Ja­maica’s need­i­est schools get­ting crowd­fund­ing help

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS -

“OUR CHIL­DREN must be our first con­cern,” says Venice Hib­bert, vice-prin­ci­pal of the Holy Fam­ily Pri­mary and In­fant School, 2 and 9 Laws Street, cen­tral Kingston.

She is wor­ried be­cause the school needs ad­di­tional stair­cases for two build­ings. This is in ad­di­tion to roof re­pairs, as well as re­pairs to its bath­rooms.

“We had an earth­quake and two boys jumped from the first floor of the school,” Hib­bert said. “Luck­ily, they were not in­jured.”

For­merly known as East Branch El­e­men­tary School in ‘South­side’, the school was founded in 1890, and was re­built af­ter the 1951 hur­ri­cane, but now has in­ad­e­quate in­fra­struc­ture.

“The National Ed­u­ca­tion In­spec­torate has iden­ti­fied that we need ad­di­tional stair­cases for the safety of the stu­dents,” Hib­bert said, adding that “the bath­rooms are also in a poor con­di­tion”.

Leo Gilling, con­vener of the Ja­maica Di­as­pora Ed­u­ca­tion Task Force (JDETF), saw the chal­lenge faced by schools at the early child­hood and pri­mary school lev­els and de­cided ear­lier this year to lend a hand. Af­ter 29 years of bring­ing ed­u­ca­tional and med­i­cal sup­port to the is­land, the United States­based phi­lan­thropist wanted to harness the fi­nan­cial re­sources of Ja­maicans in the di­as­pora to tackle so­cial chal­lenges in the is­land.

FUNDRAIS­ING GOALS

The project was launched in Au­gust and be­came op­er­a­tional on Novem­ber 1, 2016. The first round of fundrais­ing will be com­pleted on Jan­uary 31, 2017, when the funds-dis­bur­sal process will be­gin.

“We are bring­ing new money to Ja­maica,” Gilling said. “The goal is to take on in­fra­struc­ture and de­vel­op­ment projects.”

A new way had to be found to fund projects, how­ever, as many in the di­as­pora say they are will­ing to pro­vide sup­port but do not have the means to do so, he pointed out. There­fore, the JEDTF part­nered with the ISup­port­Ja­maica

crowd­fund­ing web­site, pow­ered by Ja­maica National Build­ing So­ci­ety (JNBS), to give Ja­maicans any­where in the world the op­tion to fund the project of their choice.

“We have put ISup­port­Ja­maica fully be­hind this project,” said Leon Mitchell, as­sis­tant gen­eral manager, JNBS. “Giv­ing sup­port to younger chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion is crit­i­cal if we are to get high-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tional out­comes.”

“Go to our web­site at www.isup­port­ja­maica.com and look for the ‘Fund’ project but­ton to do­nate to the

school up­grad­ing project in the parish of your choice,” Mitchell stated. “Sup­port­ing your parish and your coun­try is now a straight­for­ward propo­si­tion through the use of new tech­nol­ogy.”

AU­DITS

Just as im­por­tant is that the pledged funds do end up go­ing to the projects se­lected, Gilling said. “The fi­nances of the JEDTF are au­dited by a cer­ti­fied pro­fes­sional ac­coun­tant to en­sure the high­est level of pro­bity.”

The se­lec­tion of the need­i­est school in Ja­maica is car­ried out by the National Ed­u­ca­tion Trust (NET) gov­ern­ment agency, which has the goal of mo­bil­is­ing in­vest­ments for schools in Ja­maica.

“There are 970 in­fant to sec­ondary pub­lic schools in the is­land,” said La­toya Har­ris, NET pub­lic pri­vate re­la­tion­ship manager. “All of them have some level of need for in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ment. And the needs are great­est at the in­fant and pri­mary school lev­els. This pro­gramme

is geared at pro­vid­ing sup­port at that level.”

Crit­i­cally, Gilling said, “Be­cause of the flex­i­bil­ity and trans­parency of on­line fund­ing mech­a­nisms such as ISup­port­Ja­maica, this project will set the pace for char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions in future.”

The project aims to raise US$143,000 per parish over five years. Gilling said, “We are ask­ing ev­ery­one to give what­ever they can.”

Pa­tri­cia Parke-Richards, act­ing vice-prin­ci­pal, Holy Fam­ily Pri­mary and In­fant School, points out prob­lems to (from sec­ond left) Philip Lind­say, ISup­port­Ja­maica op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer; La­toya Har­ris, National Ed­u­ca­tion Trust pub­lic pri­vate re­la­tion­ship manager; and Venice Hib­bert, vice-prin­ci­pal.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHO­TOS

La­toya Har­ris (cen­tre), National Ed­u­ca­tion Trust pub­lic pri­vate re­la­tion­ship manager, with (from left) Philip Lind­say, ISup­port­Ja­maica op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer; Venice Hib­bert, vice-prin­ci­pal, Holy Fam­ily Pri­mary and In­fant School; and Ashauni Rick­etts, stu­dent, ex­am­ine the stairs.

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