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Firefighters are known for their valiant efforts to save and rescue persons and property from the searing arms of fire. Those who have had the opportunity to witness them in action know the levels of bravery associated with the job. However, few are aware of another bold aspect of their undertakings. In one of their most recent initiatives, firefighters are not seeking to quench but ignite a different kind of flame – flames of learning.
Under the supervision of Deputy Superintendent in charge of the Trelawny Division of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Dolphin Doeman, personnel stationed at the Falmouth branch has put in place various community outreach programmes. Chief among them is a well-needed Homework Center for students, which is operated from the Conference room at the Falmouth Fire Station.
The 60 men and women assigned to the Falmouth Fire Station all play an integral role in the running of the Homework Center, which was started in September of 2008. The idea for center stemmed from the recognized need to maintain some form of interaction between the Firemen and the neighbouring communities and to assist the many students that live in and around Falmouth.
The Falmouth Fire Station Homework Center, forms part of a new approach of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, being piloted by Deputy Commissioner, Neil Findlay.
“The schools that were targeted (in the Falmouth area) were Falmouth All Age, and Hague Primary and Junior High, because they are in close proximity to the Falmouth Fire Station”, deputy Superintendent Doeman told JIS.
He said that when the idea for the Homework Center was presented at Parent Teachers meetings at both schools, it was readily accepted. He noted that both the parents and the school community were equally enthusiastic about it.
“And so on September 22nd, 2008 the center was opened with eleven students for the first day. This number has grown and we have as much as in excess of seventy students enrolled”, he stated.
The popular programme is being run at no cost to the students and a prominent supermarket within Falmouth assists the Fire Brigade in providing refreshments for the students in the evenings.
Explaining how the Homework Center is run, Deputy Superintendent Doeman pointed out that a registration process takes place wherein the students’ names; addresses; their parent’s names and contact numbers are recorded. “On a daily basis the center is manned by Fire Brigade personnel, who are in attendance there at all times while students are here”, he said.
Pointing out that the homework that the students do at the center covers a wide range of subjects and research matters, Deputy Superintendent Doeman said that the Firemen have to draw on the knowledge of all their co-workers to adequately assist the students. He explained that the Falmouth Fire Station has enough personnel in place to ensure that someone is always supervising the Homework Center, even if there is an emergency call which requires response from that Fire Station.
The Homework Center is opened after regular school hours, Mondays to Fridays from around 3:00 P.M. to about 5:30 P.M.
When quizzed about the feedback from the Firemen with respect to their participation in assisting with the supervision of the Homework Center, Mr. Doeman was very emphatic in his response; “they are very enthused about it, the response has been positive, and they see it as a means of contributing to the communities, and also exposing the surrounding communities to the various aspects of our daily work”, he stated.
He expressed the hope that the Homework Center will continue to operate for a long time.
Meanwhile, Lance Corporal Dane Smith attached to the Falmouth Fire Station (one of the officers who assist with the daily operation of the Homework Center) believes the project is worthwhile, noting that it assists the Fire Brigade in reaching out to the communities with its programmes.
“The best place to start is with the little children, so when they come in we can impart not only the Mathematics and the English that they need, but we can also teach them about fire safety measures. So therefore it is a two fold thing where-in we are helping them with there school work, but they are also helping us to spread the message of fire prevention”, he stated.
Ms. Ann-Marie Smith, a parent whose eight year old son attends the Homework Center, had nothing but complimentary remarks for the Falmouth Firefighters and their efforts at running the Homework Center. She explained that the center is of great assistance not only to her son but also to her, as it not only prepares her son for school, but it helps to keep him occupied after regular school hours.
“I sincerely hope that this programme can continue for a long time and will be promoted within the schools in the area, so that all the youngsters coming up can get an opportunity to benefit from it”, she stated.
She said that the learning environment at the Homework Center is very comfortable; adding that her son is so influenced by the attention he is getting that he once told her that he wants to be a Fireman when he grows up.
The Homework Centre in Falmouth is one of several being undertaken by the Jamaica Fire Brigade. Others have been established at the Trench Town and Rollington Town Fire Stations in Kingston.

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