The learning environment at Davis Primary School has been significantly improved due to the efforts of charity groups Food for the Poor and Eight 4 World Hope.
The two charity organizations joined forces to build a new block consisting of three classrooms to improve space for students preparing for the annual Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). Additionally, the school had its computer lab renamed in honour of past principal Lorraine Spencer-Jarrett after it was retrofitted with 22 brand new desktop computers.
At a recent dedication ceremony for the new buildings several stakeholders lauded the effort.
“I am sure this dream had its challenges. Today is a dream that the ministry would want to laud and to applaud your dreams and efforts; and indeed today we are seeing the fruits of your labour as you mobilise partners in education to make this a reality for the nation’s children,” said Barrington Richardson from the Ministry of Education, while reserving special praise for Food for the Poor and Eight 4 World Hope.
At the ceremony, attended by Mavis Wright-Harvey, who is a former principal as well and school board chairman Barbara Sayers, the dire need of the school was amplified by Principal Sharon Campbell-Danvers.
According to Campbell-Danvers the 43-year-old institution, with an enrolled listing of over 700 pupils, was so cramped for space, students had to be walking underneath or on top of the desks to move about in the classroom. Furthermore, she noted, one block was divided into six classes with three to four students to a bench. The new block is the second to be built at the school by both charities. The first was built a year go to facilitate students preparing for the Grade Four National Literacy and Numeracy Exam.
“The lives of the teachers were miserable. It was not an easy road,” recounted the principal. “We made a decision that we are going to put centre four (grade four) at phase one because that’s the group that do the national exam where if you don’t pass the exam you cannot do the GSAT.
“Can I tell you that the attitude of those children has changed tremendously. It is like a prep school within a primary school. They are different. They walk with a different walk, they talk a different way, they have a sense of direction and purpose and I think the ambiance has contributed significantly to that,” she added. “With this new block they’re many children asking ‘Miss, is who getting it?’ But we have taken a decision that come September we are going to be putting grade six at the back (where the new block is located). I have no doubt that come the next academic year the results for the grade six national exams are going to improve; and we want to say thanks to Eight 4 World Hope and Food for the Poor for partnering and building with us.”
Eight 4 World Hope founder Kevin Carges said he was deeply touched to assist the school after learning about their difficult circumstance. The challenge faced by Davis Primary isn’t new to Carges who first came to Jamaica 10 years ago courtesy of Food for the Poor before creating his own charity in 2009.
Carges, a Catholic Deacon said: “I just pray to God so that He can continue to use me and use Food for the Poor and use all the students who are going to get a wonderful education and the parents who are so supportive and the teachers that are so dedicated to these children. You all inspire me to keep going on. So I feel I should be saying thank you to you because through the gift of you I continue to do God’s work.”
More than 100 students will directly benefit from the expansion says Susan Moore, director of recipient services at Food for the Poor Jamaica. She commended the Carges and the Eight 4 World Hope family for their benevolence to humanity before listing a number of other projects they’ve collaborated on.
“This is indeed a special occasion and Food for the Poor is delighted to be sharing it with you.
“The 105 students that will be benefitting from the additional classroom space can now breathe a sigh of relief thanks to the generosity of our donors, Eight 4 World Hope, who have provided the funds to give them a better learning environment.
“Food for the Poor’s relationship with Eight 4 World Hope started a while back and has been growing strong ever since. The charity has funded the construction of seven school–related projects throughout Jamaica
Without the continuous generosity of our donors, these schools would still be operating in less than desirable conditions,” Moore said, before adding “Deacon Carges and the entire Eight 4 World Hope Team: your compassion, philanthropy and love for the children of Jamaica is truly admirable and worthy of emulation.
“To the principals, teachers, community members and students, we ask that you cherish this building and let it be a source of upliftment for our children”.
Spencer-Jarrett, a former teacher at Marlie Mount Primary, was moved to tears by the honour bestowed. The retired educator, who served as principal at Davis Primary between 1994 and 2004, recalled the difficulties faced during her tenure in charge of an overcrowded school accommodating three times its capacity.
“When I go to business place they say ‘what you want now?’ because I was labeled the beggar. But it was all for the children and the development of Davis Primary and the wider community,” she said after touring the computer centre. “I am so very happy. I am very happy to see the progress of this school. I had a dream and you’ve picked up the dream. One of my dreams, and I’ve said it to my children, is that when I die whatever offering you get I want you to start a Trust Fund to get the auditorium (build) on this side.
