RuJohn Foundation assisting schools, families islandwide despite pandemic

EVEN as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to take a significant toll on the Jamaican population, one organisation, RuJohn Foundation, has reached out to provide assistance to schools and, by extension, families across the island.

The foundation, which is domiciled in Florida, has been making contributions to schools in Jamaica since 2004, gradually increasing the number of schools assisted and with the items varying according to seasonal demands.

Ingrid Bachelor, director of the foundation, detailed the origins of its school-feeding programme.

“In 2017 our president, Christina [Bachelor], wanted to experiment with a feeding programme that was in high demand at certain schools. After a successful stint in 2017 a more formal and robustly organised programme was launched at six schools in 2018.

“After the [coronavirus] pandemic began to ravage the Jamaican society, our organisation began receiving calls for augmentation of food supplies. We were reminded that food is the necessity of life and irrespective of the challenges of the virus we had to continue strengthening our bodies and our immune systems by eating the right food,” Bachelor explained.

The foundation found in Alfred Street Baptist Church the perfect partner to provide assistance in the time of great need.

“In order to sustain the programme Alfred Street Baptist Church in the Virginia/Washington, DC, area provided the needed funds. Deacon Mark Morris was instrumental in securing the necessary funding for the implementation of the programme. He actually said that he anticipated being a big part of the programme of feeding the people in Jamaica. He said ‘I want to feed families,’” Bachelor related.

Bachelor, a Jamaican, has a great appreciation for the challenges being faced by many Jamaican families at the moment and is happy that the contributions of the foundation are making a positive impact on many.

“As a child of extremely humble beginnings in Jamaica, it truly places a huge smile on my face when I literally see the emotional excitement when the families receive their gift baskets. During this time when businesses are closed and people are not able to work to feed their families, I wanted to be a part of a solution to bring joy to the families,” she said.

“Some of the principals have expressed overwhelming elation from several students, and their parents and have verbally sent their thank you via videoconferencing. One parent said he had no food for the following day and was thankful for the items. He was most thankful for the corned beef, mackerel, sardines and sausages. He was also grateful when he found out that all families received the same 17 items in each basket,” she said, adding that the foundation has been receiving photos which are being uploaded to its Instagram page.

Keadean Gray, the guidance counsellor at Trench Town Primary who sees the needs of the students first-hand, was thankful for the donation that her school received.

“First and foremost, we would like to say thanks to the RuJohn Foundation for this kind donation. We honestly appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts, and we can attest to say that our children will appreciate it too,” Gray said.

Merline Sewell-Sullivan, principal at Trench Town Primary, also praised the RuJohn Foundation, one of whose founders is a past student of the school.

“This donation will help a lot of families. Much is in it when God is at the helm and so we would like to extend our appreciation to Byron Bachelor, who is also a past student of this noble institution, Trench Town Primary,” the principal said.

“It is great to see that he is not only lobbying for just Trench Town, but schools in general. I want to say on behalf of the Trench Town school family, a big thank you to the RuJohn Foundation and all its partners,” Sewell-Sullivan said.

Milton Thompson, the senior teacher in charge of welfare at Unity Primary in Westmoreland, while giving thanks, said that the donations would have a far-reaching impact on the school population.

“Let me say a big thank you to the Bachelors and the Rujohn Foundation for this tremendous gift. It will go a far way,” Thompson said.

“At Unity we have 1,600 students and I can assure you that many times students come to school hungry and depressed. We have a breakfast programme going which was started by the RuJohn Foundation. It is still going on during the COVID time, so these products, I know, will benefit students and parents tremendously.

“I would like to say to the RuJohn foundation, it is a good venture; you are doing well. Continue to do what you are doing, you are touching lives and that is what is important,” Thompson said.

Nadine Crossman, principal of Mount Peto Primary in Hanover, was happy to be benefiting from the RuJohn Foundation for the second time in recent months.

“We have been associated with the RuJohn Foundation for five years now and they have offered for us a breakfast programme, contributions and scholarships to our students — and we are indeed grateful for all of this,” she said.

“This is our second time collecting from the RuJohn Foundation during this pandemic and it has greatly helped our vulnerable families. We are very, very grateful for all that has been done and we do express our heartfelt gratitude to them.”

Dave Myrie, principal of Kingston College which served as the distribution point foundation’s donations and which was also a recipient of donations, said that the foundation was saving lives through its generosity.

“The care package donation is a very important one for us. To put it in context we have over 300 boys who are on PATH [Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education] and I will also tell you that, outside of PATH, when school is on we may feed roughly another 300 every day. If it’s not breakfast it may be lunch, or whatever it might be,” Myrie said.

“This pandemic has caused so much stress and pain to families. Many of those students we used to provide food for, the meal we provided for them here during the day may be the main meal that they get and so, not being in school is a significant area of concern both for them, for their parents, as well as for us.

“So, this care package done by the RuJohn Foundation and their donors is a massive relief for many of these students, because in essence they are providing them with food stuff that the family can be taken care of, even if is for a couple of days. I know, based on the feedback that I have been getting from many students, that they are having a very tough time in this particular pandemic,” he said.

“To say that the impact of the donations is significant is an understatement. It may be saving a life because many of these kids are coming from areas and homes that parents are not working and they are just hoping that somebody will take pity on them and help them out.”

The RuJohn Foundation, led by CEO Andrew Bachelor, usually visits the island once a year during which time hundreds of children are exposed to sports and the arts. It also makes scholarship donations to many students. Some of the beneficiaries are now doctors and lawyers in Jamaica.

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