Sandals Foundation renovates library and peace garden at Pell River Primary
Pell River students Dejanae Pearce (left) and Jaheim Jerry enjoying the new fountain in the school's renovated peace garden.

IN continuing its efforts to positively impact education in Jamaica and the Caribbean, the Sandals Foundation recently unveiled a renovated peace garden and library at the Pell River Primary School in Hanover.

The institution, which serves close to 150 students, has been due for a long-needed facelift in these two areas, according to the school's Principal Sherine Clarke.

"In the pandemic, with the social-distancing mandate we had to create more space for our students to learn safely, therefore, our library became a storage area in order for us to facilitate this change. This later created a challenge in the form of termites, which began to damage the shelves and books that were in the space," said Clarke.

Noting that the library also had electrical issues, Clarke added that the space was considered not child-friendly. She shared that the school reached out to the Sandals Foundation for assistance and that both the school and parents have really seen a difference with the renovation that has been done.

"This act of kindness has really given us hope. The library is now well lit and the electrical wires have been secured. Being freshly painted, the space is now not only conducive to learning but will also surely be that place that many of our students will find comfort, and this is something we truly appreciate," Clarke added.

Brightly painted, with stacked shelves, tables, and chairs for seating and also a cosy reading corner fashioned with cushions and stuffed toys, the Pell River Primary School library has since been busy as students eagerly visit to borrow books for leisure, research, and group work activities.

While the updated library has ignited a new passion for many at the institution, there has also been much conversation around the also recently renovated peace garden, which is now considered a haven for many of the students at the institution.

"I love the new peace garden, it is a place where my schoolmates and I can relax and have a peace of mind. I enjoy reading and I'm now able to do so here while listening to the soothing sound of the water from the water fountain," said Dejonae Pearce, a grade 5 student.

The school's peace garden, which was originally created for the 'Trees for Peace' competition in 2019, was a labour of love for parents and community members who completed it in 2020. However, according to Janiel Jones, a Grade 5 teacher and Environmental Club leader at the institution, the school desired to add special features to the space to enhance its effectiveness and reached out to the Sandals Foundation for help.

"We had plans to re-enter the competition again in 2022 and had hoped to win first place. We reached out to the Sandals Foundation for assistance. When we thought about the peace garden we took the students' needs into consideration and how this initiative would benefit them as some of our students are having behavioural problems," Jones shared.

The Sandals Foundation supported the garden upgrades by adding a water feature and concrete benches to support seated reading. The philanthropic arm went a step further, making repairs to the roof of a dilapidated building, thereby allowing the school to solve its storage challenge.

Jones notes that during disputes students are now sent to the garden to reflect on their actions and make amends. The garden is also used for reading classes and break sessions as it is decorated with words and affirmations that are often used for games and as a learning aid.

The Sandals Foundation has repeatedly underscored that it is committed to the holistic development of the educational infrastructure and continues to support students and educational facilities in Jamaica and across the Caribbean.

Executive director of the Sandals Foundation Heidi Clarke (left); education officer for Region 4, Susan Sims; principal of Pell River Primary School, Sherine Clarke; and Revern Grant pose for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the peace garden at the institution.
Pell River students (from left) Kacia Earle, Liam Owens and Kylie Jones sit down for a quiet and cozy reading session in their newly renovated library.

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