By TOM GODFREY
Former Jamaica Davis Cup tennis champ, Karl Hale, is on a mission to educate children in Jamaica by rebuilding badly-needed schools.
“The state of the schools is not good,” Hale said of his volunteer work. “There are hundreds of schools on the island that have to be rebuilt.”
Hale, who lives in Toronto, was born in Falmouth. He says he is proud of his heritage and wants to give back to the country. He spends a lot of his time and energy drumming up support and donations for his school-building projects.
He founded the non-profit Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation (HHJF) about 10 years ago, which has since raised in excess of $1 million to rebuild more than six schools in rural areas.
Hale, who gained recognition as a 10-year member of the Jamaica Davis Cup team, wants to provide poor children with a better future through education.
He is currently planning two upcoming trips by Canadian business managers and leaders to construct schools in underserved areas of the island.
In April, he will escort a group of 80 staffers from Sunwing Airlines to rebuild the Spicy Hill Basic School in Trelawney.
“They (Sunwing) want to show their support for Jamaica,” said Hale. “We should have that school built and done in about four days.”
Sunwing officials said some of their employees in Jamaica have children attending Spicy Hill School.
The school “is currently housed in cramped and overcrowded conditions within a local community centre without adequate classroom space or kitchen and bathroom facilities”, the airline told staff on its website.
“This will be the first step on our journey to enriching the communities that we serve, and looking forward to more opportunities to participate in similar projects in the future,” the airline stated.
Hale said the construction supplies and equipment are purchased locally using funds raised during the year. They also earn funds by escorting Canadians on school rebuild tours.
In June, he will lead a group of more than 160 managers of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors, to rebuild Montpelier Basic School in Montego Bay.
“This is our second year we have partnered with MLSE,” said Hale. “They enjoyed their last experience and wanted to do it again.”
That school will be done within a week, during which new floors, walls, roof and classes will be constructed by the volunteers.
Montpelier is a three-classroom school that caters to about 100 students. It provides early education and “serves as a symbol of hope for the residents and the wider community”.
The Bernard Basic School, in St. Thomas, was one of the first rebuilt by the foundation. It has since seen an increase in students from 14 to 35, with pupils claiming they can concentrate and study better.
Hale is the Rogers Cup Toronto Tournament Director, which is the largest one-week tennis tourney in the world with past champions including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Chris Evert.
He is also Director of Racquet Sports at the prestigious Donalda Club in Toronto and the founder of the Karl Hale Jamaica Tour, a fundraising international training camp that is billed as the Number One Caribbean Tennis Event which runs from April 21 to 26 at the Half Moon Bay Resort.
He sits on the board of the Professional Tennis Registry, which is the largest tennis coaching organization worldwide with 15,000 members. He was also head of the Canadian tennis equivalent with more than 2,000 members.
Hale founded the Daniel Nestor Celebrity Charity Event which has raised over $700,000 for North York General Hospital and Tennis Canada Go for Gold Fund.
He was ranked No. 1 in the world on the International Tennis Federation’s over-40 rankings in 2007.