Everyday around 3 o’clock we head down to the Runaway Bay Resource Centre to teach classes in an after school program for forty local children.
Facilities and support for the program are provided by the Runaway Bay United Church.
Some of the local volunteers who help run the program are from the congregation
Mildred Beach with students at the Runaway Bay Resource Centre
and it is where the program’s founders Mildred and Tony Beach attend church during the six months of the year they make their home in Jamaica.
Supplies for the program are kept in this converted shipping container and the older students preparing for their upcoming national exam have classes in the refurbished container. We meet with our students in the church hall.
Tony Beach (on the right) and Lenny a local volunteer who runs the tutoring program and resource centre during the spring and early fall months when the Beachs are in Winnipeg
Tony Beach was born and grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, but went to Winnipeg to study as a young man. He met and married Mildred Toews a Manitoba teacher and social worker, and stayed in Canada where he had a successful career as an engineer.
Later in their married life Mildred suggested she and Tony start vacationing in Tony’s home country so she could get to know it better. Over the years they ended up returning often to various small resort complexes in Runaway Bay, Jamaica. Finally they sold Tony’s engineering firm, and their St. Vital home, and built The Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast in Runaway Bay.
Tony shows Dave some of the flowers and plants he cares for on the beautiful grounds of the Morning Glory Bed and Breakfast
From May to October they live in a small apartment in Winnipeg and Tony continues to work as an engineer. From November to April they live in Runaway Bay and open their home to guests. After their bed and breakfast was built Tony and Mildred quickly got involved in the local community in Runaway Bay. One social need among many they identified, was for some kind of enrichment and activity program for kids who went home after school to very small houses some with no electricity or running water, large single parent families, violent neighborhoods and in some cases lack of supervision because adults in the family were absent trying to eke out a living with part-time jobs. They also realized that many children in Runaway Bay struggled with basic reading and writing skills which would make it difficult if not impossible for them to pass the GSAT- Grade Six Achievement Test which allows them to go on to a good highschool.
School children in Runaway Bay face many educational challenges-large class sizes, unqualified teachers, rundown building and playground facilities, lack of supplies, shortened school days so schools can operate in shifts, poorly monitored early childhood education programs, and unaffordable fees for uniforms, lunches and transportation.In cooperation with their church in Jamaica and a group of local volunteers Mildred and Tony established the Runaway Bay Resource Centre to offer after school nutrition, academic instruction and purposeful activities for a group of forty children five days a week during the school year. Tony and Mildred hold a fundraising event in Winnipeg each fall and they have some generous business and private donors who provide financial contributions for running the program. When the children in the program go on to high school their families are given modest monetary assistance by the Resource Centre to help with school expenses. Tony and Mildred also help some of the single parent families with younger children who are really struggling to meet the costs for keeping their kids in school.
The centre has received donations of books, teaching resources, sports equipment, clothing, toys and school supplies from many people. This makes it possible for Tony and Mildred to give the children T-shirts to wear at the centre, Christmas gifts, books to have at home and provide them with new shoes periodically.The program depends heavily on a half-dozen or so local volunteers, like Sister Mac, a retired teacher pictured here with the students, who give daily academic instruction to small groups of children.When volunteer teachers like Dave and I come for a few weeks we can provide enrichment activities for the larger group like games and music and storytelling and we work with small groups of students who need extra help with reading and basic math skills.
Since Tony and Mildred first established the Resource Centre in 2008 it has gone through many changes. The Beaches are always looking for new ways to improve the program and in turn the lives of the children they serve.
Other posts about Jamaica……..
Building A House in Jamaica
Wish I Had Them In Jamaica
Pirates, Plantations, Political Activists and Pot
Acquiring a Taste for Jamaican Food
Dead Yard Party