Our Community - James Janmohamed
"Protecting People in Paradise from Peril"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 14, No. 23            July 8, 2004

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James Janmohamed

The country of Belize is aptly named the "Jewel of the Caribbean." Ambergris Caye, as the premier destination in the country, boasts magnificent marine life and crystalline waters. However, even with its entire splendor, the Caribbean Sea poses a threat to all residents of Belize and visitors to this country during Hurricane Season. This week, The San Pedro Sun is proud to introduce a man who dedicates his time to prepare the island community in the event of a hurricane - James Janmohamed, District Coordinator for the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO).

    James was born on June 10th, 1955 to Fatima and Hassan Janmohamed (deceased) in Kampala, Uganda in East Africa. He and his sister, Shahina, enjoyed growing up in the great outdoors until he was 14; when his family moved to Northwood, Middlesex in England.

    In England, James attended Northwood Hills Second Modern School and after successfully completing his studies there, he enlisted in the British Army. At 15, he was a part of the Junior Leaders Regiment, Royal Armored Corp. It was there that James completed his education and received his "O" Level certificates in Geography and Engineering Drawing, apart from his military training.

    When he was 17, James joined his regiment - The 17th/21st Lancers, a Cavalry Regiment stationed in West Germany, where he eventually became a tank commander. Throughout his military career, James traveled all over the world to places such as: Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Africa, North Ireland, Canada, the United States of America, Jamaica and Belize.

    James first set foot on Belizean soil in 1975 for only 35 days on special assignment. Unfortunately, in 1978, while trying to change a calibrated rod on a 55-foot radio mast, James suffered a fall that left him in intensive care and it took a full year for him to recover. In late 1979, James returned to Belize and was stationed at Holdfast Camp in the Cayo District as Tank Commander on Scorpion tanks. In addition to his military duties, he also acted as a liaison officer coordinating efforts between Belizean officials and his troops during hurricane season. James was transferred back to Germany six months later but after three years, he decided to leave the British Armed Forces.

    In 1982, James returned to England and began working as an engineer for British Telecom PLC. Finding this was not his niche; James and a friend opened their own business, "JR Car Hire," a limousine company catering to high-end clientele.

    Two years later, James fell in love with a girl he met at a wedding reception, Jamila Arab. It was not long after, the couple decided to get married. On July 15th, 1984, James and Jamila were united in marriage in London at a well-attended wedding ceremony. Today, they are the proud parents of a daughter, Samira (25), who resides in London.

    In September of 1985, James traveled back to Belize for a vacation with his wife. The two were instantly drawn to the wonderfully warm people and decided they would move to this "neck of the woods." The hardest thing was deciding where they wanted to live in the country. However, as soon as Jamila set foot on the beautiful, sandy beaches of Ambergris Caye, she found an easy answer - to live on "La Isla Bonita."

    James was first employed as a bartender at the Royal Palm Inn Bar. He loved the atmosphere and commented it was a great experience. "It was quite enjoyable to have no worries for a change," he said. His strong determination and ambition soon got him promoted to general manager of the Royal Palm Inn.

    In 1985, with the ever-impending threat of hurricanes, San Pedro Town Mayor Gilberto "Chico" Gomez recognized the need for an emergency plan for the island. Since James had experience with disaster preparedness while in the army, the San Pedro Town Board requested his assistance. Working with the Town Board, James drafted the first set of Hurricane Orders, which listed the procedures to follow in case of a national emergency.

    In 1989, James received a magnificent opportunity - to become a partner at Royal Palm Inn. After a lengthy discussion with his wife, he happily took over the reins of the business. James' time was spent managing hotel operations and sales, since Royal Palm quickly became part of a time-share agency.

    James' expertise was once again called upon in September of 1998, when Hurricane Mitch threatened the shores of Ambergris Caye. The laws he had helped to draft in 1985 were called up and a plan of action was formed. Throughout the duration of this national emergency, he assisted the San Pedro Town Council and the Area Representative with the challenges they faced as Mitch "came ashore."

    In September of 2000, as the Operations Officer of the San Pedro Emergency Committee, James saw the island through Hurricane Keith. After the storm, he was asked to coordinate the recovery effort to help rebuild the island and to get it ready for tourists. Once again, he willingly donated his time and efforts for the safety and welfare of the San Pedro Community. After Keith devastated the island, James acted as District Emergency Coordinator, facilitating the needs of the utility companies, in order to get electricity, water, and telephone services restored in the quickest time possible. With his help, Ambergris Caye was "back in business" by November, ready to welcome the Thanksgiving visitors to the island.

    In 2001, when Hurricane Iris struck the southern part of the country, James and a dedicated Emergency Committee again committed their time and energy to getting the coastal villages and surrounding communities "back on their feet." James remained in Placencia for 45 days carrying out post-hurricane assistance - from cooking meals to distributing relief supplies. He commented, "It is such a gratifying feeling knowing that you did your part to help others when they really needed it."

    On June 15th, 2002, James received his highest praise when Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth of England named him an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) for his devotion in offering assistance to the country of Belize during all of these national disasters. "It was such a great honor, especially since I lived most of my life in London. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would receive this type of recognition" James stated.

    Today, James remains an active member of the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) acting as the Operations Officer for the San Pedro Emergency Committee and NEMO's District Coordinator for Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. In November 2003, he attended a NEMO Conference in Belmopan along with other members of emergency organizations from around the Caribbean. "This national emergency plan has excelled my expectations, and we have grown by leaps and bounds," he exclaimed. James is also the Chairman of the local Citizens Committee, which is responsible for overseeing municipal improvements that are subsidized by Central Government, such as the cobblestone project on Pescador Drive and the San Pedro Marina in the DFC Subdivision. In addition, he is a member of the Belize Gaming Board and the Vice President of the British Bulldogs, an ex-patriot club that carries out fundraising events which assist the San Pedro community.

    In his free time, James enjoys fishing. "It is one of my greatest passions and since I just purchased a boat, I look forward to the days when I work less and fish more," he jokingly commented.

    James has made San Pedro Town his home and has no real intention of leaving Belize. Always willing to lend a helping hand, James Janmohamed is an asset, of "hurricane" proportion, to "Our Community."

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