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St Thomas 4H Apiculture Club reaches out to Font Hill community

Published:Saturday | January 10, 2015 | 1:00 AM
Bernadette Graham hands a package to Florence Powell as Kevin Watson and Kerry-Ann Smith look on.
Venese Graham combs Viola Dacres' hair during a recent outreach by the St Thomas 4H Apiculture Club. Dacres has arthritis and has tremendous difficulties doing it herself.-contributed photos
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Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer

The executive body of the St Thomas 4H Apiculture Club recently made several residents of the Font Hill community very happy through their donations of food, toiletries and personal items to assist them in the new year.

The club, which operates a small farm in the Font Hill area, felt the need to make a contribution after witnessing the desperate plight of many residents in the distant rural village. The club, which was formed in May of 2014, came out of agriculture and apiculture training organised by the 4H Association of St Thomas, with funding from the Sugar Transformation Unit (STU).

Kevin Watson, club president, explained that several graduates of the training programme came together and were given permission to begin a communal farm on a plot of land owned by the 4H Association. The Jamaica Agricultural Society in St Thomas also contributed tools, seeds and other farming equipment. The group started with sorrel, melon, cucumber and pumpkin, which they also market through the Jamaica Agricultural Society. The profits from sales are distributed among members along with unsold produce, and though the yield is small, the club has not hesitated in sharing their bounty with Font Hill residents.

Members of the club helped to identify needy individuals, including several residents with disabilities, elderly residents and those without family support. Data was also collected from a disability survey conducted in October. The club focused its attention on those most in need, and was disappointed that they could not reach all the persons that had been identified.

"There is a great need in this area," Kerry-Ann Smith, the club's chief planner, explained. "This is a very isolated area and there are many persons who don't have jobs. And they have no one to help them."

valuable lesson

Sponsorship was sought from businesses in and around Morant Bay, and several responded with cash and kind. Watson expressed the club's gratitude for the assistance they had received.

"We want to thank those who gave to this project. It is very important that we do this. But we also want to thank those who didn't give, because we have learnt a valuable lesson, and it is through these experiences that we will grow," he told Rural Xpress.

The club plans to make the outreach an annual one, targeting other rural communities with similar needs in St Thomas.

"We were affected by the drought, but we have made preparations for continuous irrigation. Whatever we reap, we will definitely put aside a portion for helping those who are less fortunate than us," Watson said.

rural@gleanerjm.com