Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Head boys and girls bring cheer to Open Arms Homeless Shelter

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMDanielle Mullings
Head Boys and Head Girls from schools across the Corporate Area with Yvonne Grant, coordinator of Open Arms Homeless Shelter.

After weeks of planning, the first-ever National Head Boys and Girls Service Project was born.

The project was kicked off with a collaborative service done by head students in Kingston. The head boys, head girls and deputies of nine high schools united to do an evening of giving out food, donating clothes and toiletries, and performing entertainment pieces from the various student bodies.

The venue was Open Arms Homeless Shelter in downtown Kingston.

The event started with a representative from the HEART Trust/NTA delivering a skills and career presentation and distributing application forms to residents of the shelter. The residents shared their backgrounds and aspirations, receiving guidance specific to their situation.

"I would like to learn automotive engineering because I love cars. My dream is to open my own car-repair business," said one resident.

"At times, we think that we are not good enough to make a difference in the life of others, but if we sit and have meaningful conversations, our lives may just have that great an impact," said Kyle Bedassie, head boy of St George's College.

Student leaders from each school mingled with the residents of the shelter, exchanging various life lessons. We then served patties, bun and cheese, pastries and aloe vera juice.

 

Musical renditions

 

During the entertainment section, two St George's College musicians treated the residents to musical renditions on the saxophone and keyboard, moving some to sing along.

Subsequent to this, the head boys and girls did various dance performances incorporating popular moves. The flair was definitely in the air as residents joined in to 'fling' and 'genna bounce' with the head student dance crew, led by Campion's Head Girl Ravers.

"I didn't know some of the residents could move like that. Look how they're enjoying themselves!" remarked one of the workers as she called others to watch the festivities.

The day was closed off with a presentation of donations to the shelter. Yvonne Grant, the coordinator for Open Arms, graciously accepted the donations of toiletries, canned food and clothing from the head boys and girls of Kingston and St Andrew.

"This is an excellent initiative introduced by the head boys and girls of high schools in Kingston. We are happy it went well," said Caroline Mahfood, executive director of the GraceKennedy Foundation, one of the sponsors.

Food and access to skills training were provided for the 85 residents of the shelter. This could not have happened without the help of sponsors HEART Trust/NTA, GraceKennedy, Tastee Cheese, Maxfield Bakery, Sugar and Spice, Loriiicakes, CRAVE, Juici Patties, and the Campion College Alumni Association.

"We did not hesitate to provide for the project as we are always eager to support any initiative that will engender leadership among the future generation. Let's do this again in 2019!" said Desrine Lewis, sales manager of CRAVE.

Maxfield Bakery's representative, who was a former head boy himself, remarked, "We are so happy to have been a part of this project. We look forward to next year's staging!"

I would like to thank Annastazia Chin, head girl of Immaculate Conception High, who help secure sponsorship and organise this initiative, and Domonique Rose, Campion College's guidance counsellor.

"Never give up on what you want to achieve, no matter how hard it gets. May God bless you in all that you do," Mr Roberts.

During the closing hour of the event, he sang his favourite song for the students before expressing his gratitude for the service and encouraging each student to always remember God.

More residents stopped to take pictures with the head students and thank them for their service.

The coordinator for the Open Arms Homeless Shelter, Yvonne Grant, said many Jamaicans are not exposed to the reality of homelessness in Jamaica.

 

A BLESSING

 

"You have all been a blessing. This is just what we needed," she said.

The donation of clothes and toiletries was also said to be beneficial as the shelter faces various financial constraints. She thanked HEART Trust/NTA, who has since been in dialogue with the shelter to set up a skills-training programme.

The service project saw the rise of student leadership and engagement with social issues, like homelessness, as the students learnt much about the challenges faced. It also highlighted the need for a structured avenue for head students to interface and collaborate on projects like this.

However, this is just the beginning. The idea of a collaborative service between head boys and girls has been shared with heads across the island. Heads in Montego Bay and Portland are in the midst of planning their own regional service projects under the umbrella of the National Head Boys and Girls Service Project. Going forward, the intent is for this to be an annual partnership.

One of the benefits is that the project has demonstrated to students that this is the direction we should be heading in. This is the type of nation-building and social accountability that today's student leaders are interested in cultivating.

The service project has also birthed the formation of the National Head Students Association (NHSA), which will facilitate youth engagement in social issues.

The NHSA is aimed at developing youth leadership, allowing for networking among head boys, head girls, their deputies, and other student leaders, as well as collaboration on various projects, especially those of service.

Head students of the 2017-18 academic year thought it critical to have an avenue for this type of collaborative growth. The planning is already ongoing and it is set to be launched over the course of the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year. Any individuals or organisations interested in coming on board with this initiative can email info@nhsaja.org.

The main objective of this initiative is to reach out to a vulnerable group and is a demonstration of student leadership through social inclusion.

The project is a partnership between corporate Jamaica, non-governmental organisations, schools and student leaders. The service project was also aimed at bringing student leaders together to effect positive change in communities while networking with one another.

I would like to thank following head students and schools for their participation:

Lori-Ann Grossett, Rodrick Chance, Kavouhn Lewars-Smith - Ardenne High School.

Michela Fellows, Tiffany McFarlane - Convent of Mercy Academy Alpha.

Tajie Drummond, Ohaney Henry, Danielle Dunn - Camperdown High School.

Annastazia Chin - Immaculate Conception High School.

Ashley Thompson - St Hugh's High School.

Shaomi Stewart, Javaunne White, Jada Dunkley, Zowadi Renni - Mona High School.

Kerrayne Fray, Kelly Ann Downer, Alison Samuda - St Andrew High School for Girls

Kyle Bedassie, Marsha Smith and musicians Horein Douglas and Josiah Trowers - St George's College.

- Danielle Mullings is Service Project and NHSA Founder and Head Girl of Campion College 2017-18.