Observer readers offer help for brilliant LesaTuesday, July 07, 2020
BY CANDIECE KNIGHT
TOP student Lesa Angus will be graduating from Kitson Town All-Age School tomorrow in much higher spirits than she was in when the Jamaica Observer visited her home Sunday.
Deeply touched by the 11-year-old student's story of determination and perseverance despite poverty that was published yesterday, readers in Jamaica and the Diaspora have been reaching out to our offices to find out how they can assist Lesa with her educational expenses. The story also got the wheels turning for the family to receive well-needed developmental support through the Government.
“I would be happy to contribute,” hydrogeologist Basil Fernandez wrote in an e-mail to our newsroom. “I would give $30,000 for a start and possibly assist with weekly donations to cover transport and lunch costs.”
Aisha DaCosta, a reader in Maryland, United States, pledged a yearly incentive tied to Lesa's academic performance.
“I would like to contribute $15,000 JMD annually towards Lesa's school fees,” she said. “Additionally, at the end of each academic year I will send an additional $1,000 for each 'A' and $500 for each 'B' earned as a final grade, per course, up to $15,000.”
Jacqueline Bygrave, a past student of St Hugh's High School for Girls, where Lesa will be enrolled in the next academic year, reached out to the Observer on behalf of the school's alumni association.
“We realise that there is a need and that is why we here abroad raise money to help our little sisters realise their full potential,” she said. “We have alumnae associations in New York, Atlanta, Georgia, South Florida, and Toronto, Canada. The various associations raise money that we sent to the guidance counsellor to assist students that are in need.”
She advised that once Lesa is enrolled, assistance can be arranged through the school.
Local natural gas providers, New Fortress Energy also stepped up to the plate, offering to adopt the young scholar into their ongoing back-to-school programme for the upcoming semester.
“We are very touched by Lesa's story and her perseverance, even at her young age. To defy the odds of her social circumstances to come out best in class in the national PEP exams is simply remarkable and demonstrates true grit,” said Verona Carter, New Fortress Energy's vice-president of public affairs. “At New Fortress Energy we believe every child deserves access to quality education regardless of their social circumstances, and so we're proud to award Lesa with our Education Back-to-School Package voucher for $10,000, a tablet computer so she can stay connected with her classes, and other school supplies including a backpack and notebooks. Congratulations and keep shining!”
Lesa was overjoyed when she heard how many hearts her story had touched, and was momentarily lost for words.
“God bless you,” she said eventually. “To all those who have been helping, I appreciate it very much. I want to say a big thank you to all.”
She shared that when she grows up she wants to be a soldier. She is also interested in playing netball professionally and expressed confidence that her skill in the sport will be developed in the excellent netball programme at St Hugh's.
Her father, Barrington Angus, shared that his phone had been ringing so often all day that he was having a hard time charging it.
“Me tell everyone thanks. Good wishes to everyone, and thanks to all those who see it and have a touched heart. May God bless them, and you, and may all of your food baskets stay full,” the father said.
The story also caught the attention of Member of Parliament for St Catherine West Central Dr Christopher Tufton, who reached out to Angus to discuss support for his entire family, which includes Lesa's three brothers and mother.
“I am very proud of Lesa and her parents who have encouraged her,” Tufton said. “I have discussed with her parents additional support to ensure they continue to stand behind her as she goes on to high school.”
Angus was especially grateful for the intervention, as he shared that he had wanted to get his family enrolled in the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) for some time, but was unable to complete the process.
“Me did start the process, but the paperwork never really come through. My 'birth paper' burn up in a fire in our house before this one,” he explained. “I have an ID card, but I don't have a Taxpayer Registration Number or anything.”
Because of this setback, the Angus family is also unbanked. The Observer is working with the family to set up an educational fund for Lesa as soon as possible so that benevolent readers can contribute. The details of the account will be provided as soon as they become available.
The father insisted, however, that while he is grateful for the help, he would very much prefer to be able to better provide for his family himself.
“Right now my greatest wish is to get a job so that I can take care of my family,” he said solemnly. “Me have little education. It might nuh nuff, but any little job that comes through, I can do it. I can read and help myself, and I can use my hands. I just want a nice little job so that I can maintain my family.”
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