By Mark Pavilons
Local efforts, led by Jo-Anne Cober, is making a difference in underserved Jamaica.
Cober spearheads donations to the Uzazi Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports schools in rural Jamaica. Over the past few years the list of schools has grown to 8, including one high school, according to Cober. Uzazi foundation has also created a help during these difficult times.
Uzazi Foundation shipped their second container on Aug. 4 and this 40-foot container was packed to the top and bursting with much needed relief supplies for these 8 schools in rural Jamaica.
This shipment was centered around donations that would help the kids when they return to school in September. More than 200 school chairs and 50 desks were part of the shipment. The children need to sit separately due to COVID, and the benches they sometimes sit 2 to 3 children on will not allow for social distancing.
“Uzazi Foundation is thrilled to be donating a washer and dryer to Little Bay Primary School in Westmoreland to create a space where the kids can have their clothes washed,” Cober said. Some homes do not have this luxury in this tiny fishing village.
There are two gas stoves in this shipment. Many schools have a stove but rarely are all the burners in working order.
King Township residents donated many books and this time they are being sent mostly to Denbigh High School in Clarendon. Some of the primary schools will receive books as well. Little Bay Primary School is also receiving 9 bicycles. This is a rural community and many of the children have to do chores at home early in the morning and then walk to school. The bikes will alleviate fatigue in the children which in turn will help with concentration and learning.
Cober noted word is spreading and this past year a young man contacted the group. His grandmother had passed away and he wanted to donate what he could to help the schools. COVID had caused the usual donation centres to close such as Salvation Army.
“We helped each other. He had to empty the house and we needed useful items that could be used in the schools. Beds for sick bay, dressers for storage, couches for staff rooms, linens for sick bay, kitchen utensils for cafeterias and the washer and dryer was also from this home.”
Cober pointed out they are always looking for “muscle” to help with this part of the mission. Please visit the website for information about volunteering. It is a great way to pick up some hours for high school community service hours.
Uzazi Foundation received a very special donation from a teacher in Belleville, Ontario of a Smart Board. It will be finding a home in Bellefield Primary and Infant School.
Sometimes the schools ask for help with maintenance issues. Cober said three schools will be receiving tool kits. Little Bay Primary School requested an extension ladder. Woodlands Primary School requested a paint sprayer. They also donated 4 wash tubs for washing dishes in.
Someone donated a sewing machine that will be donated to the Denbigh High School’s home economic program.
“We also had science equipment donated that will be shared between some of the schools.”
The container itself will be dropped at Woodlands Primary and Infant School in Manchester. They will be receiving two more containers that they will use to extend their school.
The challenge that the group is experiencing at the moment is the costs of the containers have doubled in price. The first one they sent was $2,500 and this one was $3,000. Cober said it has now risen to $6,500.
“We will have to wait for the pricing to come down to pre-COVID pricing to make it worthwhile to send another container. We have enough donations to fill a third shipment but it will have to wait for the moment.”
Cober said the organization will continue to fundraise towards this shipment and the impending ones.
Uzazi sent 9 barrels to their school over the past year to provide relief during COVID. Tablets were donated for at home learning. Many came from the generosity of King Township residents. Food was donated providing nutrition for families struggling during this difficult time.
“We held a fundraiser this past winter that saw hundreds of feminine hygiene products donated. Many were sent in the barrels and the remainder were shipped in the container. Clothing and school supplies were also sent.
“Uzazi had two successful chocolate sales at Christmas and Easter. Canadian chocolate company Purdy’s donates 25% of sales back to our organization! We will be offering this fundraiser again this fall. Watch the Schomberg Facebook page for details!
“Thank you to Sue Heslop and the Schomberg Face book page for all the support they give us. Most people know that they can drop books and school supplies off at my house from all the publicity we receive on this page.”
Uzazi Foundation is excited to be in the process of merging with a Canadian-based charity that has been working in Jamaica for the last 40 years. This will strengthen Uzazi’s reach on this beautiful island to help even more children, their families and their teachers that work so hard to help them succeed and reach their academic goals.
Please visit the website for more information at uzazi.ca