By Stephen Weir
Last week a group of a 100 like-minded, caring Caribbean Canadians gathered at the downtown Harlem Restaurant to help the students of St. Theresa’s Basic School in Jamaica. The evening fundraiser featured a panel discussion aptly called Barefoot to Boardroom and Beyond.
“The title says it all. Barefoot to Boardroom describes a lot of people on our panel and in the room, be they from Jamaica or anywhere else in the Caribbean,” said Leap Agent’s Michael Carter, the evening host. “ We have targeted a school that needs infrastructure help and that is something we can do!”
World Class Jamaica was formed in Toronto back in 2016 by people who have come from the Caribbean and done well here in Canada. Headed by Heather Ricketts, a director with the building company, Metrie, the group has been focusing on fixing and upgrading schools in Jamaica. The condition of schools – roofs, toilets, computers, running water – and the technology inside the buildings, all impact how well students learn.
“We are not trying to change a school’s curriculum, we want to change the environment that they learn in,” says Heather Ricketts. “ We are, as our vision statement says, all about inspiring and educating!”
In the case of the St. Theresa’s Basic School, it is a small building in the St Mary Parish that currently has 20 children – 3 to 5 years of age – enrolled. It is without running water, has a leaky roof, no electricity and only a single door in and out.
World Class Jamaica, working with educational leaders in St Mary, has identified a nearby building that can be repurposed to house the school. There are some physical challenges in terms of the condition of this building that must be addressed before any move can be made.
Harlem Restaurant turned its own building over to World Class Jamaica for an evening. In addition to serving a meal prepared by Ray Williams, one of a three-member business committee, panel discussions were held on the theme of the event Barefoot to Boardroom and Beyond. Williams is also Vice Chair, National Bank of Canada. The other two on the committee are, Stanley Julien- Managing Director, BMO Financial Group and Paulette Senior, Président and CEO of the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
The evening was a success with over $16,000 raised for the school. In addition to selling tickets for the evening, World Class Jamaica got assistance from its corporate sponsors Sleep Country and Metrie.
“Although there have been significant advances in education in Jamaica there is still work to be done,” said the World Class Jamaica president and executive director. “ Next for us? A $20 challenge. Follow us on Instagram!”