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Windsor Forest Primary gets support from ROAR

Published:Saturday | November 19, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Students at Windsor Forest Primary. - Contributed
A classroom at Windsor Forest Primary under repair. - Contributed

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer


ALTHOUGH HE has lived in chilly Calgary for over 20 years, Leo Cripps says his hometown in Portland is always in his thoughts. So when the co-founder of the Calgary Reggae Festival got an opportunity to give back to the parish, he went all out.

Through the event's Reach Out And Restore (ROAR) programme, Cripps and his wife, Cindy, launched an initiative this year to renovate the Windsor Forest Primary School, where he was a student in the 1970s.

A team from ROAR is expected in Portland next February to complete construction of the school's resource centre. Cripps told The Gleaner recently that he and his colleagues would work alongside local volunteers on the final phase of the project.

"Currently, the resource centre is just a shell of a building, but we will be establishing a fully functional facility with a multimedia centre," he explained. "Our goal is to bring the school and community into the 21st century."

Based on a request from the school's administrators, Cripps said his organisation is also helping to improve Windsor Forest's recreational area by building netball and volleyball courts.

He noted that while most of ROAR's focus is on Windsor Forest Primary, the community of Fair Prospect, where the school is located, would also benefit.

"It's really a community-related project," he said. "There are several teachers from the school who have already committed their time to help with literacy, along with some of the community members."

Cripps disclosed that ROAR has spent J$175,000 on its Windsor Forest project to date. He estimates its ultimate cost at $1.2 million.

After leaving Windsor Forest, Cripps moved to Kingston and attended secondary school there before immigrating to Canada, settling in the province of Alberta.

Eight years ago, he helped start the Calgary Reggae Festival, which features mainly mature acts like Beres Hammond, Freddie McGregor, Sugar Minott, and Maxi Priest.

Organisers of the event agreed to form a volunteer group to assist a community outside of Calgary. During a visit to his hometown in February, Cripps said he and wife were struck by how unaware residents of Fair Prospect were about domestic and international affairs.

"They were not even aware of some of the things that were happening in their own parish, let alone the country and the world," he said.

Through a fund-raiser at this year's festival in August, ROAR was able to gather enough money to resume construction on the resource centre.

Leo Cripps hopes the Windsor Forest Primary School is only the start of other humanitarian projects involving ROAR.

"If we can begin with one project and encourage others to get involved, we could see many schools and communities being beneficiaries of similar initiatives," he said. "It would be give me great satisfaction to see many project ROARS across the country."