Two hundred and forty care packages, valued at more than $600,000, have been distributed to the families of needy students who attend the Chalky Hill Primary and Infant School in St. Ann, as well as vulnerable residents of the community, through a joint initiative between the school’s administration and its alumni.
The care packages were distributed to assist individuals in the Chalky Hill community who have been impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The packages included canned foods, flour, rice, cornmeal, sugar, cooking oil, coconut powder, kidney beans, noodles, juice and toiletries.
Speaking with JIS News, Principal of the institution, Christine Badal-McBean, says the donations were made possible through the support of members of the school’s Board and the institution’s alumni, locally and internationally, after an appeal was made to help the students and other community members who were facing financial hardships.
She points out that the first round of distribution on April 28, catered to the school’s Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) students.
The principal informed that parents were called in to collect the food packages, with strict adherence to the Ministry of Health and Wellness safety protocols.
“When we didn’t see the parents online, myself and the guidance counsellor made a lot of calls to them, so we were very aware of what was happening with our students and we understood that basic needs were paramount for them and some of them were in need. We also understood that the children that were on our PATH listing were really on the programme because of circumstances, so our first round of care packages were given to them,” Mrs. Badal-McBean notes.
She adds that the gesture was followed up, which benefited students who were not on PATH as well as the elderly and shut-ins.
“We extended [the initiative] to include other families outside of those who were on the PATH programme. In the third round, we actually went into the community. We looked at the elderly persons… and families in the communities with students. The students didn’t have to be from our school; once we identify families with young children, those persons were included in the last round,” Mrs. Badal-McBean explains.
She says there are plans to undertake a fifth distribution drive in July and a back-to-school fair in August to assist parents to prepare for the 2020/2021 academic school year.
The Principal has lauded the past students for their generosity “during these trying times”.
She points out that the school’s Secretary and several teachers played an integral role in packaging the food items for distribution.
“I want to let the past students know that we are really appreciative of the partnership. During this time for us as a school, we know that the education [of our students] is important but we also understand how important it is that we meet the basic needs of our students,” she adds.
For her part, Public Relations Officer of the Chalky Hill Primary and Infant School Alumni, Cynthia Smith Woolery, tells JIS News that she was pleased to have partnered with past students overseas to provide immediate assistance to those in need.
“They came up with some money, it was sent to me and I transferred it to the school account. I realised that there were a lot of people from the Chalky Hill area who lost their jobs because they worked in the Tourism industry.
As a result of that, it was important for them to get the help, especially the kids,” she says.
Parent, Verona Harriot, who has two children attending the primary institution, describes the gesture as “timely”, noting that she had fallen on hard times due to the global pandemic.
Ms. Harriot says she is thankful for the support from the school and those who contributed to the cause.
“During this COVID-19 period it has been difficult, so we really appreciate what the school has done for us. It came at the right time when we were deeply in need. I really felt happy and I thank the Chalky Hill Primary school and others for what they have done,” she adds.