The Full Story
Past student of the former St. John Bosco Boys’ Home in Manchester, Damian Simpson, left many guests teary-eyed following his riveting testimonial about his six-year stay at the home, which is now a vocational training centre.
Speaking at the official opening of the St. John Bosco Vocational Training Centre in Hatfield, Manchester, on September 7, Mr. Simpson said the experience had taught him love, respect and humility.
He heaped praises on Area Administrator, Sister Susan Frazer, for “lifting me up” when his parents had forsaken him.
“I have learnt the values taught to me then and I am applying them now,” he said, noting that he did not see the things in himself that she saw in him.
Now the Regional Supervisor for the western Region of the Progressive Grocers Group’s meat department, Mr. Simpson also does training and upliftment with his team members, skills learnt at St. John Bosco.
“When I was trained at the butcher shop, I did not know the value of the skill being taught to me, but now I can use it to add value to people’s lives. I have been happily married for the past 18 years; we have three girls and one boy – all under one roof. I have been a homeowner for the past eight years, and I do a little farming, because as a man you have to know how to balance things,” Mr. Simpson said to loud cheers.
He said being a family man requires responsibility and he was taught by Sister Susan how to be responsible and firm, adding that she always told us: “It’s your ambition that changes your condition.”.
Mr. Simpson told the current students that they might arrive at the institution in a bad condition, but “… do not let your past determine your future because when you leave here, you will be a product of change, positivity and humility”.
He advised them to love and believe in themselves and they would be the best they could be.
Meanwhile, Sister Susan Frazer, the Area Administrator for the Sisters of Mercy in Jamaica, who has been running the institution for 45 years, expressed her satisfaction with the new developments.
She noted that there are four phases to the ongoing developments at the institution and with the first phase now complete, some US$650,000 has already been committed for the second phase.
“I have felt the support of rural communities in Jamaica over the years contributing to our success; there are eight members of staff who are past boys, two of whom run two of the major departments of the school – the butcher shop and the catering department,” she said.
She pointed out that although it is no longer a residential facility, some 50 beds have been saved in one dormitory in the event that they should be needed in the future.
“Being a rural girl and having worked in a residential children’s home for almost 50 years, residential children are the centre of my heart,” Sister Susan said.
She added that there are lots of boys in homes and they need an excellent education, so they can leave with their heads held high.
Meanwhile, Jean Lowrie-Chin, Chairman of Digicel Foundation, which financed the project, said it is the mission of St. John Bosco to give young people every chance to be equipped to gain employment or launch out on their own entrepreneurial journey.
She said the Foundation was happy to participate in the upgrading work at the institution, which includes administrative offices, classrooms, training labs, a new entrance, driveway, outdoor meeting space and parking spaces, at a cost of $40 million.
The institution is a registered independent school, operated by the Sisters of Mercy of Jamaica. It has provided training and apprenticeship to rural youth since 2007, in partnership with HEART/NSTA Trust and City and Guilds. Originally a boys-only boarding institution, there are currently some 120 students on roll, including girls.
They offer nationally certified programmes from Levels II to III Diplomas in Food Preparation and Culinary Arts, Culinary Arts and Supervision, Barbering, IT and Office Application, Contact Centre Services and Customer Service.