Tue | Oct 20, 2020

Horace Clarke High School spreads Christmas joy in Islington

Published:Saturday | December 14, 2019 | 12:00 AMCarl Gilchrist
Stephanie Forbes, a grade-11 student at Horace Clarke High School, presents a resident with a bag of assorted items.
Dujon Grant, grade-11 student at Horace Clarke High School, hands over a bag filled with items to an elderly woman.

On Wednesday, students from the Horace Clarke High School in Islington, St Mary, brought Christmas cheer to dozens of senior citizens in the community as part of their efforts to improve the lives of the elderly living there.

It was the second year the students from grades nine, 10 and 11 were reaching out to the elderly in the community, and the effort would have improved the relationship that the school shares with the community.

The effort has its genesis in the Ministry of Education’s mandate for schools to have a community programme where students would volunteer to work at government agencies.

But the 18 students who participated on Wednesday took the directive a bit further and engaged 40 elderly persons living in Islington, several of them residing on their own, offering packages with food, clothing, and toiletries.

Several teachers at the school took the lead last year to ensure that the first event went well and, stepping up even more this time around, donated food items, clothing, personal-care items, and in several instances, cash to purchase items, to increase the value of the packages.

And then in stepped Food For The Poor, L and Y Supermarket in Port Maria and All P’s Bakery in Highgate with donations that added even more meaning to the gifts.

The students helped to gather the items, package them, then hit the road on Wednesday to bring joy to the hearts of the senior residents of the community.

Kudos to the BOYS

“I am especially proud of the boys because the boys were out there more than the girls, they were out there giving out the stuff, they went through the mud, they went through the water, they weren’t afraid to go in and to hug the elderly persons and to wish them a merry Christmas and a happy New Year,” explained senior guidance counsellor, Rockhel Simon-Thompson, who, along with the school’s other guidance counsellor, Tanya Fletcher-Lewis, expertly guided the process.

Simon-Thompson said that the students were very enthused, with the event being an eye-opener for some of them as they were not aware of the living conditions of some persons within the community.

Grateful residents

In response, the old folks were extremely grateful, and several who live on their own were so happy for the company that they tried to extend the visit by striking up conversations with the students. For most of them, they had never seen students doing this type of bonding with the aged and wanted to savour the moment.

“They wanted to tell us their stories and to just say thanks to us,” the senior guidance counsellor pointed out. “But this is our way of reaching out to the community as a school and to communicate to them that we care and we want to share whatever we can to uplift their lives.”

The occasion would have strengthened the students, who would have learnt the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community, she explained.

“At the end of the day, whatever kind of Jamaica we want it is they who will have to create it. We took time out to explain that to them.”

She is satisfied that the students understood what was communicated to them. Lessons learnt. The icing on the cake would have been the smiles on the faces and certainly the joy in the hearts of the more than three dozen elderly men and women who benefited from the donation of Christmas packages.

Those 18 students would have done themselves and the entire school population of 525 students and 53 teachers, led by Principal Christopher Walker, really, really proud.