MoBay Businessman Antonio McKoy

MoBay Businessman Helping To Improve Lives at Barnett Lane

MONTEGO BAY, St James — For many years businessman Antonio McKoy had been hearing about the plight of residents living in several inner-city communities in St James.

But he only became aware of the extent of the slew of social and economic ills that beset some of these communities after he relocated the offices of his construction company — Le-Antonio’s Roofing and Construction Ltd — a few years ago, from the upscale Ironshore area to Barnett Lane, one of several inner-city communities in Montego Bay.

“The needs in the community are great,” McKoy told the Jamaica Observer

“The residents don’t have a lot; there are a lot of idle hands, there are a vast number of uneducated persons and there are a lot of kids roaming the streets and not getting the help they need at home.”

The savvy 36-year-old businessman has since started to play his part in improving the social and economic conditions of residents in Barnett Lane, as well as the surrounding communities.

Cognisant that literacy is an essential skill in today’s world, McKoy has embarked on a mission to educate residents, starting with the children.

Earlier this year, the businessman, through his Le-Antonio’s Foundation, which was established last year, opened a Homework Center in a section of his business establishment, which now accommodates 75 registered children between the ages of six and 16 from Barnett Lane and its environs.

“Every child, regardless of their socio-economic environment, should have a fair chance and opportunity to a substantial education. Even more so in communities such as Barnett Lane and its environs; hence the need for this after-school programme,” said McKoy, who is the founder and president of the foundation.

“This programme is dedicated to assisting these children with their homework, to [helping them] learn a different language, provide them with tutorials on topics they were not able to grasp well during school, as well as to allow them to go on field trips organised by the Center. Our trained teachers, high school graduates, and other professionals are dedicated to seeing this mission fulfilled,” he told the Sunday Observer.

He added that there is also a Mentorship Program in place at the facility.

The after-school programme commences at 3:00 pm and lasts until 7:00 pm on weekdays, McKoy said, noting that plans are well-advanced for the organisation of a reading programme on Saturdays.

Aptly named Le Antonio’s Homework and Development Centre, the facility provides a relaxed but controlled environment, outfitted with the necessary resources geared to enable students to realise their full potential.

“We know that these precious children of these communities can become doctors, lawyers, engineers, police, and nurses in the future, but they all need the right opportunity, resources and encouragement,” McKoy said.

The response from the community to the Homework Center, he stressed, has been tremendous.

“The community has responded very well. They really like the idea of the homework centre. And what I like about it is that many of the parents have been coming in to tell me that they like what I am doing. Some of them say, too, that their children are now understanding math much better… it’s really amazing,” McKoy said, adding that the parents really push their children to go to the classes.

Marvette Johnson, the parent of a 12-year-old high school student who attends the centre, believes that the facility is “really helping to uplift the community”.

“It is a good thing for the development of the inner-city community. My daughter and the other children enjoy going there in the afternoons, and they are learning a lot,” said Johnson.

Stressing that education can transform the depressed community, McKoy told the Sunday Observer that plans are also well-advanced to add a research centre to the facility, which, he said, will enable children and adults “to research education-related materials”.

He added that as a result of the success of the homework center, the foundation plans to have it replicated across St James, as soon as funds become available.

At the moment, however, McKoy’s efforts to assist the community are not limited to the homework centre.

Over the past few years, the Montego Bay businessman has been staging annual back-to-school and Christmas treats for scores of children in the community.

He has also spearheaded cleanup and beautification projects in the depressed area.

Several other communities and institutions, including Railway Gardens Basic School, Albion Aids Hospice and Blossom Gardens Children’s Home — all in Montego Bay — have also benefited from the work of the foundation.

Plans are now well-advanced, McKoy said, to stage a Youth Conference in Montego Bay in November 2015.

“The purpose of the Le-Antonio Foundation Youth Conference 2015 is to empower the youths,” McKoy explained, adding that it will focus on a raft of issues impacting the youth.2015 YOUTH CONFERENCE

“It will bring together youths from all over Jamaica, as well as youth speakers from overseas and will be held under the theme: ‘To Influence and Empower Youths to Succeed’,” he said.

Meanwhile, McKoy is urging corporate Jamaica to support the work of the foundation.

“If we had the resources we could do much more, so I am really hoping that sponsors will come on board as we seek to improve the standard of living for the scores of residents in the inner-city communities,” he urged.

NEWS BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large Western Bureau (cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com)

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