WHEN MOST people think of postgraduate students they envision stuffy academics mired in an esoteric world of academia. However, the residents of Gerald Lalor Flats, University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, have embarked on an effort aimed at disproving this stereotype.
At the end of the semester, they took time out from exam preparations, writing research papers and working on theses to devote their weekend engaging in community outreach in Ocho Rios, St Ann.
Weekend of activities
Planning started weeks in advance to organise this ambitious undertaking, first by meeting with Student Services and Development Manager Donna-Mae Jackson, whose advice and assistance was invaluable. Various fund-raisers were conducted on the UWI campus.
The first activity took place on Friday, May 18, at Ocho Rios Primary School, where the group of postgraduate students was received at the school by the principal and vice-principal.
It was International Children's Day, so it was indeed fitting to begin the outreach with activities at the primary school. Grade Six Achievement Test students were all treated to ice cream, and the afternoon was passed in lively discussion and ring games.
The library at the school was also gifted with a donation of 70 books, which were purchased as a collaborative effort between the postgraduate residents of Gerald Lalor Flats and the Academic Support Unit of the UWI. Head of the Academic Support Unit, Dr Lindy Jones, was enthusiastic and generous in his support for the library donation initiative.
The morning of Saturday, May 19 dawned clear and bright and met the students once again busily engaged in their outreach activities. This time, the environment was the focus of the day with a beach clean-up activity at Priory Beach under the supervision and assistance of Dallas Dickenson, parish councillor for St Ann. A large stretch of the beach was cleaned of refuse, filling almost a hundred large garbage bags.
This physically taxing activity was a success thanks to the perseverance and cooperation of these young people. They left Ocho Rios feeling enriched for, indeed, in a time when many of us turn inward towards our own concerns and lives, they had the vision to look outward, beyond the walls of their hallowed university, beyond even their immediate parish, to Ocho Rios and the value of volunteering.