Fri | Jul 19, 2019

Marymount’s Holiday Helpers bring Christmas joy to St Mary

Published:Thursday | December 20, 2018 | 12:10 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Gabriel Barrett hand a Christmas gift basket to Birdie Lewis while Diana Denton (third left) and Odeisha Campbell look on.
Community member, affectionately called Miss Rose, front left, poses with students and staff members of Marymount High School during their trip to Belfield.
Marymount High School's Holiday Helpers singing a Christmas Carol as they prepare to hand out another gift basket in Belfield, St Mary.
Holiday Helper Odeisha Campbell presents a Christmas gift package to wheelchair bound Calvin Morris in Belfield, St Mary.
Marymount High School's Holiday Helpers, Diana Denton (left) and Kytasha Bartley (right) handing out Christmas gifts to Floretta Walker and her visually impaired son, Melvis Williams, in Belfield, St Mary on Tuesday.


It was a novel idea when, five years ago, then sixth-form student at Marymount High School, Shevonae Murphy, came up with the idea of students treating the needy at Christmastime in communities adjacent to the school, which is located at Cromwell Lands in Highgate, St Mary.

The Holiday Helpers group was created at the all-girls Catholic school to do just that. Since then, the group has brought joy to scores of needy residents each Christmas.

On Tuesday, the Holiday Helpers, which this year consisted of eight "classmates and friends" from sixth form, went to several areas in the neighbouring Belfield community, singing Christmas carols as they entered through the gates of each residence, handing out gift packages with a variety of items, which included foodstuff.

Community members were happy to sing along with the students and were quite pleased with the gifts.

One such person was wheelchair-bound Calvin Morris, who was having his hair plaited when the singing Holiday Helpers, dressed in Santa hats, entered his yard. Morris paused the activity on his hair to accept a package from student Odeisha Campbell.

"Mi feel joyful and nice. Blessed, and thank you," he told The Gleaner when prompted.

This year, 30 persons benefited from the generosity of the school, up from 25 last year.

Contributions from corporate Jamaica fell short this year, so more pressure was on the school population to ensure continuity of the programme. Between the 901 students on roll, and the 70-plus staff membership, fundraising events were planned and executed, and where that fell short, cash donations were made by them.

School principal Lorna Bailey is happy that the programme is going well.




"This is something they do every year. Our girls go into the community with teachers and guidance counsellors and they help to bring a little sunshine to the lives of our citizens," she shared.

"It's something that they enjoy doing and we encourage it as a school. They learn from it, because they see persons living in conditions that are really worse than their own. So they learn something from it."

Leslie Asante, who along with Tanice Thompson, are the two guidance counsellors who ensure that the programme works, pointed out that it has even impacted the career choice of some students.

"For some students, this outreach programme helps them to chart their career endeavours. So for the past couple of years, we've had some girls who have gone on to do social work, just as a result of doing this," Asante said.

Upper sixth-form student Venise Palmer, who was part of the programme for the first time, said handing out the gifts to the needy persons had a profound impact on her.

"It's really a great feeling to be here handing out gifts to the less fortunate. We know they appreciate it, some even cried, some laughed with us. It's a really good feeling to be here," Palmer said.

She added: "What am I taking away from this? Sharing. No matter how small it is, just share. Give with a smile. It doesn't have to be monetary, maybe a hug. Make them feel good in any way that you can. Just sharing that love can be a good thing."

Classmate Radine Strachan likened her school to corporate Jamaica, pointing out: "Every business has a social responsibility, where they are supposed to take care of their community."

On Tuesday in Belfield, St Mary, Marymount High School, through the Holiday Helpers, exceeded its responsibility.