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RuJohn Foundation continues to help the needy

Sunday, July 20, 2014    

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ON the heels of their recently concluded Annual Jamaica Celebrity Sports Camp, the RuJohn Foundation continues to live up to its commitment to helping people in need.

The Florida-based non-profit organisation was founded in 2003 by siblings Christina and Andrew Bachelor in honour of their Jamaican grandparents. Eleven years later, more than 750 underprivileged children and 200 adults have benefited from the workshops, camps and donations provided by the foundation, both locally and in the United States.

Last year's scholarship winner and one of the current JA RuJohn representatives, Joel Nomdarkham, shared the foundation's message with Jamaica Observer.

"I just fell in love with the work that they do," said Nomdarkham, who had been admiring the foundation's work since his sixth form days at Kingston College. Now, as a first year journalism student at University of the West Indies, he aids in setting up the media components at the events, and schedules interviews at their press conferences.

Through various educational and athletic programmes, the RuJohn Foundation delivers on its mandate to provide children with the tools to succeed so that they can create a better Jamaica.

They assist schools, including Kingston College, St George's College and Glenmuir High with lunch programmes, donations of school supplies, sports equipment and scholarships. After hurricanes Sandy and Ivan, they provided much-needed relief to affected communities in the form of food, household products and clothing. At children's homes across the nation, the volunteers are motivated to help erase their emotional scars and regain their dignity.

Their Annual Celebrity Sports Camp, Acting and Self-Esteem Workshops are highly anticipated in both Kingston and Montego Bay. Over a period of four days, children from the participating schools are exposed to basketball, cheerleading, American football and, for the first time this year, baseball.

Their teachers are well-known American athletes, including Delonte West of the Dallas Mavericks, Andray Blatche of the Brooklyn Nets, Casey Hampton of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Kendall Newson of the Miami Dolphins.

For the Acting Workshop, they interacted with House of Wax star Robert Ri'chard, Raven Symone, Lance Gross, comedienne Bresha Webb, and many others. The line-up expands every year with celebrities inviting their philanthropic friends to the activities.

"We wanted a different approach to how we do charity," said Nomdarkham of the organisation's celebrity experience. "It exposes the students to opportunities to meet these people that we only see on TV."

Fellow representative Jerome Jackson, who helped organise the sporting activities, witnessed first-hand the pride that the celebrity coaches feel. He related an interaction with a coach and a little girl who had come to the acting workshop.

"He said the only time that she gets to act is when the RuJohn Foundation comes. And that blew him away. That's the type of reaction that I would like to see from them; that they're enjoying their stay in Jamaica. That motivates them to come the next year and even the year after that."

The organisation is most known for distributing academic scholarships. This year, 10 awardees were chosen from the 40 applicants. Maurice Fisher of Kingston College received the highest scholarship of J$2.5 million to cover his five years of medical studies at UWI Mona.

Fisher and fellow recipients from this year's scholarship programme, John-Luke Foster and Chevon Irving, couldn't contain their gratitude for RuJohn's financial support.

"I'm really elated because I don't know where the money would have come from to fund my tuition," Fisher admitted.

Irving, a recent Campion College graduate, said: "Being accepted into university is an achievement in itself. The other challenge is paying for school. It's really been one of the greatest opportunities to have some financial security while trying to focus on your studies."

The foundation's unending charity also surprised last year's seven recipients. The students, who will now enter their second year of university, will receive further assistance for the upcoming academic year, as long they maintain a GPA of over 3.5.

Nomdarkham, the other representatives, awardees, sponsors and celebrities continue to contribute to the cause in any way that they can. For them, it's not just about money, time or service, but truly making a difference.

"It's about getting the students empowered," said Nomdarkham.

"What the organisation stands for is something I can relate to," added Foster. "I like giving back and volunteering my time to help people who are in need."

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