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Jamaica Homecoming 2005 Post Release

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PRESS RELEASE For Info: Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington

November 21, 2005


A group of 9 Jamaicans living in South Florida journeyed home during “Homecoming Week” to fulfill their commitment to Epping Forrest All Age School and Woodford Basic School.

Despite several weeks of non-stop rain in Jamaica, the group met at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in New Kingston on Tuesday, October 19, 2005. After some hesitation as to whether they should venture deep into the island in the persistent rain and flooding, the group was led in prayer by the Rev. Father Horace Ward of The Holy Family Episcopal Church in Miami and they hit the road.

They encountered flooding on the Mandela Highway, TollGate and Four Paths, Clarendon and in Scott’s Pass, Manchester. The group persisted and arrived in Epping Forrest, St. Elizabeth. Due to the inclement weather, schools were closed for the week, but the Principal, Mr. Nelson gave them a hearty greeting.

They toured the facility and received an update from the Principal as to what had been done to date. Mr. Jeffrey Warmington, an architect with PBS&J in Miami surveyed the damage using his years of experience and consulted with the Principal as to what was feasible to repair. The rains caused the existing building to be flooded and scores of donated books laid in water. Consul General Ricardo Allicock, Father Horace Ward and Dr. Lloyd Cohen rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to lift the boxes of books to dryer locations.

The group made a pledge of $100,000 JA$ towards the rebuilding process, and commitment to work with the Ministry of Education and the Office of National Reconstruction to see to the rebuilding of the top floor on the original school building.

On Wednesday the group once again made their way to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and on to Woodford Basic School in the Blue Mountains of St. Andrew. While not encountering large bodies of water during this trip, the drive was treacherous as there had been landslides and washed away embankments up the mountainside. The group arrived to workmen already tackling the refurbishing of the school due to their generosity.

The group was greeted by Rector of the parish, Rev. Louis Hearst, Mr. Mais, the School Board president, and residents of the area. The Basic School was recently abandoned due to the unsafe conditions and the students were being housed at the All-Age School on the property. The enrollment at the Basic School had dropped to only 8 students because of the condition of the building and the lack of resources of the area’s residents.

The South Florida Jamaicans pledged to have the building fully functional for the start of school in January, 2006, including paying the salary of one teacher for the semester.

“Both of these projects are just the beginning. The needs are great, but I know that we have a committed Jamaican community in the Southern United States and I am confident that we will continue our support”, says Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, the Jamaican Diaspora Advisory Board Member – Southern United States.

Both schools are off the beaten paths in Jamaica and the group credits the organizers of “Homecoming Week” for making the emphasis on Basic Schools. The participants were all happy to have made the trip, notwithstanding the weather. They found pleasure in seeing the project first hand and all said their commitment to help had been firmly planted. They all took time off from work mid-week to show their dedication to the project.

Donations have continued to come in for the rebuilding of the two schools that were damaged during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. To donate to the school rebuilding funds, please make checks payable to Jamaican Diaspora-Southern United States and note: School Fund. A separate U.S. dollar account will be maintained with Jamaica National Building Society to fund the projects. HotPC Deals, a client of FullaIdeas, Inc. has committed two personal computers for the two schools.

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