Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Guardian gives Westwood, Clifton, SOS Children’s Village a boost

Published:Monday | January 6, 2020 | 12:14 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Karen Francis, principal of Westwood High School in Trelawny.
Karen Francis, principal of Westwood High School in Trelawny.

Westwood High School, SOS Children’s Village and Clifton Boys’ Home were presented with $500,000 each by Guardian Group at the company’s Blast Off 2020 event last Friday.

Last year, the company undertook several fundraising ventures to assist institutions affected by fire or in need of financial support.

Their efforts raised $3 million, of which $1.5 million was donated to Missionaries of the Poor, Jamaica National Children’s Home and Girls’ Town in 2019.

The Trelawny-based Westwood High, an all-girls institution, suffered a fire in May 2017, which destroyed the school’s kitchen and dining area.

“It was quite a frightening experience, but because we have been good at our fire drills, our girls knew what to do, but it was still nerve-racking,” Principal Karen Francis recalled.

She said that in the months immediately following the fire, meals had to be outsourced.

“The Ministry [of Education] had committed a portion of money to do the rebuilding of the permanent dining room. We have a temporary structure, which can facilitate about 70 girls seated, and it was opened in September 2019,” she said.

In that same month, the school resumed preparing its own meals for the more than 500 students, 270 of which are boarders.

Elated

“I’m really elated! After two years, to be considered for such a donation, it’s just overwhelming, and it will definitely help us with the construction as well as acquiring equipment because it was a large kitchen,” an elated Francis said.

The funds received by SOS Children’s Village will defray the tertiary expenses of three boys at the institution.

Interim National Director Ray Gregory said two of the males are enrolled at the University of Technology and the other at the Caribbean Maritime University.

Between its two locations, there are seven students who have matriculated to university and several others who are registered in various skills-training programmes.

“We are at risk of losing subsidies in a number of years. Internationally, donors are not as healthy as they used to be, and so we are on a thrust to push local fundraising and we are happy that Guardian has said yes to SOS at this time as we move to get sustainable funding towards the education of our children,” Gregory said.

Just over a third of the institution’s budget is funded by international subsidies, 22 per cent by the Government, and eight to 10 by local entities.

Guardian Life Limited President Eric Hosin said much of the funds were raised through the generosity of their staff.

“Sometimes there are children who have been written off by society and people think that they can’t make it and SOS has been able to restore them and help them to achieve great levels of success,” Hosin said.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com