Though Canada has been their home for over four decades, Jamaica remains close to the hearts of sisters Lucinda Sloley and Joan Blake.
When Food for the Poor announced it was building 50 schools in Jamaica as part of the Caribbean country’s 50th independence anniversary last year, the sisters put in a request to sponsor a school in the Ramble Pond community where they were raised. Their sights were set on a basic school run out of Comfort Hall Baptist Church.
“That school consists of a kitchenette, a classroom and a small toilet,” said Sloley who migrated to Canada in 1969 and worked with the provincial government for 30 years before retiring in 1999. “The kitchen area is the entrance to the classroom and there is just one entrance and exit which is definitely a safety hazard. The area is just too small, hot and not an ideal setting for a school.”
When Food for the Poor confirmed that the school did not meet the Jamaica Ministry of Education standard for basic schools, the sisters decided to use 1.5 acres of their family’s land to build a school.
Construction started last September on the facility that will include a teacher’s cottage and an 18” x 24” multi-purpose room with a washroom and kitchenette. The complex will be handed over to the community on December 28 and the school will be officially opened next August during a community homecoming event.
“We believe that children should be provided with a comfortable learning environment,” said Blake who taught in British Columbia for 36 years before relocating to the Greater Toronto Area last June.
The sisters, who will travel to Jamaica next month for the ceremony, estimate it will cost close to $5,500 to build the stand-alone multi-purpose room.
Individuals interested in making donations can visit www.foodforthepoorcanada.org, go to the ‘donate now’ section and select Comfort Hall Baptist School and then multi-purpose room.
Food for the Poor is an interdenominational Christian charity that provides basic aid and sustainable development to the needy in Jamaica and Haiti. In conjunction with Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission, the basic schools have been set up in communities identified as having the most needs for pre-primary facilities.
A total of 17 schools have been completed and another six will be launched before the end of the year.
“The aim was to build 50 schools in 50 months, but we are ahead of schedule and it looks like it will take about 40 months to build the new schools to replace existing facilities that have been around for about 30 years,” said Food for the Poor Canada executive director Samantha Mahfood. “The interest in investing in education has been overwhelming.”
Food for the Poor Canada links a donor with a school and Food for the Poor Jamaica is the project manager.