Seven schools and a number of small farmers that were hard hit by Hurricane Sandy will get assistance from Scotiabank to aid in their repair and recovery.
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The entity’s President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Bruce Bowen, made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday November 7, at the bank's headquarters downtown, Kingston, where he outlined a $12.5 million programme of assistance.
The money will cover the total repairs of seven schools at a cost of $8.3 million; $1.2 million to purchase mattresses for needy families identified by the Salvation Army; and $3 million to assist dozens of small farmers to purchase seeds, pesticides and fertiliser for replanting.
Among the schools to benefit is Norwich Primary in Portland, where the grade one block was flattened by the hurricane. Over 105 of the school’s 545 student population have been dislocated and are now housed in a nearby church. Approximately $3 million will be used to rebuild the block.
Other schools to receive assistance are: Highgate Primary, Carron Hall All-Age, Carron Hall Infant, Bellefield Primary, and Zion Hill Primary in St. Mary; and St. George's College in Kingston, which had significant damage to its library.
Mr. Bowen noted that the level of Scotiabank's commitment was made following consultation with stakeholders including branch managers; the Ministry of Education which identified the primary schools with the greatest needs; and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
"As we learnt of the damage, especially in St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary, we felt dismay. The images of the damage to infrastructure, of the people that were stranded in those three parishes, were especially heart wrenching. It was with sadness, as well, that we learnt of the damage across Jamaica in the agricultural sector and that’s a sector that has been doing increasingly well in the last couple of years," he stated.
The Scotiabank CEO also announced a special $500 million loan fund, which the bank will make available to its customers between November 9 and December 28 to help homeowners and businesses recoup.
The loan is at an interest rate of 9.75 per cent to 11.75 per cent and is to fund expenditure for repairs, replacements, rehabilitation, acquisition or replacement of equipment; replanting or resuscitating of crops; and repairing roofing on residential and commercial property.
Principal of the Norwich Primary School, Claudia McLean; President of the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce, Jeffrey McKitty, and CEO of RADA, Harold Spaulding were on hand to express their appreciation for the bank’s generous donations.
Mr. Spaulding informed that 21,000 of the 37,000 farmers affected by the hurricane were from the parishes of St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary.
Also slated to receive assistance through the Scotiabank programme will be families in Pumpkin Bottom, Hanover who were recently displaced by the overflowing Maggoty River.