JCAA Donates to Westwood High School Rebuilding Effort

Photo: Mark Bell Director General of the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), Nari Williams-Singh (2nd right), presents a novelty cheque for $750,000 to Principal of Westwood High School, Karen Francis (left), to assist with rebuilding efforts of the institution in Trelawny following a massive fire on May 3, which destroyed the kitchen, dining room, tuck room and the matron’s quarters. Westwood past student and JCAA Deputy Director General for Corporate Services, Nichole Morgan (right), led the charge to secure the funds. Sharing in the moment are Westwood High students Deaundra Dobson (2nd left); and Shaneisia Bailey.

Story Highlights

  • The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) has answered the call for assistance by the Westwood High School donating $750,000 towards the rebuilding effort being undertaken by the all-girls institution following a massive fire last month.
  • Westwood past student and JCAA Deputy Director General for Corporate Services, Nichole Morgan, led the charge to secure the funds for her Trelawny-based alma mater.
  • Westwood High School Principal, Karen Francis, says that the funds will go a far way in assisting with the rebuilding of the kitchen and the dining room “and we are very grateful to the Westwood ladies of JCAA for rallying the cause.

The Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA) has answered the call for assistance by the Westwood High School donating $750,000 towards the rebuilding effort being undertaken by the all-girls institution following a massive fire last month.

JCAA Director General, Nari Williams-Singh, tells JIS News that the authority felt compelled to respond after receiving the request for help.

“When the extent of the damage and the subsequent need was brought to our attention by staff members, who are past students of the institution, it was clear that we had to respond in a positive manner. It is a small donation but we are sure that it will be put to very good use” he says.

Westwood past student and JCAA Deputy Director General for Corporate Services, Nichole Morgan, led the charge to secure the funds for her Trelawny-based alma mater.

She says that it was easy to get her follow alumnus to rally around the cause and have some input in the writing of the request letter to the authority.

Mrs. Morgan tells JIS News that the finance committee of the board was kind enough to increase the sum that was requested as they had seen the reports of the fire and wanted to assist.

She says it was clear that the authority understood the contribution that the institution has made to the nation pointing out that the school was placed at number four in the latest Jamaica high school rankings.

Westwood High School Principal, Karen Francis, says that the funds will go a far way in assisting with the rebuilding of the kitchen and the dining room “and we are very grateful to the Westwood ladies of JCAA for rallying the cause.  We really appreciate it and it is our pleasure to accept the donation.”

She laments that the students were severely impacted by the fire, but credits the spirit of her team in helping them to remain composed.

“Many of the girls cried. They were down, and staff was shocked at the occurrence. However, as a team, we decided that we were going to try to pick up the pieces as quickly as possible because we were in the middle of external exams when it happened. We had to speak with the girls and ask them to refocus and they promised that they would do well in their exams,” she explains.

The massive fire, which began early in the morning on May 3, destroyed the entire kitchen area, the dining room, the tuck room and the matron’s quarters.

The Principal explains that the damage from the fire really created a dent in the school’s operations.

“The kitchen is an essential part of the running of a boarding school, so we’ve tried to implement some operational structures so that we can run somewhat smoothly until the end of the term. There are glitches, but we are trying to see how best we can work with the system until we can get our kitchen back” she says.

Tenth grade student, Deaundra Dobson, recalls how she watched helplessly as her beloved school burned in the hours before dawn.

She says that at first, she was in a state of shock and could not believe what was happening. She was accustomed to fire drills but realised that this time something was different.

Deaundra says that at the time of the fire she was awake and smelled something burning.

She went to the window, looked out and saw the fire. According to the student, who has been a boarder at the institution for the past four years, “there was chaos, girls were crying and there was a lot of unease because no one expected it or was prepared for it.”

She says it took some time for her and her schoolmates to accept what had happened and to begin the process to recover from such a traumatic experience.

She notes that the school leadership has handled the situation well and credits her Principal for doing a good job of leading the institution through such a difficult period.

Deaundra, who will be sitting Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations in 2018, tells JIS News that she is very grateful for the donation from the JCAA, because it is needed to assist with returning the school to normality.

She says she is not surprised that the Westwood ladies at JCAA have championed the cause on behalf of the school because “it is the way of Westwood that we stick together as family.”

Deaundra is happy for the outpouring of love for the school and is grateful to the “old girls” for the role that they have are playing in the rebuilding effort.

She says the support has served to strengthen her resolve to give back to her school at the appropriate time.

The school has been soliciting donations and writing proposals for assistance and is working on a rebuilding plan, which is to receive approval from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, and the Trelawny Municipal Corporation.

The rebuilding of the school is estimated to cost $150 million.

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