When the border closed in Jamaica in March 2020, overnight hundreds of hotels and tourist destinations closed indefinitely leaving thousands of employees abruptly and mercilessly without a livelihood. Hospitality, along with remittances, sustains Jamaica’s chronically fragile economy, and overnight both declined dramatically.
Schools closed at the same time as the borders, instantly creating further hardship and chaos for families who, at that time, mostly saw the pandemic as a distant and mysterious threat. In Jamaica, like most places globally, the knock-on effects of the school closures were devastating, leaving parents scrambling for daycare (for the few who remain employed), and depriving them of a critical, daily source of nutrition for their children.
Rockhouse Foundation was scrambling too. With schools closed, day-to-day activities supporting our partners were involuntarily and indefinitely suspended. It was immediately evident that we were needed more than ever, and our Covid Relief initiative took shape within just a few days. Initially, the Foundation organized a distribution of food staples leftover in the Sav Inclusive kitchen, but we understood the urgency of establishing a sustainable, significant food distribution initiative at each of our partner schools.
The Rockhouse Foundation turned to our network of generous and loyal donors, creating a Covid Relief Fund and raising over US$100,000 within a matter of weeks, supported by a live online benefit concert featuring long term supporters Chronixx and Shaggy. We began distributing bi-weekly food staples to our schools’ most vulnerable families with packages that included 10 lbs flour, 10 lbs rice, 3 lbs sugar, cans of tin mackerel, cooking oil, cornmeal and a fresh chicken. The distribution are made through the Foundation’s partner school network: Sav Inclusive School, Moreland Hill Primary School, Little Bay All Age and Infant School, and the Bunch of Stars ECI.
With our annual fundraising campaign at the end of 2020 we extended the amount raised for this important cause and doubled the number of schools receiving distributions, adding Green Island Primary, St Paul’s Primary, Broughton Primary and Revival All Age School. This expansion has been funded in part from a generous donation from the TUI Cares Foundation.
To date, Rockhouse Foundation has distributed over 200 tons of food staples in a program that has been going on continuously since March 2020.