Pell River Primary benefits from Great Shape
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
The Pell River Primary School in Hanover benefited from two weeks of literacy training under the United States-based Great Shape! Inc's SuperKids project, which was staged in collaboration with the Sandals Foundation.
According to communications director for Great Shape! Inc, Lucinda Kay, the non-profit organisation has been sponsoring humanitarian projects in Jamaica for 26 years and serves 40,000 persons annually through its dental, eye-care and literacy projects. The volunteers include retirees, professionals and students ranging from age 15 to 87.
"We work specifically from first grade through to sixth grade, and our goal is to boost reading comprehension so that they are not only memorising information but they are mastering information. So we use a holistic approach of language arts, computers, sports, art and music.
"And in all of those situations, there are new concepts, new vocabulary - new philosophies and it's matching up mind, body and spirit so that they are really mastering that comprehension that we want them to have," Kay told Western Focus.
"Pell River was chosen because we have a wonderful, committed staff that wanted to collaborate with us. The literacy rates were sitting at about 40 per cent and our whole goal is to raise up reading comprehension and boost those literacy scores so that those children will go on and become the leaders of Jamaica. Skills to Read, Power to Lead is our tagline," she added.
Great Shape! Inc has also established a computer laboratory at the school and painted several murals on the school building, as well as donated hundreds of books, conducted tree-planting exercises and provided school supplies.
Kay said the programme is funded through US$750 donated by each volunteer, as well as fundraisers which are held year-long in the US, Canada and Jamaica.
"Sandals Resorts International and the Sandals Foundation are amazing partners. They really believe in the work that we do and are a fantastic collaborator in terms of logistics and staff support and expertise, plus they take great care of all our volunteers. They provide all of the accommodations, they support the transportation through JUTA Tours and they feed us and entertain us," Kay said.
Education and health care
"Our mission is to enhance education and health care throughout the Caribbean for children and their families, but Jamaica is our focus. Great Shape was founded in 1988 when Hurricane Gilbert hit the island ... . We started as a duffel bag charity, bringing in supplies, and now we lead the world's largest international dental project and eye-care project and literacy project," she said.
Public Relations Manager at Sandals Negril, Kendra Johnson, told Western Focus: "The children, the staff, the principal here at Pell River are very appreciative of the programme. They can see the measurable impact that it has had on the students. It's not just a one-off intervention.
"We have been working with the school for the past three years and they are seeing some growth; some progress," she said.
"In fact, one grade four teacher mentioned that the literacy rate in her class has improved by as much as 30 per cent. We also have a model where we leave the material with the school and they are able to use this throughout the school year. They are able to employ some of the unique teaching techniques that Great Shape brings to the classroom, and this has significantly helped to boost their children's performance," she added.