News

Job saved him from Kendal Crash

BY INGRID BROWN Observer staff reporter

Monday, October 23, 2006    

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On Sunday, September 1, 1957, Trevor Oldacre was to celebrate his birthday with his best friend Crosby onboard a train bound for what they anticipated would be a fun-filled, exciting excursion in Montego Bay.

But almost at the last moment Oldacre found out he couldn't go, as he had to Journey to St Thomas instead to take up a teaching position at the Duckenfield Elementary School.

Although disappointed, he knew the job was priority, and in any case there would be other occasions for such a trip with his friend. or so he thought.

But the ill-fated train never made it back to Kingston. Instead, it derailed, killing 178 persons, including his friend, in what is now famously known as the 'Kendal Crash' - Jamaica's worst railroad disaster.

Today, 49 years later, as Oldacre, now a full-time volunteer with the Atlanta Jamaica Association, revisited the property now home to the Duckenfield Primary School, as part of a team to deliver much-needed shoes to the students, he believes his life was spared for a special reason.

"I should have been on that train, but God knows why he allowed me to get the job here," Oldacre told the Observer last Thursday. "Now I can't believe that I am back here at the same place that caused my life to be spared."

"I would have been seated right beside my friend who died in the crash," he said solemnly. "I am so happy to come back to see this place."

Oldacre explained that he migrated to the United States in 1969 where he did his bachelor's and master's degrees in education. He said he taught in the New York school system until 1998 when he retired.

"The Lord has blessed me, and so I am giving back to my country since my retirement," he said.

Oldacre, 68, said he spends all of his retirement days volunteering through the Atlanta Jamaica Association, offering assistance to those most in need.

His penchant for giving, he said, was instilled in him by his mother, who always taught him and his siblings to give. In fact, he said his mother, who was always a giver, lost her life giving something to someone.

"She always gave people things and she was running to go get a mango to give someone and she buck her toe, fell and broke her hip," he related. "We took her to the University Hospital and something went wrong ...I think she swallowed her denture because we never found it."

Twice per year, the Atlanta Jamaica Association, which is made up of members of the Jamaican Diaspora, journeys to Jamaica with food and clothing for the residents of infirmaries islandwide.

"One year we did all the infirmaries, but it was too much to be done in a week-and-a-half, so now we split it up and come to Jamaica every July and October," he told the Observer.

The visits, he said, resulted in a collaboration with Hands Across Jamaica for Righteousness three years ago.

The 25-year-old Atlanta Jamaica Association recently received a 501 C3 status, which means they are a tax-exempt voluntary organisation in the United States. Now, Oldacre said, the organisation will be seeking to raise even more funds to make a bigger contribution to those less fortunate.

"We are now trying to buy a building for ourselves because when we have the Independence Ball we have to pay big money for rental," he said.

He added that the organisation also does a lot of work for Jamaicans living in Atlanta communities.

"People who have problems, for example those who are illegal, come to us for assistance all the time," he said.

He pointed to one instance when the association was able to have the body of a man who had been living illegally in the US flown back to Jamaica.

The former student of Kingston Technical High School, who is also the assistant vice chair of the Atlanta Jamaica Association, said he spends his days collecting clothing from various stores and individuals in Atlanta to take to Jamaica.

"Some stores give us out-of-season clothes, and so I collect them and keep them in my garage all year round until we are coming to Jamaica," he explained.

He said he also does missionary work in Ghana, Mexico and Brazil, but he makes greater effort to source things especially to take to Jamaica.

"I feel the joy because a lot of the people in the infirmaries, when we feed them they say it is the best food they have had for a while and they say 'God bless you'," he added.

Oldacre said that immediately after getting back to the United States, he will begin planning his next trip to Jamaica. "I plan all year round for my next trip and my garage is always packed with items," he said.

browni@jamaicaobserver.com

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