Four-year old Ruel Brown, a student of the Lluidasvale Basic School in St. Catherine, received free medical check up and medicine for his cold at a health fair day held at the school recently.
Jacqueline Brown, Ruel’s mother, who accompanied him to the health day, said she was happy that her son was able to see a doctor, since he had been suffering from a “wheezing in his chest” for a few days. “I feel very happy for him. When I heard that they (the doctors) were coming, I said that I had to be there for him,” she told JIS News.
Ruel was among more than 100 students of the school, and babies from the community, who benefited from an outreach initiative of the GlaxoSmithKline Caribbean Jamaica Limited (GSK), enabling them to receive free medical check-up, vaccinations and a new learning environment.
GSK, a pharmaceutical distributing company, spent over $2 million to renovate and upgrade the school building, which was in a state of disrepair. Additionally, the company collaborated with health officials from the University Hospital of the West Indies, the Ministry of Health and staff of the St. Catherine Health Department to host a health fair and a dedication ceremony to officially hand over the newly refurbished school building to the community.Participating in the health day was a team of doctors comprising Karen Brightly-Brown, Helen Trotman, Jillian Lewis, Sharon Smile and Michelle Reece, who volunteered to do the health checks.
Minister of Transport and Works Robert Pickersgill (left) speaks with Mellisa and Melika Henry (right), students of Lluidasvale Basic School, St. Catherine, at the recent health fair and dedication ceremony held at the school. Looking on is the General Manager of GlaxoSmithKline Caribbean Jamaica Limited (GSK) Duke Holness. GSK spent over $2 million to refurbish the school building.
Dr. Brightly-Brown, who works as a pediatrician at the Spanish Town Hospital in St. Catherine told JIS News, that most of the children she saw had respiratory problems, such as coughs, cold and asthma, while some were suffering from worm infestation.
“It is something I enjoy doing”, she said of her job. “I work with the government so giving free health service is not unusual for us, in terms of making sure that we identify problems early and get them (the children) into the system.”
According to Dr. Brightly-Brown, the fair provided an opportunity to educate parents on issues pertaining to the health of their children. While conducting examinations, she said, she identified a child who had stopped attending clinic at the Spanish Town Hospital.
Dr. Helen Trotman (left) performs an oral examination on Jamar Battick, student at the Lluidasvale Basic School, St. Catherine, while his mother, Mareta Battick looks on.
“I have asked the mother to get back into the system, so it’s good to be able to identify patients, who have defaulted from the system and help them to get back into the system,” she noted.
Claudette Pinnock-Barrett, a public health nurse at the Ministry of Health, also spent the day giving vaccinations and reviewing and updating health cards of students to ensure that they were immunized against diseases such as hepatitis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella. “This is right up my street. It’s just another day of field-work,” she told JIS News.
Assisting nurse Pinnock-Barrett were community health aides from the Lluidasvale Health Centre, who provided records of the students to verify the type of vaccination they have had at the clinic.
The event also attracted scores of mothers, who arrived with their babies and young children to get them immunized and receive medical check ups.
General Manager of GSK, Duke Holness said that the initiative to assist the school started some months ago, when members of the company’s Community Partnership Committee (CPC), on a visit to the community, recognized the poor condition of the school building and the needs of the students.
“The building was just four walls, some remnants of a roof, the bathroom was a pit latrine, the flooring was pathetic and the grounds and environment were just not conducive to what we considered to be a fundamental basic rights of our kids to education,” he said.
Mr. Holness noted that every activity held in the building, which also accommodates the Lluidasvale Baptist Church, had to be cancelled whenever it rained or on cloudy days.
Refurbishing work on the building included the replacement of the roof, the painting and rendering of the walls. Additionally, the schoolyard was landscaped and a picket fence erected to separate the cemetery from the basic school’s playground. A canteen, a principal’s office and toilet facilities were also constructed adjoining the school building.
Food for the Poor assisted by providing a computer, blackboards, desks and chairs for students and teachers. The General Manager informs that the GSK staff also donated four garbage bins and books to the school.
According to Mr. Holness, work on the schoolyard was not yet complete, and there were plans to get the yard properly paved.
“We feel absolutely fabulous. We feel good about what we have done,” Mr. Holness gushed, adding that the company was examining the possibility of setting up a scholarship programme for students. He explained that the idea was to financially support the best graduating students from the basic school to university level.
“We are not here for the short term, we want to see it to the end and we want to see the effects go right back to the community,” he added.
The General Manager said the company worked in partnership with a number of government and private sector agencies to ensure the success of the project. Among these are: Cari-Med Limited, Plant World, Stonurse Landscaping, the Social Development Commission and Nestle Jamaica Limited.
Chairperson of the Community Partnership Committee (CPC) and Financial Accountant, Vivine Howell-Williams, told JIS News that it was easy to work with the community, since it had a very active citizens’ association.
“As a company, we wanted to do something else. It is not about the figures and the business and the profits, but we wanted to share some of what we have and to add some of the human element of really making a difference in someone’s life,” she pointed out.
Minister of Transport and Works and Member of Parliament for North Western St. Catherine, Robert Pickersgill, in his remarks at the dedication ceremony, lauded the efforts of GSK to improve conditions at the school.
“I’m pleased and happy that you have come; you have seen and you have done something about it. This is indeed a spring of hope for the children of Lluidasvale,” he stated at the function.
The Minister said that the project was the start of a “permanent and mutually productive relationship” between corporate Jamaica and the citizens of Lluidasvale.