Sun | Oct 1, 2023

Free Town church brings cheer to students

Published:Thursday | September 9, 2021 | 12:10 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Dr Paul Aiken addresses parents and students at the Free Town Church of God of Prophecy outreach annual back-to-school treat.
Dr Paul Aiken addresses parents and students at the Free Town Church of God of Prophecy outreach annual back-to-school treat.

THE FREE Town Church of God of Prophecy Outreach Foundation in Clarendon brought good cheer to students and residents on Friday. Three students received scholarships valued at $20,000 each, courtesy of Pencils4Kids and a resident from the community who migrated, Tanya Taylor, while 20 students received tablets.

Pastor Valerie Campbell-James, who cited the initiative as an important cause, told The Gleaner that a community-based survey revealed that several students were at a disadvantage, which hurdled to their access to virtual school.

“We were really catering to those who cannot or hardly can afford getting a tablet, and when we asked around, we realised that persons within the community have been using their parents' phones to do their schoolwork,” she said.

Florida-based charity foundation Poverty Escape International Inc was lauded for their contribution to the tablet drive. Two of the tablets were donated specifically to Clarendon College students, courtesy of a graduate from the class of 1983.

Dream big

Guest speaker Dr Paul Aiken, CEO of Mona-Tech Engineering Services and former Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at The University of the West Indies, Mona, and Clarendon College alumnus, charged students to dream big. Aiken, who shared that he was from humble beginnings, also encouraged students to pursue their education beyond the secondary level.

“The opportunities are minimal for just high school [qualifications] alone. You have to think beyond that. Learn a trade if you don't want to take up the academic thing or learn a skill,” he said.

The charity foundation has been donating school supplies annually to students since its inception more than five years ago. This year, however, with the many socio-economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 , the foundation says it expanded its beneficiary list to include parents and seniors in Free Town and neighbouring communities. Parents and seniors were gifted care packages and items of clothing.

Residents who came to collect care packages were allowed on to the compound in small numbers, after being sanitised and having their temperatures checked. Foundation member Juliet Coley Horne said the planning process required a team effort in keeping with COVID-19 protocols. Coley Horne described the event as a success, and said her team was pleased with the result. “We feel good, especially when they can leave with a smile on their faces and say 'thank you' ... ,you know the needs have been met. There are so many needs and we are sorry we can't do any more.”

She lauded overseas sponsors who came on board to support the venture, adding that the team will continue to lobby for help on behalf of the most vulnerable. Special commendations were given to Food For The Poor for the donation of food items and for the care packages.

Free Town resident Patricia Dyce said she was grateful for the care package. Nadine Sutherland, who was busy sorting items of clothing for her eight-year-old twin boys, said, “I am so glad to come and get the clothes and food, I am grateful. I come here all the time and get foodstuff for the kids them.”

The foundation also carries out other projects throughout the year, such as distributing food packages, visiting shut-ins homes, and has a vibrant mentorship programme.