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Fire personnel roll out community homework programme

BY TANESHA MUNDLE Observer staff reporter mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, May 05, 2014    

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GONE are the days when firefighters sit around and play domino all day when there are no fires to extinguish or people to rescue.

Today firefighters are not only concerned about saving lives and property, but are also concerned about the development of the community in which they operate, according to deputy commissioner of the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), Samuel McIntosh.

One way in which they are seeking to assist is by helping to improve the educational capacity of community members.

"Since 2003 the JFB has been operating a homework programme, which would be a part of the value-added services that is provided by us. It is not only to sit and play domino," said Samuels, who added that firefighters were not apologising for playing domino, as it helps to keep their brains active and to forge relationships.

Samuels, who was speaking last Thursday at the official opening of a resource and outreach centre at Portmore Fire Station in St Catherine, said that the brigade opened its first homework centre at the Trench Town Fire Station in January 2003.

"The programme targeted 12-year-old children who were preparing for the Grade Six Achievement Test and out of that 20 scholarships were awarded to children from neighbouring secondary schools to assist with books, uniforms and lunch," he said.

The homework programme initially catered to 40 students and was expanded to the Rollington Town Fire Station in East Kingston, where a second homework centre was established in February of the same year.

"The brigade homework programme was deemed a success, as about 95 per cent of the students attending the JFB homework programme earned places in some of the top Corporate Area high schools," said Samuels.

"The firefighters who gave generously of their time and effort to this programme can say with pride that these students who consistently attended the homework centre classes, won places as a result of their intervention and communication with them," he went on.

The deputy commissioner said that the homework centres were created out of a need for the firefighters to give back to the communities and that the fire-fighters, along with assisting the students, also ensure that they attend church by helping to transport them there.

In an effort to reach out to more members of the community, he said that the Portmore Fire Station Resource and Outreach Centre was built and will be a centre with a difference.

The centre is equipped with 19 computers, a server, a printer and a multimedia projector and will offer services such as homework assistance, e-learning access point, literacy and numeracy studies assistance as well as assistance with personal development.

"The main purpose is to create an environment at the fire station that can promote community involvement and strengthen relationships with the wider community and to provide an outlet for the youths in the community," Samuels said.

The resource and outreach centre is a pilot project that was undertaken by the JFB in partnership with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development,

the Social Development Commission and the Universal Service Fund, and will be replicated at other fire stations if it is determined to be successful.

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