’s less about the glitz of the limelight, and more about attracting generous donors with deep pockets. He’s confirmed that his charitable work through the SMADF is far more important to him now than is his music. According to the megastar, “to be put in the same place as these people, where I can get them to do amazing things with their wealth to benefit the poor… I’m going to take that opportunity.”
The goal of the event was to raise US $1 million to fund ten new beds at the Bustamante Children’s Hospital intensive care unit (ICU). Although Bustamante is the only full-service children’s hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean, until now they had only five ICU beds.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In 2001, during a visit to Bustamante, Shaggy came to learn just how underfunded the hospital was. For years after that, he made his own private donations, sponsoring equipment and facility upgrades.
Then, he met a man whose daughter was being kept alive by one of the instruments he had donated. That man’s profound gratitude touched him so deeply, that he realized that there was a much greater need than he alone could fulfill, and decided that he was not just able, but willing to do something about it. Together with his wife Rebecca, who is a production professional and the executive director of the SMADF, he pulled together the first Shaggy and Friends concert on January 3, 2009, only eight weeks after his interaction with that grateful father.
BUILDING A LEGACY
Shaggy’s charitable deeds have an ongoing prominence in his life. Himself a child of humble beginnings, he speaks passionately about giving back, now that he has seen fame and financial success. He is a patron of organizations such as Food for the Poor and the American Friends of Jamaica, who produce annual fundraising galas to raise money for good causes on the island. Food for the Poor also builds homes and teaches sustainable living practices throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. They now provide the online platform through which donors around the world can make their contributions to the SMADF.
Since that first concert in 2009, not only have the crowds grown, but donations have increased significantly. At each event, the concert focuses on a particular funding challenge faced by the hospital. From the combined funds raised in 2012 and 2014, SMADF financed the first Catheterization Laboratory and the first Cardiac Unit for a children’s hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean. Prior to the 2018 event, SMADF made contributions to Bustamante Children’s Hospital to the tune of over 450 pieces of equipment, over 3500 treated children and over $1.6 million US dollars. According to the team, 100% of event proceeds goes to the hospital.
His commitment to the Bustamante Children’s Hospital doesn’t go unnoticed. Shaggy can now count the doctors and nurses, the children and their families among his adoring fans.
If you’d like to contribute to the cause, you can learn more at shaggymakeadifferencefoundation.org. #TeamShaggy4Kids