On March 31, 2014 Le Antonio’s Foundation launched its “Homework and Development Center” in Montego Bay, Jamaica for inner-city children and young adults.
MONTEGO BAY, (MOBAY) Jamaica –There is tremendous need for ongoing youth development, and programs which provide activities and support for children during the after school hours and throughout the summer; especially for high risk youths in low income neighborhoods with families living below national poverty level. The directors of Le Antonio’s Roofing and Construction, Ltd in MoBay’s inner city have observed the deterioration of the living conditions and the lack of economic opportunities for the area residents and decided to become a part of the solution for the community youths; they stepped up and formed Le Antonio’s Foundation, a non-profit organization which focuses on providing humanitarian aid for the residents.
Within one year of the formation of this Foundation, the organization has gained sponsors and partners to create a welcomed atmosphere with its programs and help for the minority youths. Children, teens and young adults in these neighborhoods are often locked into a cycle of poverty with little or no hope for a brighter future due to the lack of financial resources in the poorer neighborhoods in which they live. These youngsters are presented with an inherited web of struggles for direction and positive opportunities which are needed to keep them safe and on track for a crises free future –stagnated by poverty, school dropout, teen pregnancy, crime, homelessness, hunger, prostitution, illegal drug dependency, abuse, sickness, and even death or suicide. LAF is determined to see these youths succeed by providing the right place, right time and right opportunity.
Businessman Antonio McKoy of Le-Antonio’s Roofing and Construction Ltd in Montego Bay assists two students from the inner-city community of Barnett Lane with their homework at the recently opened homework centre in the area. More than 30 students from Barnett Lane and its environs use the facility daily.
Research indicates that supervised after school and summer programs not only keep children safe and out of trouble, but they also significantly improve their academic achievements. Job training and mentoring, with interactions of sports activities provide the youths and young adults with hope of becoming responsible citizens; and possibly breaking the cycle of poverty within their families.With the operation of Le Antonio’s Foundation-Homework and Development Center, the community will also benefit from nutrition, and future endeavors that will uplift the parish of St James, and its beautiful town of MoBay.
According to statistics, Jamaica, West Indies has a population of only 2.8 million persons, with approximately 800,000, youths (10-24 years) or some 30% of the total population;in which the poor socio-economic realities of their families often result in a breakdown in the overall family units. This creates shifting households, and in some cases leads to involvement of illegal activities such as crime and violence, gang warfare, drugs, prostitution (sex tourism), teenage pregnancy, HIV and STD’ which often goes untreated due to lack of education and financial resources. The families from which the majority of these youths belong, live below the poverty level with unavailability and limited access to youth friendly reproductive healthcare and other services.
- UNEMPLOYMENT CHALLENGES
In Jamaica the inner-city youths face major stigma and discrimination based on the communities in which they reside. “Unattached youths” between the ages of 18-24 (those not in school, unemployed and not participating in any training program) comprise approximately 30% of the total youth population. Unemployment rate amongst youth is 31% even though the national unemployment rate is 11%. Inadequate educational opportunities in Jamaica’s inner cities leads to limited academic achievement and challenges in students matriculating to tertiary level of education, which impacts the quality of the labour force as the residing residents are generally unqualified for the local jobs available.
- EDUCATION CHALLENGES
26.2% (percent) of male and 7.9% (percent) of Jamaica’s female youth (age ranges 15-24 years ) are illiterate. Irregular school attendance and under performance at school both at the elementary and secondary levels contribute to 25% of the population’s “unattached youths,” who attain only a ninth grade (grade 9 ) level or less of education; this is in direct connection to the lack of financial resources within the families of the poverty stricken communities; which has very little positive reinforcement, role models, outlets or resources to help the young people. Males usually become school dropouts earlier, as they are expected to become breadwinners and family support as early as the fifth (5th) and sixth (6th) grade. Females usually become dropouts due to by age 15 due to unwanted teenage pregnancies–as they become prey to the older men who promise a little financial help in trade for sex.
Children with Disabilities & Special Needs-Jamaica’s educational institutions are not fully equipped to identify and offer support for children with special needs; these children often drop out of schools prior to the secondary level of school and return home without hope.
- NUTRITIONAL NEEDS
Even with the support of Jamaica’s government program in schools –The Program of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH); lack of proper nutritional support is still a continued issue among the school aged youths. Most of the children living in the poverty stricken communities with families that live below the average poverty levels, the meal at school may be the only meal the child receives for the day. The Le Antonio’s foundation will provide an additional meal or snack to students attending the Homework and Development Center; as proper nutrition is vital to growth and learning.
- HOMICIDAL VIOLENCE
Based on the Jamaica’s recent crime statistics, youth within the age range of 16-24 years accounts for 49.4% of all major crimes, with males representing 98.7% of those arrested. Homicidal violence is a leading social problem with-77% by the gun. It is male on male, youth on youth, poor on poor–sometimes reprisal killings. This statistic can be linked to the areas where the youths are presented with very little hope and extreme poverty, where crime becomes and occupation.
Le Antonio’s Foundation Contributes to a Solution
Montego Bay’s inner cities communities experiences its share of incidences of crime and violence, truancy, teen pregnancy, prostitution, high school dropouts and substance abuse –due to a lack of constructive activities and resources for its youth. It is with this outlook that the visionaries of Le Antonio’s Foundation recognized the potential benefits of a quality after school and summer program, with job training and mentoring –which will provide a safe haven for the inner city youths of MoBay, Jamaica.
