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Prospect Primary has best peace garden

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Prospect Primary School, located at Danvers Pen in St Thomas, is the winner of the Trees for Peace Competition, which was launched by the Violence Prevention Alliance (VPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information on Peace Day in March this year.

The rural school of just under 100 students emerged the winner from a pool of 30 schools islandwide.

“I knew we were going to win. I just felt it,” said Principal Nesline Lawrence in an interview before being presented with the top prize, which included a trophy, tablets and $150,000 to assist with development projects at the school.

Lawrence explained that when she saw the poster about the competition she discussed it with her guidance counselor and they agreed to enter. She said it was hard work — with the children, teachers and parents all having an input.

“This garden took a lot out of us; it was a lot of sacrifice and it paid off,” she said with pride.

The Peace Garden comprised flowery plants, benches, a water fountain, and inspirational peace quotes scattered across the area. “It is like a naughty corner — so whenever the students misbehave they are sent there because it is therapeutic. It also has running water so that calms them down and is relaxing,” she said.

Dr Elizabeth Ward, chair of the VPA, commended the school for its hard work during an awards ceremony held on the school's premises last Wednesday.

“… The message is one of strong roots, well-watered branches reaching up to the sky. We need strong characters to survive the harsh conditions that we often face. Peace on Earth does not alone depend on us having a secure living environment, but also involves us working together to resolve conflicts. So we need to keep these green, clean spaces and quiet spaces in our lives,”she said.

Dr Ward underscored that the trees are a symbol of hope. “We want to make sure you are planting hope in your life, for a better place and a better space, and leave a legacy for peace for all our Jamaican children,” she said.

Claudette Pious, executive director of Children First and guest speaker at the event, also commended Prospect Primary for topping the competition.

“The garden is fabulous. I'm coming here today to see something I envisioned about 15 years ago coming to reality. I wrote a proposal to the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica to ask for peace benches in communities so people could sit down and trash out their differences. See here — Peace Garden, boastful. I'm really happy that it is serving its purpose because this business of peace is not an easy one,” she pointed out.

Other top finalists were Naggo Head Infant School in Portmore, St Catherine, which was second, and Holy Family Primary School in Kingston which was third. Holy Family also copped the social media prize, being voted the Best Peace Garden by online followers of the VPA's social media platforms on Instagram and Facebook. Black River Primary School in St Elizabeth was fourth.

Partners of the Trees for Peace Competition included CB Facey Foundation, JN Foundation, Sandals Foundation, Forestry Department, National Environment and Planning Agency, the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Trees that Feed Foundation, Early Childhood Commission, Mona GeoInformatics Institute, Nature Preservation Foundation, Food For The Poor, and Child Protection and Family Services Agency.