Jamaica’s neediest schools getting crowdfunding help
"Our children must be our first concern," says Venice Hibbert, vice-principal of the Holy Family Primary and Infant School, 2 and 9 Laws Street, central Kingston.
She is worried because the school needs additional staircases for two buildings. This is in addition to roof repairs, as well as repairs to its bathrooms.
"We had an earthquake and two boys jumped from the first floor of the school," Hibbert said. "Luckily, they were not injured."
Formerly known as East Branch Elementary School in 'Southside', the school was founded in 1890, and was rebuilt after the 1951 hurricane, but now has inadequate infrastructure.
"The National Education Inspectorate has identified that we need additional staircases for the safety of the students," Hibbert said, adding that "the bathrooms are also in a poor condition".
Leo Gilling, convener of the Jamaica Diaspora Education Task Force (JDETF), saw the challenge faced by schools at the early childhood and primary school levels and decided earlier this year to lend a hand. After 29 years of bringing educational and medical support to the island, the United States-based philanthropist wanted to harness the financial resources of Jamaicans in the diaspora to tackle social challenges in the island.
The project was launched in August and became operational on November 1, 2016. The first round of fundraising will be completed on January 31, 2017, when the funds-disbursal process will begin.
"We are bringing new money to Jamaica," Gilling said. "The goal is to take on infrastructure and development projects."
A new way had to be found to fund projects, however, as many in the diaspora say they are willing to provide support but do not have the means to do so, he pointed out. Therefore, the JEDTF partnered with the ISupportJamaica crowdfunding website, powered by Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS), to give Jamaicans anywhere in the world the option to fund the project of their choice.
"We have put ISupportJamaica fully behind this project," said Leon Mitchell, assistant general manager, JNBS. "Giving support to younger children's education is critical if we are to get high-quality educational outcomes."
"Go to our website at www.isupportjamaica.com and look for the 'Fund' project button to donate to the school upgrading project in the parish of your choice," Mitchell stated. "Supporting your parish and your country is now a straightforward proposition through the use of new technology."
Just as important is that the pledged funds do end up going to the projects selected, Gilling said. "The finances of the JEDTF are audited by a certified professional accountant to ensure the highest level of probity."
The selection of the neediest school in Jamaica is carried out by the National Education Trust (NET) government agency, which has the goal of mobilising investments for schools in Jamaica.
"There are 970 infant to secondary public schools in the island," said Latoya Harris, NET public private relationship manager. "All of them have some level of need for infrastructure improvement. And the needs are greatest at the infant and primary school levels. This programme is geared at providing support at that level."
Critically, Gilling said, "Because of the flexibility and transparency of online funding mechanisms such as ISupportJamaica, this project will set the pace for charitable donations in future."
The project aims to raise US$143,000 per parish over five years. Gilling said, "We are asking everyone to give whatever they can."