PACE is a critical part of educational development in Jamaica, says consul general in Toronto

By Lincoln DePradine


Lloyd Wilks and 96-year-old Lillie Johnson (seated)

The tens of thousands of Canadian dollars provided annually by members of the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) for educational purposes in Jamaica are deeply appreciated by the government and people of that Caribbean nation, says Jamaica’s top diplomat in Toronto.

“Without PACE, many, many, many students in some far-flung places in Jamaica would not have had access to the type of education they have had, nor the type of equipment they have been exposed to,’’ Lloyd Wilks, Jamaica’s Consul General in Toronto, told the Caribbean Camera.

“I just want to commend them immensely for the work that they have done. And, I speak on behalf of the government and people of Jamaica when I say a huge ‘thank you’ to PACE.’’

Wilks was among PACE Canada supporters – including 96-year-old retired nurse Lillie Johnson – who attended the organization’s 2018 “Strawberry Social’’, a fundraising luncheon that included entertainment, live auction, a “Hat Parade’’ competition, and the presentation of “Pace Setter Awards’’ to DJ Eugene Chang, Diana Burke and Jamaica National Bank.

PACE was founded in 1987 with the aim of promoting early childhood education, specifically focusing on children, ages three to five, “in situations of racial, cultural or economic disadvantage’’.

According to Wilks,  PACE is a “critical’’ part of educational development in Jamaica. “I cannot think of any other organization globally – outside of Jamaica – that has done more for early childhood education in Jamaica than PACE has. They’re dedicated, they’re committed to the task and, believe you me, they’ve done astronomical work,’’ Wilks said.

“People have adopted basic schools in far-flung places; they’ve followed them throughout the time to ensure that they grow progressively,’’ he added. “For example, they go back to ensure that they have proper hygiene and toilet systems, proper refrigeration and proper classroom equipment for teaching.’’

Sandra Whiting, president of PACE Canada, was pleased with last Sunday’s “Strawberry Social’’ that was held under the theme, “Enchanted Gardens’’.

“I thought it went really well; I thought the audience was in a great mood,’’ she said.

The money raised from this year’s event, said Whiting, is “designated to help with our administration in Toronto; without money we can’t run the organization. It’s also for the 10 PACE-supported basic schools in Jamaica. We send down 100,000 Canadian dollars every year’’.

One of the newest PACE Canada members is Guelph resident Ben Cullen, an agriculturalist and professional gardener. He joined the organization after delivering the keynote address at the “Strawberry Social’’ at Delta Toronto East Hotel.

“Gardening can serve as an education for kids,’’ he said. “Once it becomes a part of your lifestyle, you never want to give it up. It good for your health. Kids can learn about science. They can learn about self-discipline. They can learn about responsibility, and it gives them ownership over a part of the home, where you’re growing things and you’re contributing to the natural environment. Maybe, you’re growing something that the family can eat.’’