The Foundations current endeavor for 2013 is creating a combined Infant and Primary school in Moreland Hill, Westmoreland. Moreland Hill Primary has experienced many challenges over the past decade or more, having lost the confidence of the community to adequately prepare its students for secondary education and beyond. Most families send their children to Little London Primary, at burdensome cost and lengthy travel time. In the past several months, however, the school has been assigned a dynamic and motivated interim Principal, and a new teacher, both of who have begun to inspire confidence in the community. In short, a turn-around has commenced. Rockhouse Foundation proposes to bolster that turn-around by transforming the school facilities in much the same fashion as was recently achieved at Little Bay All Age and Bunch of Stars E.C.I. We intend to effect the renovations in time for a re-opening in September. As part of the renovations and expansion, the Foundation will reconfigure space to incorporate an Infant School, with age appropriate furniture and supplies, sanitary facilities and the ongoing support of the Foundation's early childhood specialist who currently works with the other schools in our growing network.
Early Childhood Specialist
In addition to the Foundation's historical project components of expanding and renovating under-resourced schools in rural Jamaica, the Foundation has contracted a "Cluster Coordinator". This coordinator's function is to unite the Early Childhood Institutions (E.C.I's) by providing professional development, leadership training, quality assurance, and curriculum support, consistent with the Jamaican Ministry of Education's Early Childhood Commission's framework for upgrading education for Jamaica's youngest students. Bunch of Stars will join other Foundation projects at the Negril and Little Bay Infant Schools to form the Foundation's initial cluster of E.C.I's.
We are dedicated to long-term, meaningful partnerships. At the Negril All Age School, Negril Basic School, and the Little Bay All Age School the results of our capital investment are palpable. At all the schools, we support the children and their community's pursuit of excellence, while assisting in the maintenance of high quality facilities. To that end, the Foundation sponsors the following:
Bunch of Stars Pre-K School
The Foundation's 2012 summer capital project was recently completed at Bunch of Stars Pre-K in Old Hope, Westmoreland, located approximately two miles from Little Bay. Bunch of Stars has historically been devastatingly underfunded, but its Director, Shelly Reid, is known throughout the Old Hope community as a selfless and tireless leader. The Foundation has worked closely with Shelly, her staff, and the Bunch of Stars Board members on plans for renovation of the early childhood institution. These collaborative efforts between the Foundation and key community stakeholders will ensure that the teachers, staff, and children of Old Hope start the 2012 school year fresh at a completely renovated and expanded school. Bunch of Stars will be equipped to handle its burgeoning student population with a newly constructed classroom containing new childhood appropriate furniture, white boards, folding classroom partitions, and school supplies. With the assistance of local labor, the Foundation is also building an age-appropriate playground for the pre-schoolers and installing landscaping and security fencing to protect the well-being of the students, staff, and property. Rockhouse Foundation will also provide students and teachers a much needed expanded kitchen, a new dining space, a vegetable garden for sustainable school nutrition, a new Director's office, and new staff bathrooms.
In addition to the Foundation's historical project components of expanding and renovating under-resourced schools in rural Jamaica, the Foundation will contract a "Cluster Coordinator". This coordinator's function is to unite the Early Childhood Institutions (E.C.I's) by providing professional development, leadership training, quality assurance, and curriculum support, consistent with the Jamaican Ministry of Education's Early Childhood Commission's framework for upgrading education for Jamaica's youngest students. Bunch of Stars will join other Foundation projects at the Negril and Little Bay Infant Schools to form the Foundation's initial cluster of E.C.I's. The Foundation will continue identifying under-resourced E.C.I's over the next several years to grow the cluster of schools that receive more efficient, higher quality services.
Little Bay All Age School
The Foundation completed its 2011 summer capital project in time for the children's return for the 2011-2012 school year at Little Bay All Age School. Located twenty-five minutes from Negril there is a small fishing village called Little Bay. It remains largely unchanged from the time more than 30 years ago when Bob Marley used to journey there for peace and quiet and a little roast fish on the beach. The Little Bay All Age School was built in the early 1970's. It is a steel beam structure without adequate sanitation or kitchen facilities - where children ate and learned at the same desks, had no access to technology, no safe and engaging play and sports space, and no consistent source of potable water.
What they do have is a dedicated and caring staff and leadership who make the very best of this challenging environment everyday as they help prepare their students for the rigors of high school and beyond. Our collaboration and dialogue with the various stakeholders during project planning allowed us to focus on the most pressing needs of the school first. Phase I of the renovations included the expansion of the school to provide a new canteen and renovated kitchen; new outdoor recreation facilities; a learning garden that provides a sustainable nutritious, local food supply for the children; a renovated Infant School classroom with age-appropriate furniture and learning materials; and great improvements to safety and security with new perimeter fencing, walkways, and railings.
The renovations in Phase II included structural work to reinforce the 1970's building; a children's playground; expansion and upgrade of the Principal's office, the staff room, classrooms, and bathrooms; installation of a new multi-media/computer center with internet hook-up for access to critical information resources and the global community; and a new potable water filtration system to mitigate chronic water scarcity. We have ensured that priority needs and solutions were developed as a team and ultimately achieved together. These key improvements to the infrastructure and amenities at Little Bay All Age have already begun to dramatically impact how children learn and how teachers feel as professionals in their workplace.
