Le Antonio’s free homework centre rescued

Back in business

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Le Antonio’s Foundation Homework and Development Centre,located in the inner- city community of Barnett Lane, Montego Bay, which was closed over two months ago due to financial challenges, was reopened on Tuesday, following the intervention of a group of business operators, led by Katrin Casserly.

The centre, the brainchild of businessman Antonio McKoy, who single-handedly catered for the running of the facility, including the payment of rent, utility bills and the provision of meals for the nearly 70 students from Barnett Lane, Railway Lane and other underserved communities, was opened in March 2014. But the facility closed in September after he could no longer shoulder the financial burden to operate it.

The Jamaica Observer West later highlighted the challenges being experienced by McKoy in operating the centre, and that caught the attention of businessman Pat Wright, who immediately contacted Casserly.

"I don’t know who posted it on Facebook and it came to me, then when I saw it I said to Katrin, look at this, and she said, No man, something has to be done, and that was it," Wright explained at Tuesday’s reopening of the centre. Casserly, who was prompted into action, made contact with other members of the business sector, which resulted in seven persons pledging to provide a monthly contribution of $10,000 each towards the operation of the facility.

"About seven individuals are giving monthly stipends of $10,000 in order for MrMcKoy to pay the rent, utility bills, etcetera," Casserly noted. "Mr McKoy gives the kids food, because a lot of the kids come from school and they haven’t eaten yet.

So he has monthly bills and he used to pay them out of his pocket with his own money, and obviously that had to come to a halt. So when my fried Pat (Wright) posted the (Observer West) article I said, No, something had to be done."

Casserly said she later contacted Dr Arusha Chambers who donated nine chairs to the centre. "The minute I got an e-mail from Katrin telling me about Mr McKoy’s story, I was moved because we had nine state-of-the-art student-chairs that we were thinking of moving, and they (the centre) needed nine chairs, and I knew what we needed to do. And from the moment I met him (McKoy) I could see that he has a big heart, it’s in the right place and it’s genuine," Dr Chambers remarked.

An overwhelmed McKoy expressed his appreciation to the sponsors for their benevolence. "I just want to say a very big thanks to you guys. Right now, I am overjoyed.

When I had to close the homework centre because of financial constraints.... I had to make adjustments and it was very painful.

So, I can clearly say I am moved from sadness to joy," declared a joyful McKoy. "I’m happy; this centre is where the kids come after leaving school to do their homework, instead of walking the streets."

People’s National Party (PNP) candidate for St James Central constituency, Ashley- Ann Foster, who was also on hand at the reopening ceremony, lauded Casserly and all the sponsors.

"I would like to thank and acknowledge the dedication of Mr Antonio McKoy. He has really put in a lot of effort and he has gone the extra mile for St James Central and its children.

I would also like to acknowledge Mrs Katrin Casserly for her dedication and her benevolence; we acknowledge it and we are eternally indebted to you," beamed an elated Foster.

Casserly later told the Observer West that she has commenced the search for a bigger area to facilitate the centre. "So the next objective is to get a better space for him (McKoy) because this community obviously needs a bigger space," she argued.

She was, however,appalled that members of the business community in the area did not respond to McKoy’s cry for help. "What I was also astonished about is that nobody contacted him.

Nobody! How can that be? The article in the Observer West was actually pleading for help!" Casserly exclaimed, as she called for volunteers to assist students at the centre.

"If you can’t provide financial assistance. then be a volunteer. Actually, I have some volunteers ready to help. All I am saying is we must do better, especially if we are all complaining. What are we waiting on? Government can’t do everything."

Jamelia Campbell, a mentor at the facility, told the Observer West that she is proud to provide service at the facility "I always wanted to do something for my country and my society, because I believe if every person helps, in whatever way we can contribute, we can uplift Jamaica, and I am also from an inner-city community myself, so I take this as really personal, and I hold this dear to my heart," Campbell stated.


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