Helping to build a brighter future

Heather Killen
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Valley group helps Jamaican children attend school

An Annapolis County based society is hoping to scratch more items from Miss Brown’s wish list.

Thanks to the support of local people, the Canadian Jamaican (Can-Jam) Society has been able to help even more Jamaican children attend school. Ross McLaughlan, of Paradise, started this registered non-profit society in 2007, to provide school uniforms and supplies for school aged children in Jamaica.

He has been visiting Jamaica for many years and decided to help the children who there. While most people think of Jamaica as a tropical paradise, behind the luxury resorts lies a different world.

Rough footpaths lead to board houses with no windows, doors, or proper foundations. Families cook their meals over grates fueled by fire pits made from discarded tire rims. Children kick cans because toys are a luxury. 

It’s not unusual to see an entire family living in one room, or four children sharing a bed, according to McLaughlan. His group helps school-age children by giving them supplies and uniforms so they can attend school.

Jamaican children are required to wear uniforms in order to go to class, but given the extreme poverty, many families can’t afford to buy them. The children must also purchase schoolbooks, in addition to their supplies.

While it’s a public school system, senior students are required pay for credit courses in subjects including science and math.

On his last trip, working with a $1600 budget in Canadian money, an equivalent of more than $155,000 in Jamaican currency, he was able to provide 27 uniforms, over 50 books, and various school supplies.

The money also helped several senior students buy the credit courses they need for graduation.

This time McLaughlan travelled farther inland to Porters Mountain, where he visited a school with about 60 students. The teacher, Miss Brown was very proud of her school and its modest library.

The society donated some books and uniforms to the students there, but last year’s budget left off a few items on Miss Brown’s wish list and McLaughlan hopes to provide these items during the trip next month.

 “Some of these families may live 10 miles from the nearest town, but they’ve never visited it,” he said. “You can usually see how well people are doing by looking at their homes. If the homes are made of blocks, they’re okay. If the walls are board, they aren’t doing so well.”

While the country of Jamaica is about one-fifth of the size of Nova Scotia, the roads are so rough even travelling a short distance can be a long, hard trip over rough terrain.

It costs $25 to join Can-Jam, these membership dues will buy one uniform.  Usually twice a year McLaughlan and other members travel to Jamaica to deliver the uniforms.

Each member pays for his/her travel expenses and there is no administrative cost for the society, so all the membership money is directed towards the purchase of uniforms and school supplies.

McLaughlan said they hire local tailors in the communities to make the uniforms in order to provide local employment. On his previous trip in the spring of last year, he was able to provide 15 uniforms.

He estimates they have donated more than 220 uniforms to students since he started the group.

To find out more about the Canadian Jamaican Education Society, visit them on Facebook. To join, please send cheque or money order made out to the Canadian Jamaican Education Society, PO Box 33, Paradise, NS B0S 1R0.

Organizations: Annapolis County based society, Canadian Jamaican Education Society

Geographic location: Jamaica, Porters Mountain, Nova Scotia

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