American Friends of Jamaica awards US$600,000 in grants

BY FALON FOLKES
Observer staff reporter
folkesf@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, April 20, 2018

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FORTY local organisations were awarded grants, totalling US$600,000, by the American Friends of Jamaica (AFJ) on Tuesday to finance their outreach programmes.

For the past 36 years, AFJ has contributed millions of dollars to help organisations develop the education, health and economic sectors of Jamaica.

“This year we received a record 86 applications, the vast majority of which were worthy. Our final decisions reflect programmes with the track record of impact, the ability to execute and an alignment with our mission. We are proud to be your partners in the work that you do,” AFJ's President Wendy Hart said at the awards ceremony for the recipients, which was held at the United States Embassy on Tuesday.

“Our focus includes building on our commitment to early childhood education, expansion of our grants in the areas of conflict resolution and other programmes surrounding issues of violence, and the provision of vitally needed medical equipment,” Hart continued.

Among the grant recipients were the Franciscan Sisters, who will use their grant to further develop digital literacy at St Joseph's Infant School — one of the schools under their umbrella.

The institution's Principal Rose Marie Clarke was elated.

“St Joseph's Infant School in 2001 decided that we had to move forward with technology. That had to be the way forward in order to truly prepare our students for the technological age,” Clarke told the Jamaica Observer.

“So I went about forcing ourselves into the tablet in schools programme that was primarily for high schools and primary schools. Very few early childhood institutions were placed on it,” she continued. “But we did so well that we have been the flagship for the early childhood department.

“So when they're having seminars, we show our best practices and so we're invited to share how we did it,” the principal said.

She said, too, that the school also offered lessons on how to use the tablets to parents, when the school realised they did not know how to use the devices.

“I remember when we started first, and we invited the parents to come. Parents came and took up the tablet and said, 'I going back to work', because they were not comfortable,” Clarke explained. “And so we had workshops, and we saw our parents turning on tablets. We taught them how, and so that is part of all our parenting workshops.”

In keeping with its mandate to move forward with the technological age, Clarke said the AFJ grant will be used to purchase more projectors for the school. Five out of the institution's 10 classrooms are outfitted with projectors, but the demand for the equipment is a problem.

The principal told the Observer that the demand was so great, that individuals were intruding on personal time by putting in requests on weekends. This will no longer be an issue once new equipment is purchased, she said.

Clarke told the Observer that as soon as the new projectors are purchased and installed, her goal will shift to renovating the playground and installing two air-conditioning units.

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