Regional

VIDEO: Airy Castle bounces back

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 10, 2019

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When fire destroyed a section of St Thomas-based Airy Castle Primary School in February 2017, no one thought that the rural institution would have bounced back as quickly as it did, but donations came pouring in.

An entire block, which housed the tuck shop, library, and a computer lab, went up in flames, forcing the suspension of classes. Some 204 students were at school when the incident occurred. A number of items were destroyed, including 20 computers, a projector, two printers, over 900 books, stoves and two deep freezers.

Since that time, a new block has been constructed, to include a state-of-the-art resource room, a library, a kitchen and tuck shop. The recovery was facilitated by the Ministry of Education, several private sector companies and non-government organisations.

The school has since capitalised on the assistance given and has successfully developed a feeding programme.

“One of our faithful sponsors would have been Food For the Poor, because of them we now have a broiler project. They started us off with 300 broilers and 75 layers. They gave us that with a slaughterhouse, soak away tank, defeathering machine, and the cones for slaughtering. So, they gave us the structure for these birds,” Principal Dawn Graham said.

She told the Jamaica Observer North & East that the school is now able to sustain itself “to a certain extent”, because chicken is the school's main protein.

“When we slaughter, say a batch of 100, if it is that we have an average weight of 400 lbs, we use like 60 to 70 lbs per day. So we still rely on outside vendors but we can sustain ourselves to some extent.

“The project does not provide full employment, but one community member oversees the project for us. So when we are off on holidays and weekends, he is able to do that,” Graham shared, adding that eggs produced are sold to local supermarkets.

At the same time, the principal said the school is looking to start its breakfast programme.

“It's our intention to have a fully sustained, vibrant breakfast programme. We can't just feed our students eggs, so you would want them sold so that you can purchase the sardines, and stuff like that. So, we are getting there. Since the fire we have been building,” Graham said, noting that the school is able to feed over 100 students who are currently on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.

“So we would have seen a fire that I would say caused alarming damages to the whole structure of one building, but within two years and a few months we are well on our way,” she added.


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