MoBay’s Wings Kidz flapping towards a greater good
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Lecia Allen has one dream and it is to see children succeed.
Having devoted 29 years to that dream as an educator at two prominent Montego Bay high schools — Mount Alvernia High and Cornwall College — Allen decided to give more of herself with her charitable organisation, Wings Kidz.
Allen said that Wings Kidz, an after-school centre, was established earlier in January out of a desire to offer social and educational interventions to youngsters living in inner-city communities in Montego Bay. She noted that the concept of the community organisation surrounds offering both a safe space and a learning facility to children between the ages of five and 12 years, as some youngsters are reportedly struggling to keep up academically after transitioning to the high school level.
“What we aim to do is help them with their homework, provide a safe space for them where they can come and do their homework under our supervision, plus study in preparation for tests. When we started we found that there was a great need for a literacy and numeracy programme, so we have been embarking on getting our space ready to accommodate that programme,” Allen told the Jamaica Observer.
Since opening the doors of the centre on Dome Street in this western Jamaica city, Allen said that over 50 children have become registered members. However, she noted that only about half of those youngsters visit after school regularly. She told the Sunday Observer that it may be due to the weekly contribution of $500, but Allen is not discouraged, as she is working to have sponsors come on board to support the students.
“When I registered the company in October last year, I thought I would have gotten through with the charity status right away, but it took quite a while. I actually just got charity status in July, so I had to advertise as just an after-school programme and we still discounted the fees,” Allen explained.
She continued, “Starting in September I was able to advertise as a charity organisation. All we ask for is a contribution of $500 per week to assist with our bills. We found that a lot of students who were coming before and had to pay stopped coming. But we had to change something to survive because we weren’t able to get sponsorship.”
While pushing through and working out the kinks of sponsors, Allen said that she has been receiving tremendous support from both parents and children over the last few months. She noted that the children were actively participating in the activities at the centre and are typically eager to stop by after they leave school. The Saturday morning mentorship programme is also a hit among youngsters and their parents.
“Some of these parents are the nicest people to deal with. They are very appreciative, and one parent told me that at least someone is doing something for their children. Sometimes we have a full house, and other times, based on what is happening in the communities, they don’t come. Recently, we had several children being sick because it is flu season,” she told the Sunday Observer.
At the same time, Allen said that there is a grave need for additional volunteers at Wings Kidz as some of the children need one-on-one assistance. She said that there are students expected to sit the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exam next year; however, they are currently reading at a lower grade level.
Allen remains positive that every child who enters her doors will succeed.
“I believe in the ability of our children to excel. I believe it is inherent in our children…and many times we find that they don’t because they have not been given the opportunity,” the educator said.
While explaining the decision behind the organisation’s name, Allen said that it is her vision to see youngsters recognise the strength of “their wings” and soar to new heights. She said that having previously operated a Christian performing arts school called the Wings Performing Arts Centre with the same concept, she wanted to continue facilitating growth in children through education.
“The idea behind the name wings is to develop, explore, and discover their gifts and talents so they can just soar. The inner-city children need wings, and they need somebody to support them as they develop their gifts and talents,” Allen told the Sunday Observer.
Allen is hoping that corporate sponsors and other supporters buy into her vision of exposing children to different opportunities and educational development. Wings Kidz is a recent recipient of an MBJ Team Sangster Charity Run/Walk inclusivity grant.
“I am looking from a pin to an anchor…anything that can help us in reaching our goal that our children are given the best chance to succeed,” she said.
The educator shared that Yummy Bakery has partnered with her organisation and provides a weekly supply of products for the children. She has also received some help from past students.
“When I was so frustrated because I couldn’t get charity status, some past students and close friends chipped in to buy fans, tables, and chairs, so I am eternally grateful for that,” said Allen.
However, she needs more.
“We need some toiletries and educational materials, such as exercise books, because we don’t have them using their school books during their time at the centre. We need help to install some bookshelves because we want to separate the books by grade levels,” she explained.
Allen added, “We need a fridge. Right now every day I have to lug with the igloo of juices and food supplies to school at Cornwall College then down to Dome Street where the centre is.”