To celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary as an independent nation, Food for the Poor Canada approached its chapters in the United States and Jamaica three years ago with a plan to build 50 schools on the Caribbean island.
The chapters agreed and the ground-breaking ceremony for the first school took place in June 2012. Three schools were launched three months later and – with significant private and corporate sector sponsorship – 30 schools were completed in 30 months.
The last school is expected to be finished before the end of this year.
Food for the Poor Canada raised $700,000, which went to the construction of 10 schools while the American chapter built 39 schools and the Jamaican chapter built one. As the implementing partners, the Jamaican chapter secured contractors to establish the educational facilities across the island.
Food for the Poor is an interdenominational Christian charity that provides basic aid and sustainable development to the needy in Jamaica and Haiti.
Canadian chapter executive director, Samantha Mahfood, said the interest in investing in education has been overwhelming.
“When you are talking about education, I think you easily get the attention of people,” she said. “They have responded in a magnificent way.”
The Canadian donors include the Ray Chang, Helping Hands Jamaica and Royal Bank Foundations, sisters Lucinda Sloley and Joan Blake and the Josephs family, who donated nearly Can$45,000 for the establishment of a basic school at Georges Valley on the outskirts of Mandeville.
“As a family, giving back in any way we can to Jamaica is significant,” said Mark Josephs. “Giving young people hope and the ability to move forward can be critical to their development as educated human beings who can make meaningful contributions in any society.”
Josephs mother – Glenor – was in Jamaica for the opening of the school in March 2013.
“There was definitely a need at Georges Valley as the kids were going to classes in an old community centre,” said the family matriarch, who was raised in nearby Porus. “Though I am not physically in Jamaica all the time, the country is still close to my heart and I was just ecstatic when the call came for assistance to jump in and help.”
The Josephs family plan to build another school in Jamaica next year through Food for the Poor.
Leslie “Ameen” Josephs, who passed away seven years ago, ran a snow cone business in Jamaica before migrating to Canada with his family on Christmas Eve in 1975.
The family started Kisko Products two years later and acquired the Mr. Freeze brand in October 2005, making Kisko – which employs mainly Caribbean immigrants – Canada’s largest freeze pop manufacturer.
In 2010, the family, which also includes sons Randy, Peter and Tim, launched a scholarship in the late family patriarch’s name for students pursuing business studies at Jamaica College.