It’s a love affair with Woodford
You know the love is for real when the person is willing to go the extra mile with you, and neither hill nor valley will stop them from caring. That’s just how a group of 10 persons from the United States of America felt as they made their journey on July 17, up through the winding thoroughfare and into the cool St Andrew hills where the Woodford Seventh-day Adventist Preparatory School is located.
The group came to the island bearing gifts and back-to-school supplies for the school and its children with whom they have fallen in love since 2016.
“It began when education director at the East Jamaica Conference, Dr Donna Brown, approached me while she was on a trip to New York,” explained the group leader, Keith ‘Chappy’ Taylor, a Jamaican teacher living in the United States. “She told me that there are two Seventh-day Adventist schools that needed help back home. So, when I came to Jamaica, I visited Woodford SDA Preparatory School and fell in love with the school and the children.”
A fire was kindled in Taylor’s heart which propelled him into action. He had discussions with the principal of the school where he teaches in the US and together they formulated a plan which saw them buying gifts and sending them to Jamaica for the school and its students.
“We decided to continue with this venture, and with the help of some friends – Julie, Annette, Eric, Racquel, Harronald, Tanya, Carmen, Christopher, and Denise – we all chipped in and helped out. Some have even decided to assist parents with their children’s tuition,” said Taylor.
Carmen, a member of the group, couldn’t contain her joy: “I had a little boy who I would support through school, but Julie gave him to someone else. So when I came and I saw Shacquine, I immediately fell in love with her because she resembles my grand-daughter. So I will be paying her school fees,” she said.
The programme grew and was extended to Mirimar Seventh-day Adventist Preparatory School with a breakfast programme, Taylor said.
He added that last year, the group awarded seven scholarships. “This year, we gave the graduates at Woodford SDA Prep 12 scholarships, and each child received a little gift card with a small token,” Taylor said.
Taking the time during their vacation, the Woodford Friends’ return this year was eagerly anticipated. At the afternoon gathering in the little school that hosts 83 students and seven teachers, the excitement from the children was palpable. They could hardly wait for what was to come.
“Be quiet!” said principal Dave McNeish. “We have some friends here who have come a far way to share with you today. They have gifts for everybody. No one will leave without a gift.”
Taylor was introduced and he quieted the kids, too, by asking them to clap if they could hear him. The rhythmic claps silenced them. He talked with them, introduced the team, and sent them off to collect their ice cream, popcorn, small gift packages, and back-to-school items consisting of bags, books, pens, pencils, and more.
“The gifts today are needed,” said Nordia Green, a parent who has two children attending the school. “It is really rough and it is an ease for the parents because back-to-school financing isn’t easy.”
Lyscheniel Charlton, who was successful in her Primary Exit Profile exams and passed for Merl Grove High School, praised the team, “Our Woodford friends are helping students to get a good education. What they are doing today is very important, and I would like to thank every one of them for helping us.”
Pastor Sheldon Schooler said that he was happy for the help. “I am indeed grateful for the assistance we have got. We have seen where the contributions, the gifts, the giving back to Christian education have really gone a long way in helping the students.”
Woodford SDA Preparatory School is one of five preparatory schools and one high school that is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in East Jamaica Conference.