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A Rainforest Seafoods Reunion

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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The camaraderie was palpable Tuesday afternoon inside the Kingston boardroom of Rainforest Seafoods when 12 students from the Iris Gelly Primary School, ranging from ages eight to 11, placed napkins on their laps as their hosts Brian Jardim, CEO, Rainforest Seafoods, and his executives Maxwell Jardim, business development manager; Roger Lyn, director: marketing and corporate affairs; and Jerome Miles, general manager, welcomed them and their two chaperones, Maureen Hamilton, Grade 4 teacher, and guidance counsellor Carol Tucker-Whyte.

The holistic relationship between Rainforest Seafoods and Iris Gelly Primary spans five years and is one that has moved from supplying water to the school, to upgrading the plumbing system, and supporting the school on special days like Teachers' Day. Indeed, the needs are exhaustive. The company's Director: Marketing and Corporate Affairs Roger Lyn (whose 2016 healthy lifestyle initiative — providing fish, a rich source of nutrients for Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) students at the school — was much lauded) is now focused on Phase 2 of the staff canteen. “There's lots to do and we are proud to do our bit. These children are the future; our future,“ he said.

Jardim echoed similar sentiments. “We are proud of our association with the school and look forward each year to meeting new faces around the table,” he said as the students shared their aspirations. Several, like 10-year-old Amelia Gordon and Bianca Taylor, have their sights set on nursing. While others, like 10-year-old Lasianna Glanville and seven-year-old Malik Harris, plan to teach. Seven-year-old Dwaynea Forbes, who held court beside Brian Jardim, has her heart set on becoming a surgeon. For 11-year-old Camoya Dunkley, it's all about securing a place at Wolmer's High School. The students cited Usain Bolt as their hero.

There was great pride as Grade 4 teacher Maureen Hamilton shared that after many years of not participating in the JCDC Festival of the Performing Arts, the school has re-entered the competition — the result of now having a music teacher. Indeed, 10-year-old Amelia Gordon, who is entering as a soloist, showed off her range as she sang Ten Thousand Reasons, a modern worship song , to rapturous applause.

Corporate Chef Evrol Ebanks certainly threw down, tantalising the young palates with the ackee and saltfish spring roll appetiser, a grilled shrimp taco salad, bacon-wrapped snapper fillet drizzled with sorrel and barbecue reduction and sides of sweet potato and gungo pea mash and fresh market vegetables. Dessert, a Christmas pudding sundae brought it to a delicious end.

Initiatives like Applaud It! — to provide a unique opportunity for industry leaders to meet members of the next generation exactly where they are and engage them during a formal meal that exposes them to social and dining skills; are as much about sumptuous fare, as they are about amplifying the voices of these young students and reassuring them that their future is full of promise.

Many of these bright, young, beautiful children are, according to their guidance counsellor Carol Tucker-Whyte, victims of “post-traumatic stress due to violence in their communities and the loss of loved ones. They are challenged economically, insufficiently nourished and are raised by inexperienced and incompetent parents”.

Tucker-Whyte is assisted by RISE Life Management Services as well as the Victims Services Division (VSD), but an entire afternoon of positive reinforcement, (plus Rainforest Seafoods' commitment to their well-being) has put them in good stead. Seven-year-old Malik Harris summed it up perfectly: “I love this, and I'm coming back tomorrow!”

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