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Young volunteers provide help for St Thomas

Observer writer

Friday, June 18, 2021

MORANT BAY, St Thomas — Over the next two weeks a group of 36 volunteers from Utah, USA, will work on several projects that will increase security at a local school, help preserve vital aspects of the parish's culture and provide short-term jobs for some community members.

The volunteers, aged between 15 and 18, are from a non-profit organisation called Youthlinc which has a mandate to create lifetime humanitarians through local and international service. This is their first time doing volunteer work in Jamaica. They will be working alongside the St Thomas Renaissance Foundation (STTRF) which is committed to supporting education, health care, economic development and social initiatives in the parish.

The Youthlinc volunteers will help build two stone monuments to the historic Cunha Cunha Pass Trail between St Thomas and Portland, a path the Windward Maroons used to avoid capture by the British. They will also do work at the Ladiesfield Great House. These two projects are expected to create temporary jobs for area residents. In addition, the Bath Fountain Hotel, where the volunteers are staying, will rehire some staff members laid off during the pandemic.

“We had the opportunity to rehire 20 per cent of our staff that was laid off. It is a pleasure hosting the Youthlinc volunteers so far,” said the hotel's accountant Donovan Downie.

The volunteers will also extend the perimeter wall at the Spring Garden Primary School in an effort to provide more security for students. Peace Corp volunteers and community members had previously worked on a section of the wall.

Ahead of their visit, Youthlinc volunteers organised numerous fund-raising activities in their home state of Utah to fund the planned projects as well as pay for their travel and accommodations.

“It is estimated that over $5 million will be spent over the two-week period,” said STTRF President Malton D Edwards. “Based on the two projects in Hayfield and Spring Garden, budgets were put together considering the money that Youthlinc will be contributing, accommodation at the Bath Fountain Hotel, meals, transportation for the students, labour cost and materials.”

All members of the visiting team have been fully vaccinated and will observe the country's COVID-19 protocols. The team has its own nurse, COVID test kits, and other personal protective equipment. The Renaissance Foundation will also provide additional test kits and masks.

This visit is just the start for the volunteers. Their long-term goal is to undertake several initiatives in the parish over the next three to five years. According to the Youthlinc website, projects for the community of Spring Garden in St Thomas also include developing a sewing programme, helping area residents build a small community centre with a bathroom, teaching business seminars and working with local entrepreneurs to improve their businesses, running community health fairs, holding a literacy camp for primary school students, and learning how to make Jamaican cuisine.