Pencils and erasers, markers and notebooks, glue, books and other school supplies are being shipped to school children in Jamaica, thanks in a large part to fifth graders at Benton Hall Academy in Little Falls and their teacher, Jean Babinec Smith.
Smith saw the needs of school children in Jamaica when she visited that country last month for the dedication of a new school in memory of her father, William Martin Babinec.
“My father died last year,” she explained. “He was a philanthropist, as much as he could be as a factory worker with seven kids.”
In his memory, Smith’s brother, Martin, worked with Food for the Poor Jamaica to fund the new Esher Full Gospel Basic School in Hanover. Martin Babinec, along with Smith and her sister, traveled to Jamaica for opening day ceremonies at the new school, which brings to two the number of school buildings now available to that early childhood institution and relieves the overcrowding problems the school had been experiencing.
The school is in a mountainous area where children have to travel long distances to get to school.
This was the fourth school that had been constructed under the Food For The Poor Jamaica 50 Campaign, which is seeking to build or upgrade 50 early childhood educational institutions in 50 months, in celebration of Jamaica’s 50th year of independence.
Smith said the FFP director also showed the visitors some of the schools in the country that are in need of repairs and supplies.
“I took pictures of these really sad schools,” said Smith. She came back to Little Falls and showed her fifth grade class photos of a school furnished with beat-up wooden desks, an old blackboard and a poorly furnished kitchen, although school meals offer an incentive for parents to send their children to school. She also took a photo of a school supply room the size of a closet which contained few supplies. A shelf of books in that space serves as the school library. Pit latrines serve as restrooms for many of the schools.
After Smith checked with Food for the Poor Jamaica to make sure supplies could be sent and distributed to the schools in need, the fifth graders began bringing in school supplies. Then the faculty got involved, bringing in more supplies. Girls’ basketball coach Pam Munger shared the information with her team and they brought in still more items.
The result was four boxes of school supplies packed up and ready to go plus more displayed on desks waiting to be loaded into boxes.
The students were touched by the needs of the children in Jamaica and pleased with the results of their efforts.
“It’s really a good thing that you can give to them,” said Richie Baylor.
Page 2 of 2 - “It’s sad they’re so poor, but it feels good giving,” said Benjamin Roopra.
“There must be a hundred erasers here,” said Katelynn Hermanowski, looking at the supplies.
She also said she liked the Jamaican flag.
Food For The Poor Jamaica is the largest charity organization in Jamaica. Food For The Poor, located in Florida, is the largest international relief and development organization in the U.S. It is an interdenominational organization that assists the poor in 17 countries in the Caribbean and Latin America. FFP works with the churches, schools, hospitals and other institutions that deal directly with the poor to meet their most urgent needs and to encourage self-sufficiency.
Since its inception 30 years ago, the charity has made significant contributions to the education system through financial grants to needy students, distribution of school furniture and general school supplies, construction of basic schools and replacement of pit latrines with flush toilets.