Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
THE OPTIMIST Club of Christiana has been creating a positive impact on the lives of people of the Manchester town, in particular the children, as they work at nation building.
The club was formed in March 2003 and is one of more than 2,900 Optimist clubs across the world. It currently has 42 members, with Nadine Griffiths as president.
The Optimist Club of Christiana has a mandate, as does the international body, to enhance the development of children and to assist them in realising their full potential.
They have touched countless lives through the many charitable ventures on which they have embarked.
Kevin Grant, membership chair, Caribbean District Optimist International, spoke on the role that the club has been playing in the community and Jamaica on the whole.
"Youth is our thing. We are friends of youth," Grant said. "We look at projects in our community that will enhance the development of our young people. For example, at the Percy Junor Hospital, we enclosed an entire area where the kids could play unsupervised."
The club recently gave a student of Holmwood Technical High School a scholarship valued at $1.2 million to attend Hocking College in the United States. The scholarship was secured through the Sandals Resort chain. In total, the club has given $7.2 million towards scholarships.
"We have assisted children in the area with lunch money and fare for school," Grant said. "We saw where the bathroom at the school at Pike needed refurbishing, and we undertook that project. We have planted fruit trees at a number of schools. At Spalding Primary, with the help of Member of Parliament Richard Azan, we grouped up and donated 15 computers to the school. We have also donated funds to patients at the Bustamante Hospital for Children."
Given the club's outstanding work in community development and in assisting children, it is the number-two club in the Caribbean.
The club was ranked the number-one Optimist Club in the Caribbean and number five in the world four years ago. Grant was the distinguished and outstanding lieutenant governor then.
Grant said the community of Christiana has embraced the club as residents appreciate the good work that it has been doing.
"The response has been just wonderful. A lot of people want to join the club. A lot of people, based on how we were socialised, don't understand that it is we who build our country. So nation building really should be our game, but we are taking it to them," he told Rural Express.
Grant said the club operates as one big family. "The key thing is family," Grant explained. "If you have a death in your family, we come over and assist financially, morally, and otherwise. If you have a kid that passes GSAT, we have them over, buy books (and) geometry sets."
He added: "The trend is to spread optimism because based on what is happening in Jamaica, the whole principle and philosophy is of optimism. We want to bring that to the entire country so that the power and the belief come. We want people to recognise that there is hope, and the whole factor of nation building - where we see ourselves as the future, building the country - that is our mission right now."