The Foundation provides ongoing support throughout the school year, as it does with all its project partners. In addition to a free breakfast feeding program, the Foundation also sponsors a teacher to help students who are preparing for the High School Entrance Exam, and others who need extra attention, as well as the garden, grounds and maintenance crew.
Negril Public Library
In 2009 the Foundation completed its most ambitious project to date - a complete modernization and substantial expansion of the Negril Community Library. The library is Negril's oldest extant building and housed the original police station. It is located next door to the Negril All Age School and the Negril Basic School, the Foundation's first two partners in improving places where children learn in Negril, and whose students are amongst the Library's most frequent users.
For decades the library had too little space and too few resources to meet the growing needs and numbers of local students and community residents. The refurbished, expanded facility is well over 4 times larger, equipped with 15 new computers, thousands of new books, a spacious reading room and book stack section, as well as a colorful and engaging junior library. When the Rockhouse Foundation teamed with the Jamaica Library Service (JLS) and the Negril community in 2007 to discuss the proposed library renovation, it never imagined what a radically successful process was about to unfold. Armed with an inspired vision jointly crafted with JLS, a committee of local residents, and architects Chris Stone and David Douglass of Cornerstone Design, the Foundation broke ground in July, 2008 and have now handed over a signature addition to the Negril community. The new, improved library space is a much needed resource and reflects the Foundation's ambition to support learning for children of all ages. The new library reflects the Foundation's ambition to support learning for children of all ages.
Click the link to view the video profiling the Negril Library Project
Negril All Age School
The total renovation of the Negril All Age School was the Rockhouse Foundation's inaugural project. Thirty years ago Negril's only public elementary school served just 100 students, many of them children of fishermen and farmers whose simple lifestyle had defined the community for generations. Presently, the school enrolls over 500 children, a five-fold increase reflecting Negril's growth as a tourist destination and magnet for thousands of Jamaicans seeking steady work. And yet, until the Foundation intervened, the physical plant had literally stood still in time. The renovation redressed decades of over-crowding, deferred maintenance, poor ventilation, inadequate wiring, and leaky roofs.
During the summer of 2004, and then again two years later in 2006, the Foundation took advantage of the brief eight-week summer vacations a very compressed window to complete the extensive renovations and improvements. A remarkable team consisting of craftsmen, sub-contractors, Rockhouse staff, vendors and volunteers from the local community combined efforts and contributed to the following improvements:
During the course of the renovation, the Rockhouse Foundation and the Rockhouse Hotel invested approximately US$160,000 in the Negril All Age School Project. The project generated a tremendous amount of local enthusiasm and support and became a model for relationships the Foundation has built. The Foundation worked closely with the School principal, its teachers, the local school board and community groups, the Negril Chamber of Commerce, the Ministry of Education, and the local Member of Parliament, each of whom lent their full support to the project.
The success of the project is shared with other organizations, most notably the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which made a significant financial contribution to the Foundation. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Kingston donated ten late model computers to the School's new technology and literacy center, and through the Foundation's partnership with the Peace Corps, the School was assigned an experienced technology volunteer.
In an unforeseen use of the newly renovated facilities, the School emerged unscathed after providing temporary shelter to over 150 people when Hurricane Ivan ravaged Negril in 2004.
Negril Basic School
At the back of the property upon which the Negril All Age School is located is Negril Basic School. As the only public Pre-K in Negril, and because of its proximity, the Basic School is the primary feeder for the All Age School and share many of the improved facilities described above in common. When the children departed for summer vacation 2008, heavy equipment cleared trees and debris in preparation for the Foundation's second major project: transformation of the Basic School into a stand-alone pre-school with new furnishings and materials that now enable staff to better meet the developmental and pedagogical needs of Negril's three to five year olds. Specific improvements included:
In addition, recent completion of a new playground for the Negril Basic School created a dedicated play area and equipment to complement improved conditions in their indoor learning space. The new play structure and surrounding play area are complete with outdoor toys, balls, tricycles, hula-hoops, etc.
The Rockhouse Foundation's Roots
Commitment to the community is a cornerstone of the Rockhouse Hotel's vision since its establishment. In the early years, prior to formalizing its programs with the Rockhouse Foundation, the community endeavors were focused on the inner city in Kingston, Jamaica's capital city.
The Trenchtown Development Association (TTDA) is a community-based, non-profit group formed in Kingston in 1995 to promote peace, self-reliance and the redevelopment of a neighborhood which experiences high levels of violence and poverty. Trenchtown was home to Bob Marley prior to his recording success, and in addition to promoting the world famous culture and history of this inner-city neighborhood, TTDA's objective is to maximize the community's resources and develop programs to ensure all members of the community have access to education and health facilities. In the years before the formation of the Foundation, the Rockhouse Hotel worked with the TTDA to realize the success of the following projects:
Additionally, the Hotel helped the TTDA create broader awareness of their cause and source new funding by promoting their story to magazine editors and introducing their good work to potential donors.
Closer to home, the Rockhouse Hotel began its first project at the Negril All Age School: the rehabilitation of the Reading Room. The Hotel funded the purchase of materials and labor for the painting, tiling, electrical installation of lights and fan, and secured the room with new doors. The Hotel also became the sole sponsor of the school's breakfast program, providing a daily cooked breakfast for up to 100 children who would otherwise start the day without a meal. This program, which continues to this day, was previously funded by US AID whose three year commitment was expiring.
At the end of 2003, the owners of the Hotel invited key early supporters of its charitable work to join them in forming the Rockhouse Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization.