The ongoing Toronto airport chaos of 2022 wasn’t enough to deter a group of 14 dedicated volunteers from heading to Spanish Town, Jamaica this past month.

 

Joined by Food For The Poor Canada’s own Samantha Mahfood and Andrea Slipek, the volunteers were from both Canada and the United States. For three days they rolled up their sleeves and assisted with the expansion of Valley Christian Ministry Basic School. This was the 36th construction of a school building FFPC has participated in. 

 

The need for this expansion is so great. Let us tell you why.

 

Valley Christian Ministry Basic School began operating in a church in September 1995.  In 2000, students moved into what is the current school building. This is right across the street from the FFP Jamaica headquarters, which is the largest charity organization in Jamaica.

 

The school serves more than 10 of the surrounding communities. Enrolment numbers are increasing, but space has remained limited with only three classrooms for 90 children and eight staff members. This has led to many challenges, including:

  • The school principal has not had a proper office for some time. That means no dedicated space to receive parents or visitors, or to have private conversations.
  • Increased enrollment with no increase in space has meant more children, desks and chairs in each of the three classrooms. Tight spacing has reduced easy movement and led to a safety hazard should a fire or emergency occur.
  • School rooms are separated by a simple partition. Larger classroom size has meant more noise and distraction. Students have struggled to focus on what is being taught in their respective classes. Some teachers have opted to teach outside under a tree. Sometimes they go to the church hall to carry out a lesson.

Mrs. Hortense Grant, the principal of the school, expressed: 

 

I started teaching at the school in 1990, back then there was a preparatory department where I taught at. At that time, I had no formal training as a teacher. I continued teaching when I realized the difference I have made in the life of the children; that motivated me to push further as I worked there while attending teacher’s college. In January 2013 I assumed the position of principal at the basic school when the then principal migrated. I choose to stay at this school as I want to give back to my community and am encouraged when I see some of the children that are currently at the school. I have taught their parents; that’s enough motivation for me as it tells me that I must have done something good for them to choose me to teach their children. It is through this medium I believe we can be a force to help change and reshape the community, starting with the mindset of the young children as we help set their foundation. 

 

With this information, our Volunteers committed to making a change.

 

The foundation for a brand new, three classroom building started in June 2022. Framing commenced in early July 2022, and was still ongoing when our volunteers arrived. They pitched in to help complete this, along with getting some of the much needed painting completed.

What will this expansion mean for the students and staff of Valley Christian Ministry Basic School?

 
  • A new  principal’s office will create a comfortable and private space for meetings and the proper storage of confidential files
  • A dedicated space for the youngest of the children enrolled at the school
  • Improved delivery of early childhood education
  • Employment for members of the community
  • A playground will be installed for the children, providing the opportunity for play, and growth

The building will take approximately another six months to complete as contractors finish the interior work, including plumbing, electrical, and the installation of the playground.

By supporting the building and expansion of these schools, you are providing these young students with a bright future. The school gives students a space to learn and grow.  Teachers are able to work in a safe environment. Parents can find comfort in knowing that their children are learning. An educated child changes the course of not only their future but the futures of generations to come. 

 

“We had a wonderful group of 14 volunteers join us on the Valley Christian mission build. For 3 days, we worked hard to frame and paint the new 3-classroom building for the primary students, our 36th school in Jamaica. Over the years, Canadians have changed thousands of lives because of builds like this, and it is through the generosity of our volunteers that we are able to accomplish this work and give children and their families a better life. I hope that through this shared experience, the group left feeling inspired to continue to help make a difference in the lives of children in Jamaica. We couldn't have done this without them!"  

Andrea Slipek, Senior Program Manager

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