A Day in the Life of the Runaway Bay Tutoring Centre

When we arrive at the tutoring centre in Runaway Bay Jamaica each day at around 3:30 there are always kids there already to greet us. 

Many of them come directly from school but others have walked- sometimes many miles from their homes. In order to economize the local public school operates in two shifts in Runaway Bay so the children who attend early classes have been home since noon and woke up at 5 am to get to school on time. While we wait for the official beginning of the day’s program we read to kids or listen to them read to us. We visit with the kidsor lend a listening ear to their problems. Then the capable Mrs. Williams arrives on the scene. She’s the program’s cook and has prepared some kind of snack for the children- sandwiches, soup, macaroni and cheese or curried chicken and rice. Mrs. Williams leads the children in singing graceand then hands out the meal. Tony and Mildred, the program organizers and founders realized in the early days of the resource centre that often children arrived very hungry because they didn’t have enough money to buy lunch at school or they had last eaten many hours before. Serving a snack prior to the tutoring time really improved the children’s ability to concentrate and learn. While the children are eating a sign-up sheet is passed around so a record can be kept of how many kids have attended each day. If a child misses too often Mildred and Tony may call the parents to find out what’s wrong and to see if they can help. After the kids have eaten Jody Ann helps with clean up. She is a resource centre graduate and now an assistant in the program. Then Tony calls all the kids to the front of the church hall and has a short word with them about expectations for the day before directing them to the various tables placed around the room where they will meet in small groups with their teachers. There are a half-dozen local volunteers and each works with their own small group on academic skills.  The size and composition of these groups are very fluid because some children’s attendance is not very consistent and often volunteers are absent because of illness or other commitments. Although Dave and I have each been given an official group of students for our month at the Resource Centre we’ve learned it’s important to be flexible and come prepared and ready to work with whatever number and combination of children we need to take in each day, depending on which local volunteers show up and which kids are there. After we’ve worked with the children for about an hour and twenty minutes on reading, math, writing and thinking skills Tony calls them all back to the front of the church hall. Some of the local volunteers are called up to recite a Psalm with the children or talk about a Bible Story or just give the children a short talk about their spiritual blessings and obligations. Then closely supervised by a volunteer who makes sure their attitude and participation is monitored they recite a prayer of thanksgiving for the opportunity they’ve had to learn that day. After the volunteer has regained their attention with a hands up order she instructs them to thank everyone who has come to teach them and to thank their fellow students for learning with them. The children recite a little thank you speech and then the volunteer directs them outdoors. Then we visit with Mildred and review what’s happened with our groups that day while we wait for Tony. Mother after mother comes in to talk to him, most often to ask him for some financial assistance for school supplies, to pay for a visit to the optometrist or a pair of glasses for their child, to cover the electrical bill so they have light in the evening for their children to study, or a myriad of other requests. Tony listens compassionately and helps as many people as he is able. Some kids hang around outside to say good-bye but most are gone by the time Tony is ready to head home. 

We are growing very attached to the forty students at the centre and have learned most of their names by now. I already know it will be very hard to leave them in the middle of February. 

You might also want to read…………

The Remarkable Story of the Runaway Bay Resource Centre

Wish I Had Them in Jamaica


Filed under Childhood, Education, Jamaica, New Experiences, Religion, Travel

2 responses to “A Day in the Life of the Runaway Bay Tutoring Centre

  1. Lynda Laurin

    Very impressed with the work you are doing. We are travelling to RB in March and were thinking of bringing some good used clothing to give to locals. Would be women sizes S/M/L. Is this doable? Thanks Lynda


  2. Roberta L. Kirkland

    I dwould like to donate a box of new books for age 4 to 10 called Three Sea Tales. Each box has 35 books which relate to the coral reefs and Jamaican sea creatures. We are leaving for Runaway Bay on Dec. 27th for one week and I will try to get Southwest Airlines to ship the box with us.


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