“I am really overwhelmed and I want to thank all of you. I congratulate you on the work you’ve been doing teachers; I congratulate the students, the parents, Food for the Poor, Eight 4 World Hope and all those who continue to give. Do not stop giving because you are giving for a worthy cause.”
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State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson, has hailed Food for the Poor’s investment in the installation of a 100-kilowatt solar system.
“I am happy that companies like Food for the Poor, which is in the volunteer business, continue to make the investments in alternative energy,” the State Minister said.
He was speaking at the official commissioning of the system on February 11 at Food for the Poor’s headquarters at Ellerslie Pen in Spanish Town, St. Catherine.
Mr. Robinson said the solar project is in keeping with the Government’s focus on the development of renewable energy solutions.
Some US$200 million has been invested in various renewable energy initiatives scheduled to come on stream by the end of 2016.
Among the projects are the US$45 million expansion of the Wigton Windfarm in Manchester; and development of a 20-megawatt solar plant in York Town, Clarendon, at a cost of US$47 million.
Facilities Manager at Food for the Poor, Charles Powell, said the US$180,000 investment will allow the charity-based organisation to save on its electricity bill, therefore freeing up more resources to carry out its work.
“Whatever we will save, will put us in a better position to help the less fortunate. That is what Food for the Poor does,” he noted.
Installed by Padero Solar Jamaica in July last year, the 100-kilowatt system consists of five inverters, each with a capacity of 20 kilowatts.
“One of the things we would have experienced since we have started to use solar is a much cleaner supply of electricity, manifesting itself in less maintenance,” Mr. Powell said.
Bois Content Primary are the first beneficiary of the Primary School Sanitation Project in having its outdated pit latrines replaced by flush toilets.
Yesterday in ceremony at the school located in the northern section of St Catherine South West, Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites said the occasion represents the government’s intention to totally eliminate pit latrines in schools.
“Today, we are in this place (Bois Content Primary School, which serves) as a stepping stone to the other schools that we have contracted with Food for the Poor, to make these changes. We are beginning to realize that dream,” said the Minister, who had given his commitment after visiting the school last year.
The new sanitary facility at Bois Content Primary (Photo:Aaron Fogah/FogahStyles Photography)
Bois Content Primary served as the pilot and also the official launch of the project in which the government through the Ministry of Education has embarked on a major $100 million project aimed at installing flush toilets at primary schools islandwide.
The Primary School Sanitation Project, jointly undertaken with charity organization, Food for the Poor, will initially target 50 institutions, where renovations will be carried out over the next three to four months. Work at the remaining schools is slated to take place later in the year.
Under the initiative, Food for the Poor has committed to constructing new sanitary blocks, which will comprise: water harvesting facilities and closets; toilets; urinals; and wheelchair access ramps, among other features.
An additional three schools are earmarked for similar improvements, which will be funded at a cost of six million dollars by the JN Foundation.
Principal of Bois Content Primary Kathleen Jones (back row centre) and her students share lenses with General Manager, JN Foundation, Saffrey Brown (left, back row) in a photo-opt (Photo: Aaron Fogah/FogahStyles Photography)
Food for the Poor Chairman, Andrew Mahfood, said the organisation is pleased to undertake the project, while stating that 50 more schools should be completed in April or May.
He said in addition to the new sanitary facilities, Bois Content Primary also benefitted from the installation of electricity; a newly build mathematics centre; and general painting work at the expense of Food for the Poor.
South West St. Catherine Member of Parliament, Everald Warmington, in expressing gratitude, urged the students, teachers, and residents of Bois Content to ensure the facilities are properly maintained and preserved.
He also implored other institutions to emulate Food for the Poor and JN Foundation, by partnering with the government to deliver quality services and other provisions for citizens.
Minister of Education Rev Ronald Thwaites (left) and St Catherine South West Member of Parliament Everald Warmington having a light moment (Photo: Aaron Fogah/FogahStyles Photography)
In her remarks, JN Foundation General Manager, Saffrey Brown, said the organisation welcomed the opportunity to be involved in “this inspiring and heart-warming project.”
“This launch is a demonstration of the recognition of a socially-focused partnership, as we join together to implement solutions for the upgrading of sanitary blocks for our students…one school at a time, until we can say ‘mission accomplished’,” she added.
Board Chairman of Bois Content Primary, Rev. Lenford Newell, also expressed gratitude on behalf of the students and staff.
“We are, indeed, happy (for) this very special gift and for being the first (beneficiary under) this programme,” Rev Newell said.