Jamaicans from abroad breathe new life into Aboukir
Carl Gilchrist, Sunday Gleaner Writer
The quiet community of Aboukir in St Ann received a much needed summer treat last weekend when the Aboukir (Primary) Past Students' Associa-tion had its inaugural homecoming celebrations, organised by overseas-based Jamaicans with the assistance of their local counterparts.
Nearly 20 Jamaicans living in the United States, Canada and England came home just for the occasion and were joined by others who had made the trip home for holidays.
"The reaction from the (St Ann) community was beyond my wildest dreams," explained the initiator of the event, Virginia-based Locksley 'Mylo' Williams, who along with Leroy Burnett of New York got the wheels in motion.
"I've seen some old people turn up - these are 80-, 90-year-olds - turn up and say, 'We're happy for what you guys doing!' And the kids were so excited! We had thought that if 25 per cent of the population turned out, it would have been good. I think about 50 per cent turned out, so it was beyond our expectation," he added.
Being a past student of Aboukir All-Age (now primary) means you could be from any of the outlying districts where the school served, such as McKenzie, Cedar Valley, Grant's Mountain, Murray Mount, Maida or even Cave Valley.
The weekend of activities included a Twenty20 cricket match two Saturdays ago, in which the 'Oldsters' beat the 'Youngsters'; a church service last Sunday at the McKenzie New Testament Church of God; and another cricket match last Monday.
Past student and current chairman of the school board, Ronald Davidson was guest speaker at the service. Davidson was also one of several persons honoured by the past students over the weekend. The others include former school principal Windel L. Clarke, and Vansago Cover (Miss Nucksie), who is the only surviving member of the original school board, from 1973.
Two persons were honoured posthumously: Shalom Ricketts, the first cleaner at the school, and Gina Minto, the first cook.
The main highlight of the weekend, however, was the staging of the Miss Aboukir Homecoming pageant, organised by locally based Karlea Clarke, described by Williams as a huge success.
He told The Sunday Gleaner on Wednesday that the idea of a homecoming came when he joined Facebook, two years ago.
"I realised that there was a number of graduates from that school all over, as a result, I started using Facebook to liaise, to find out where they are and when they left. So, I came up with the idea that if we had a homecoming we could use it as a means of getting everybody back together and also as a way of raising some funds for a computer lab which was already established. All they needed was the computers."
Contact was made with persons in Jamaica who were associated with the school, to assist. These include former principal W L Clarke and his wife, Lascelles Broderick and his sister Pamela, Karlea Clarke and Audrey Grant.
Funds were raised from selling T-shirts and food at the events and while the returns were not much from this initial event, the school will see benefits to the computer lab and perimeter fencing.
A scholarship fund is also to be established that will assist needy GSAT students annually.
Williams said next year the focus will be on establishing a computer lab at the McKenzie Basic School, which is housed at the New Testament Church of God.
Lascelles Broderick, who headed the local organising committee, said participation by the commu-nity was good and everyone enjoyed the celebrations.
"I've seen people I haven't seen for over 30 years. A lot of them say they are already looking forward to next year," Broderick said. "A lot of people from the community have gone out in the wider world. They are really making good of themselves, so they are anxious to come back."
For Williams though, helping the community of Aboukir was no big deal.
Said Williams: "My dad always told me, whatever you have, you didn't get it like that, somebody gave it to you. So I always thought if I could do something to make one kid smile, I'm all for it. So I don't think I'm doing anything, I'm just giving back what I got."