LINKS Delegation to Jamaica (Link Carol Jenkins- Greater Wayne County Chapter)
LINKS Delegation to Jamaica
Link Carol Jenkins – Greater Wayne County Chapter
Watford Hill Primary School
Established in 1896 by missionaries that came to educate the local slaves, Watford Hill Primary School (WHPS) has long been a source of education and pride in the area. There are approximately 65 children enrolled in grades 1-6, with a pending request to The Ministry of Education to add an infant program (ages 3-5) for an additional 30 students. Since 2012, under the leadership of Dr. Jason Richardson, Principal, the tremendous support of Link Carolyn Glenn (Bradenton/Sarasota, FL), her Connecting Link Dr. Earl Glenn, D.D.S., the Glenn’s foundation – Unconditional Love for Children (ULC), the Watford Hill Primary School (WHPS) has thrived in the Hanover province of Jamaica.
The basic facilities include a 4-room schoolhouse, a newly constructed covered pavilion, administrative offices, and recently updated plumbing services to include restrooms and the footings for a new kitchen and food prep area. In 2014, the Bradenton/Sarasota (FL) Chapter embraced WHPS and made it an umbrella project under their International Trends and Services (to Youth) Facet, meaning to include all facets that are supported and developed by The Links, Incorporated.
My experience there was incredible! The children were very polite, neatly groomed and were attentive to their lessons. Many spoke more than one language and above all else, they wanted to be there. I had a chance to attend a self-esteem and speech class where it was evident the students really looked after one another and were eager to participate in their instruction. The school grounds also included a computer lab that encouraged learning through a renewable, licensed software called Math24.
The students of all ages enjoyed the playground and played informal soccer games that included everyone. During our trip we were able to provide two brand new laptop computers, over 200 books, a portable storage drive with over 3,000 American Classic literary titles and 55 soccer balls. Words cannot say enough about my experience. As a new member of The Links, Incorporated, I was able to really see what we are truly capable of and the real meaning of “Linked in Friendship, Connected in Service” is all about. We left Jamaica with a charge to stay involved and to get our Chapters engaged in what can be an incredible endeavor with clear and sustainable metrics. As you can surely imagine, there are many needs and challenges that remain.
It should be noted that each of the children who attend WHPS do so by walking up 5 miles one-way each day. Also, know that the Jamaican Ministry of Education does not currently establish guidelines on when children should go to school. So those that attend, are truly present to obtain skills that many of us take for granted. Most of the schools require a tuition which may run as much as JAM$26,500 (USD$25.00) per semester to attend. However, at this time, WHPS does not charge tuition.
Some of their immediate needs are to provide adequate nutrition and meals for the students. Many of the kids arrive hungry without having had a good breakfast, and while lunch is provided, some of the children will package it up and return home to help feed their families. The campus boasts a full garden where the students help grow vegetables and then sell them in a local Hanover province market. The proceeds are all returned to the school, accounted for like a small business, and used as a lesson for the students. Obviously, space and room to grow is an important need as the current classrooms are all adjoined. This is a problem, because when one class is learning a song, the other classes have to do quiet exercises so as not to be a disturbance. Finally, the last major needs are to increase the number of teachers. WHPS currently has 4 teachers. All of which have helped the students achieve #1 rankings in Math and Literacy (2013), 100% Literacy (2014) and be rated the fourth of all 33 Primary Schools with a 98 percentile ranking in all core competencies for 2015.
We were all provided with a tangible wish list and in the words and spirt of Mahatma Ghandi, we were further encouraged to “Be the change You Wish to see in the world”.
It is my hope that our Greater Wayne County Chapter will choose to support this worthwhile project and join many of the other chapters within our great organization.