Click here to print page

Making a difference

Porus Parenting Club improving lives

By Jonathan Morrison
Observer writer

Monday, December 02, 2019

PORUS, Manchester — Porus Primary School Parenting Club in Manchester, a grass roots community self-help project, was started 19 years ago by two school teachers and a Roman Catholic sister.

Co-founder and the club's current president, Beverley Tulloch Danvers said it was the first of its kind in Jamaica to offer a forum in which parents can meet regularly with mentors to develop and improve parenting skills.

The community-based parenting club pre-dates the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) formed by statute in 2012 under the Government's Citizen Security and Justice Programme, targeting parenting problems in crime-prone communities, particularly in the country's urban centres.

Nearly two decades after being founded, the Porus club has gone beyond basic functions of providing fellowship between parents and mentoring community leaders, to sharing and solving problems of raising children in a farming community with limited social and economic opportunities.

Leaders boast that the club has now fostered the formation of several similar primary school-based parenting clubs in the wider Manchester and neighbouring St Elizabeth.

Over the years, the organisation has developed a multi-level programme to empower parents through academic and vocational training, club leaders say. Partnering with national training and accreditation entities such as HEART Trust/NTSA and the Early Childhood Education programme, the club has opened up new opportunities for self-development, with some parents taking on subjects at the Caribbean Secondary School Examination Certificate level.

The idea behind the educational development programme is that a trained and educated parent has an improved chance at job opportunities, and therefore becomes more rounded and better equipped socially and intellectually to handle parenting.

All agree that this is particularly important in the face of present-day challenges of the digital age, with new dimensions to the relationship between parents and their charges requiring new approaches to parenting.

At its annual parenting seminar, celebrating Parent Month in mid-November, the club's seminar theme was 'Media Literacy:Parenting in the Digital Age'. The gathering of parents, teachers, sponsors and well-wishers at Porus Primary School not only heard from guest speaker Don Dobson, information officer of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, they also heard the testimony of parents whose lives have been turned around through their involvement with the club.

Benaldo Spencer, a father and one of the few men from the community involved in the club, confessed that before he became a member he “was aggressive... the club has taught us to listen to our children”. But, he lamented the almost total absence of male participation in the club and asked: “Where are the males? Only me alone standing in yellow (the colour of the club's uniform shirt), you need to come on board.”

The sparse male presence in the national parenting initiatives was also highlighted at the end of a 13-week peer mentorship training programme on November 28 conducted by the NPSC in Hanover to mark Parent Month. Of the 150 graduates, fewer than 10 were men.

Chief executive officer of the NPSC Kaysia Kerr said in a Nationwide News Network interview that new strategies were being looked at to get more males involved in parenting programmes.

The Porus club presented trophies to the top-performing parents in its literacy, numeracy and spelling competitions. The first-place awardees were Matasha Davy Crowle (literacy), Stacey Fredericks (numeracy), and Pearl Smith (spelling).

There were special awards and commendations for those parents who participated and achieved some success in external academic and vocational pursuits. They were Natalie Ricketts, with passes in English A and Biology in CSEC; Pauline Codner and Matasha Davy Crowle for accreditation in the HEART Trust/NTSA programme; and Stacey Johnson's participation in the Early Childhood Education programme.

One of the important accomplishments of the Porus Primary Parenting Club is helping other schools to form parenting clubs. One such club is to be found at Leeds Primary School in St Elizabeth. Principal Christine Dawkins was on hand to participate in the seminar.

Other schools in Manchester that have been inspired by the success of the Porus club and have launched parenting clubs are Chantilly, Christiana, and New Forest primary schools.

The club was founded at the turn of the last century by a small cadre of civic-minded women Porus Primary school teachers Verona Ricketts and Beverley Tulloch Danvers, and Sister Marjorie of the Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic Church in Clarks Town, one of eight farming districts in the immediate Porus area.

Retired executive and co-founder Verona Ricketts was in attendance and maintains an active interest and participation in the club. Porus Primary School Principal Teddeisha Hibbert Hayles has kept the tradition of the connection of the school as the club's base and the school's integral role in community development.