Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Amanda, Christina, changing lives through building schools

Published:Sunday | September 8, 2019 | 12:06 AMKareem LaTouche - Gleaner Writer
Amanda Lechler, giving a helping hand at one of the schools Kind Heart has built.
Christina painting at a school, several weeks before delivering her child.
Christina receiving a token of appreciation.
Amanda carrying a bag filled with school supplies for a back-to-school treat.
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Sisters Amanda Lechler and Christina Hudson (formally Lechler) are the founders of Kind Hearts Foundation, an organisation that is building schools across Jamaica to improve our education system.

Kind Hearts is a branch of the Richard and Diana Stewart Foundation, which was founded and is operated by Richard and Diana’s six grandchildren, ages ranging from 19 to 29.

Since its inception in 2010, Kind Hearts has partnered with Youth with a Mission, to build homes in the rural areas surrounding Montego Bay. They are also working with Food For The Poor (FFP) to build seven basic schools in seven years.

 

Strong involvement in charity

Even though they are almost two years apart, they act like twins, constantly finishing each other’s sentences. Their undeniable chemistry provides a therapeutic effect on each other, as both were a bit apprehensive at first to do the interview individually. However, as a team, the two answered each question with tag-team precision.

Having met their grandparents, it was evident that charity is something their family has always taken very seriously.

“We grew up with the mantra, ‘To whom much is given, much is required,’ so giving back has always been a part of our lives. Our grandparents and parents raised us with the belief that we must always help those less fortunate than us,” asserted Amanda.

For them, charity had to start at a young age, as Christina revealed, “We did an annual Christmas treat for the children of St Anne’s Church in Hannah Town. We would serve food and drinks, and play with the children and families of the community.”

Moving to the next step

Having developed a passion for giving back, they decided to form their own foundation almost 10 years ago. It operates on some of the primary tenets taught by their grandparents. Amanda coined the name Kind Hearts and started pitching some of the concepts to her older sister, who then began to expound on it.

“Christina, my brother James and I participated in YPO Homes of Hope in 2008 and realised that there was so much more that could be done by Jamaicans for Jamaicans. Kind Hearts started by building homes in conjunction with Youth With A Mission Jamaica, and progressed to building basic schools with Food For The Poor Jamaica in order to have a larger impact,” shared Amanda.

Concentrating on rural parishes

With their charity in full swing, the sisters have been making their mark throughout the various parishes outside of Kingston.

“We build in rural areas that have the greatest needs. Food For The Poor and Early Childhood Commission made recommendations based on schools that lacked certain basic amenities, like running water and proper roof,” disclosed Christina.

She also said that since inception, they have made some groundbreaking accomplishments but are still not satisfied. “Kind Hearts Foundation has built seven schools in seven years in five parishes. Our 2019 project is an expansion of the Spanish Town Hospital Emergency Room.”

Though the task has not always been easy, they have had to think outside the box to find solutions for students. “We recently built a school in Portland, and the final design looked so beautiful. The challenge was that, it was on a hill and the path to get there was very rocky and muddy. So when it rained, it was horrific for the kids to get to the school. So we had to figure out how to raise more funds to build a road for the kids to get there,” stated Christina.

The sisters are moving ahead of schedule with their plans and admittedly don’t get to visit some of their schools as frequently as they want to. However, they have built strong relationships with the schools’ administrative bodies to ensure that all academic needs are met.

What is next in the pipeline

Aiming to raise funds to build their next school, the sisters will be working on another family charity project, the Colour Me Happy Run on September 14 at Hope Gardens.

“Colour Me Happy is the main fundraising activity for the Kind Hearts Basic School Initiative. The aim of the run is to raise funds, as well as raise awareness of the importance of education and the great need to improve education across Jamaica,” Christina said.

Going forward, they are determined to have a greater impact on Jamaica’s education system and will continue to do so with their upcoming projects.

“We were born and raised in Jamaica, it is our home, and there is nowhere else we’d rather help to develop and improve than our home.”

Social media: @colourmehappyrun