Thu | Nov 23, 2017

Irish volunteers help children in Jamaica

Published:Friday | November 10, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Irish volunteers from Children For Children beside the concrete wheelchair pathway they completed at Mustard Seed Communities' Jacob's Ladder facility in St Ann recently.

Six students from St Benildus School in Dublin, Ireland, were recently in Jamaica carrying out voluntary charity work with the Mustard Seed Communities. The volunteers from the newly established Children For Children organisation came to Jamaica on a pilot scheme to assess feasibility for subsequent annual trips.

On Wednesday, November 1, the group, consisting of six teenagers and five adults, was at Mustard Seed Communities' Jacob's Ladder facility in Moneague, St Ann. The visitors began construction of a concrete walkway to enable residents in wheelchairs to traverse the 150-acre property. They worked alongside residents to mix and pour concrete for the pathway.

After the day's work was completed, group leader Dervilla Gannon explained how the organisation was formed and what its objectives are. The initial idea, he said, was to have children helping children.

"If the children are engaged at a young age to volunteer, they recognise the difference between their lives in Ireland and the lives of the children they are helping in Jamaica. They learn to appreciate what they have back home," Gannon said.

 

GETTING YOUTH INVOLVED

 

Gannon underscored the importance of getting youth involved so that they can keep the cause alive for generations to follow, while encouraging other youngsters to engage in volunteerism.

"If we bring our children to meet the children of Jamaica and Mustard Seed, they will go home with the love of charity in their hearts," Gannon said.

Although this trip was a pilot project to test the waters, and was organised quickly, it has already showed signs of being a great success. Gannon said that from the offset, the enthusiasm of the volunteers was tremendous.

"Each child undertook to raise more than US$2,000 each towards the expenses of the trip. Going forward, the plan is to target students in key schools in Dublin, many of whom take a transition year off during their fourth year before they begin their leaving certificate exams in the fifth and sixth forms. The programme is designed to allow the students to develop a global view, and to help them decide what they may like to study in college," Gannon said.

Seamus Lynch, former chief executive officer of Digicel Jamaica, is a past student of St Benildus and it was he who suggested Jamaica and Mustard Seed as a suitable beneficiary of the volunteers' visit.

Gannon and the other adult group leaders, who are teachers, will return to their respective schools in Ireland and report their success stories to their schools' principals.

"It has been amazing to see the young people discovering that small acts of kindness go a long way. They have already become so involved," Gannon said.