Annual Christmas Treat and Fun Fair
In December 2013, over one hundred and fifty (150) children of Barnet Lane, Railway Lane and surroundings inner-city communities in Montego Bay, Jamaica came out to enjoy the festivities of a community Christmas Fair. Le Antonio’s Foundation hosted its first annual Christmas Treat and Fair —sponsored by the Le Antonio’s Roofing and Construction. The main street nearing the corporate office of Le Antonio’s Foundation was blocked and secured by police patrol for the festivities. Families, friends and children buzzed around for toys, food, ice-cream, musical (concert style) entertainment from (sponsored) live national reggae artist such as Roland Burrell, a marching band and music by a DJ — spinning records — all in “Island Style.”
Summer Break Party
A party is always a fun event for children; so as the children put away their classroom activities and anticipate the 2014 summer break, LAF sent them off with the blessings of a party! The students of Le Antonio’s Foundation gathered for party treats, food, ice cream and soccer gears. The Foundation will plan this event annually, sponsors are invited to donate party goods, food, entertainment, summer treats, and financial gifts to the help make this event a continued success.
Back to School Treat
Le Antonio’s Foundation partners with the Rotary Club of Montego Bay Sunrise, the Montego Bay Boys & Girls Club and the National Commercial Bank amongst other organizations for sponsorship of their Annual Back to School Treat and Book Drive, which was held on August 11, 2014 at 1 Barnet Lane, Montego Bay, and provided over two-hundred (200) students with backpacks and school supplies to begin the school year that fall. As part of the Back to School Treat, 28 students received free medical check-ups, which was sponsored by Montego Bay based physicians, Jaqueline Chambers, MD, Ucal Thompson, MD and David Brown, MD. The inner-city children also received free opthalmology testing and eye glasses (when necessary) by sponsor Professional Eye Care, located in Baywest, Montego Bay. Three (3) students received scholarships from sponsors Councilwoman Suzette Brown, Montego Bay based national radio station Mello FM, and Le Antonio’s Construction, Ltd.
Le Antonio’s Foundation fully endorses literacy as an essential skill in today’s world. We believe that every child should have the fundamental right to a substantial education. We have recognized the need for an “After School Program” that will benefit the children in the community of Barnett Lane and its environs. Our aim is to work closely with these children by assisting them with their homework and provide them with tutorials on topics that they were not able to grasp well during school. Our volunteers include trained teachers, High School Graduates and other professionals.
The “After School Program in the Homework Center” will commence at 3:00pm – 7:00pm on weekdays. We also intend to organize a Reading Program on Saturdays. The students who are registered with the Homework and Development Center, receive one on one assistance with their homework assignment on a daily basis. Through tutoring, mentorship and use of computers and our Research Center, the children are better able to do further research on their own, with the supervision of a tutor.The focus and mandate of this Center will be to provide both the environment and appropriate resources to help the children of the community realize their full potential.
Volunteering: Time given by volunteers in advancing the work of Le Antonio’s Foundation is time spent valuably and productively. The objectives of LAF focus mainly on the uplifting and empowering of the lives of children who need opportunities, resources and encouragement. Volunteers to this pivotal undertaking are invaluable and will find their own life experience enriched by their involvement with the LAF and the students.
As Le Antonio’s Foundation forms partnership with employers and companies –young adults registered in the training program of LAF’s Development Center will have the opportunity to gain internships and development training in and out of the Center. Le Antonio’s Development Center will prepare youths for obstacles as they begin to face pre-adult or adult life and support them when they run into problems. Youths ( at-risk or not) often have unrealistic career and personal goals based on what they learn from the mass culture. From the base of a caring relationship, LAF can help young adults and youths form realistic and reachable career, personal, and educational goals. Most youths do not attain reachable goals on their own –like any of us, they are more likely to excel with leadership and guidance. Only an adult who not only maintains an active relationship with these at-risk youths, but care deeply about their well-being will be able to help them form reachable short term and long term goals, and work with them to attain their goals. This is what relationships formed between Le Antonio’s Foundation and the youths will afford for each young person registered with LAF’s Development Center.
Youths from kindergarten age through high school will have access to learning materials, tools and an art tutor who will assist them in developing their overall artistic abilities. As measured by the (Youth ARTS Development Project, 1996, U.S. Department of Justice; Arts Education Partnership, CAAE), art education tremendously impacts the developmental growth of every child and has been proven to help level the “learning field” across socioeconomic boundaries.
- Arts education has a measurable impact on at-risk youth in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems, while also increasing overall academic performance among those youth engaged in after school and summer arts programs targeted toward delinquency prevention.
- Arts education in schools increases test scores across every subject area, lowers drop out rates, and helps close the achievement gap regardless of socioeconomic status.
Le Antonio’s Foundation understand that there is a great need in helping parents and student to secure funding for secondary and higher education. LAF will source partners who are willing to fund or grant scholarships. Le Antonio’s Foundation will award scholarships to registered students with financial difficulties who have maintained higher academic averages and respectful conducts. All scholarship awards provided to students are as a result of public and private donations. Scholarships are mainly provided to students that have fulfilled the required level of studies and training with the Le Antonio’s Foundation and will require more financial support to further their studies.
Sponsorship of A Student: The sponsorship program is still continued and many less fortunate students benefit from it, where an adult or business can sponsor a student or young adult.
Montego Bay Boys & Girls Club
Students who are registered with Le Antonio’s Homework and Development Center, also have the privilege of registering with the Montego Bay boys & girls club and have a wider involvement with extracurricular activities (i.e. Marching Band, playing musical instruments, singing, and sports activities).
Sports & Community Social
Le Antonio’s Foundation wishes to partner with communities and encourages the youths to participate in sports and other social activities. With charitable donations and sponsorship LAF will provide the community with sport gears and equipment. Recreational and physical activities foster physical skills that will help the at-risk youths develop self-esteem, and attain skills in team effort such as cooperation and conflict resolution.