Wed | Sep 26, 2018

Church using back-to-school fair to alleviate crime and poverty

Published:Wednesday | August 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Parents and children line up for school supplies at the Hope Gospel Assembly's 10th annual back-to-school fair on Saturday.

The mounting concerns of the negative effects of crime and poverty on the society has convinced Reverend Peter Garth that the church's annual back-to-school fair must keep going.

The pastor of the Hope Gospel Assembly in Liguanea, St Andrew, told The Gleaner at the 10th staging of the fair on Saturday that over 3,000 school bags with supplies, in addition to 342 scholarships, were issued to students in several communities, including Standpipe, Angola, Back Bush, among others.

One of the things he said he was most impressed with was the increase in the number of children gaining 80 and 90 per cent averages. He noted that 191 students received very high averages in comparison to 86 last year.

Garth said those are things that keep his committee going, ensuring that children do not resort to a life of crime.

"When we started this back-to-school fair, someone came in the area and saw some youngsters selling clay guns. On one side was inscribed 'to kill big man' and on the other side 'to kill police'. I walked into the community and I saw the guys selling it and when you listen to them, the anger that they have is cause for concern," he said.

"One youngster said to me that 'I am just waiting for the moment to get a gun to take revenge for what happened to my daddy'. I said to myself, 'No, we have to keep these children in school and encourage them'. I also want to change the landscape of violence and crime and we will have to do it through education."

The pastor urged the public not to see the church's efforts as an avenue of embracing a culture of handouts, but instead, giving the vulnerable an opportunity.

"I interview parents, I speak with them, I am on the ground and I am literally seeing what is happening in many communities. I believe children just need an opportunity. Poverty is real and one of the powerful ways to alleviate it is to educate persons," said Garth.