By TOM GODREY
Kindergarten students attending a rural school in Jamaica will benefit the most from a gala fundraiser that was held in Scarborough to empower youth.
About 50 Toronto college students will be travelling to Westmoreland in July to help build a library and playground for youngsters at the Risen Messiah Early Childhood Basic School, in Good Hope.
This will be the third school in Jamaica that Toronto college students have helped to rebuild in five years.
“There is a huge shipping container in the yard that we will be converting into a library,” said Lynn Williams, co-founder of The Power to Be International, which works with youth. “There are some books there but we will be taking down more for the students.”
Williams said the non-profit group has boxes of books sitting in Toronto-area garages that they cannot afford to ship to schools in Jamaica. They are raising funds to do so.
“It will be a very basic library but it will be better than what they have now,” she told Share. “We will also be fixing up the yard so the kids can play.”
The students from Toronto attend Centennial or George Brown Colleges. Some pay their own way to the island, while others receive a credit for the work.
The month-long trip is a first to the island for many and their itinerary includes cultural, arts and sightseeing tours.
The Changemakers program, as it is called, allows post-secondary students to obtain valuable work experience abroad while utilizing their skills in their specific programs, said Williams.
“Students gain valuable international experience from the trip,” she said. “It is a win-win situation for the students and the colleges.”
The group held a gala dinner and dance last Saturday to raise funds for their work in Jamaica and a conference in Grenada for the empowerment of girls.
CBC News host Dwight Gooden and Philip Rose, of the Jamaica Tourist Board, hosted the fifth-anniversary event that drew about 230 people to Burrows Hall Community Center, on Progress Avenue.
Group co-founder, Kimya Mignott, said the sold-out event will help more children to improve their lives.
“It was a fantastic success,” Mignott said of the event. “It was a tremendously successful event that will help fund some of our programs.”
Mignott said funds are still required to send kids to camp, ship books and fund girl empowerment projects.
She said it cost $80 to sponsor a child to attend a literacy camp in Jamaica and so far the group has raised funds to send to camp more than 200 children.
These kids are from low-income families, who would not normally have funds for a summer camp, said Mignott.
“The children are the ones who benefit from this,” she said. “We are giving them a chance to empower themselves and their families.”
The group has improved the conditions of children attending Negril All Age School and Mt. Airy All Age School, which they have helped to restore.
They were founded in 2009 to help youth improve their lives and communities through education, leadership and civic engagement.
Donations are being sought to help with programs or camps for kids at www.thepowertobe.org.