SCORES of students from the tough community of Mountain View Avenue in St Andrew were last Thursday given a reason to look forward to today's celebration of Independence Day, thanks to the generosity of former Jamaican athlete Lieutenant Colonel Bruce Barclay.
Barclay, who represented Jamaica at the Carifta Games in 1973, on Thursday took steps to adopt the Home Centre — a summer programme for slow learners in the community. He dubbed the gesture an Independence gift.
He first learnt about the plight of the school through a recent Jamaica Observer report, in which the teachers and parents who started the school complained about a lack of resources and the poor condition of the house on Jacques Road in which classes are kept.
"I was drawn to the programme that was highlighted by the [Observer] and based on [what I've seen] I am going to do what I have to do to help the students," said Barclay, who donated school supplies and sport gear to the school and promised to return with computers, books and other items.
"No child should be forced to stay away from school because of lack of food or resources. Over the years I have been fortunate and I want to give back to the youth," added Barclay, who resides in the United States.
The school was started by the parents and teachers fed up with the sporadic bouts of violence in the community, in which many of the area's uneducated youth have been caught up.
Francena Pryce, one of the co-ordinators of the programme, explained that the programme currently reaches out to approximately 116 children of various ages from several communities in Mountain View.
"This to us is one of the best Independence gifts that we could have received," said a smiling Pryce.
Meanwhile, Ann Marie Lynch — who teaches at the school — said many of the students are unable to read.
"But with the help of teachers who have volunteered their time, this is all changing," said Lynch, who also serves as president of the Jacques Road Parenting Association.
She could not hide her excitement about Barclay's gesture.
"The programme has been struggling and I believe the help will go a far way and is an excellent gift for the students for Independence, as one of the best ways to help the students is through education," said Lynch.
Andrean Richards, another teacher, said she was encouraged that with the help, greater things will come out of the programme and Jacques Road where Marcus Garvey, Jamaica's first national hero, and his wife, Amy Jacques, once lived.
Other parents and teachers labelled the move as one of the best Independence gifts the community could have received.
Barclay, in the meantime, is encouraged by what he saw.
"I just want to tell the children and the teachers and residents that they should continue what they are doing," said Barclay.
He also disclosed that the donation was part of a broader islandwide initiative to give back to Jamaica's youth. He said he will be starting a foundation called Kids In Need of Donation (KIND), under which other schools will be adopted. He said help will be sought from other Jamaicans in the Diaspora.