LITTLE BAY, Westmoreland — FOR more than nine years, the Rockhouse Foundation — the philanthropic arm of the Rockhouse Hotel — has been positively impacting lives in several communities in the Negril area.
Since its inception in 2003, the foundation has invested more than US$1.5 million in a raft of educational ventures in those communities.
The foundation was spawned from a relationship which developed between several Westmoreland communities and the Rockhouse Hotel, run by Australian investors who started operations in Negril in 1993.
"The ownership of the Rockhouse Hotel thought it was important — when they begun their business here in Westmoreland when they bought the Rockhouse Hotel — from the very beginning to embrace the community," said Peter Rose, head of the Rockhouse Foundation told the Observer West.
Since its inception, Rose said, the foundation has expended more than US$1.5 million to develop several educational facilities, including Negril All-Age School, Negril Basic School, the Little Bay Infant and All-Age School, Bunch of Stars Basic School in Old Hope, as well as the Negril Library.
"Rockhouse Foundation's commitment to education in Jamaica is a long-standing one. It is one that intends to extend far into the future, and one that we feel is absolutely critical... in terms of being a responsible business in a country where education is so very important," Rose explained.
He was speaking to the Observer West last Saturday, following a dedication service at Little Bay Infant and All-Age School, which recently underwent a massive renovation exercise, funded by the Rockhouse Foundation.
The project, which commenced in 2010, entailed a major overhaul of the school, nestled in the small Little Bay fishing village, near Negril. The facility accommodates a student population of 149, with six educators, including the principal.
"We have totally renovated the facility from the ground floor to the ceiling and throughout the school. We have added a lunch room to the staff offices, a garden, computer room, athletics facilities... a long list of things that every school should have," Rose explained.
"We felt that this community was especially isolated and had a lack of resources so we wanted to make a meaningful improvement in the school facility".
Meanwhile, Heila Lindsay Clayton, principal of the Little Bay Infant and All-Age, a government-run educational institution which was established in 1972, is grateful for the upgrade.
"Over the past two years, Rockhouse has done tremendous work by fencing the immediate school compound, paving the front of the school yard for us, putting in the multi-purpose court, did the beautification, as well as putting in a dining area with seating for 80 children," Clayton revealed.
"They also extended the principal's office, to include bathroom facilities for the teachers — we have never had one — and they renovated both floors."
She added that a computer centre, as well as a water filtration system, were also donated to the school by the foundation... "so they have really done a lot for us over the past two years".
Meanwhile, in the nearby community of Old Hope, the Rockhouse Foundation recently renovated and expanded the Bunch of Stars Basic School.
The project involved an extension of the building to incorporate a canteen, kitchen and new sanitary facilities.
A playground was also established at the school.
"The school was desperately in need of improvement. It is a fixture in the community but was dramatically under-resourced and I hope the work that we have done will make a difference to the community and the children of Old Hope," Rose argued.
In the meantime, Chairman of Early Childhood Commission Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, who was the guest speaker at Sunday's dedication service at the Little Bay Infant and All-Age School, announced that her organisation will be consulting the Rockhouse Foundation for collaboration on other projects.
"The Rockhouse Foundation is one of those groups that the Early Childhood Commission has identified as one of those foundations that we will be asking to assist us. We will be asking the Rockhouse Foundation based on their experience and their successful partnerships, to help us to engage other foundations because they have got it right," Professor Samms-Vaughan said.
"We are building on existing partnership with international partners and local partners. Many of you would have watched television and seen basic schools built by the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund and Jamaica Social Investment Fund; those are our local partners. And many of you would also have seen international partners like United Nations Children's Fund... but in this section of Jamaica, the international partner that you know, and the local partner that you know is the Rockhouse Foundation.