Walkathon will raise money to build schools in Jamaica

by Lincoln Depradine
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Karl Hale

The COVID-19 pandemic, which was responsible for more than seven million deaths worldwide, also impacted people’s lives socially and economically; it also affected children’s education.
Among those children were students at Jamaica’s schools, said Karl Hale, founder and chair of Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation (HHJF), a charitable organization dedicated to education development through investment in areas such as infrastructure, health and wellness.
“The literacy rates, due to COVID, have dropped significantly, because the children didn’t have access to the internet, computers, tablets and other things. We need a big push to get those literacy levels back to where we want them,” Hale told Share.
Hale made the comment in an interview, while encouraging broad public support for the 2024 HHJF fundraising walkathon.
The 5K “Jam-Walk” walkathon which is now in its 18th year will be held on Saturday, May 25, starting at the Palais Royale at the waterfront in downtown Toronto. Participants will be treated to brunch.
According to HHJF organizers, this is a “one-of-a-kind event” that brings together “fundraising, philanthropy and island hospitality”, and which also allows participants to “enjoy a morning filled with family fun and excitement, including a delightful brunch, refreshments, reggae music and more”.
The HHJF is committed to “ensuring that every child – regardless of socio-economic status or location – has access to education. We invite all who share this belief to join us for Jam-Walk,” urged Hale, a former Jamaica Davis Cup tennis player.
The walkathon, and other fundraisers of the foundation, have enabled members to offer scholarships to students, to finance school-feeding programs and to implement community initiatives such as an elderly food assistance program.
HHJF also has been responsible for building libraries, lavatories and clean water systems in various parts of Jamaica.
However, as HHJF puts it, its “core mission is building new schools”.
So far, the foundation has constructed 26 schools, including the Goodwill Early Childhood Learning Centre in Port Antonio dedicated to HHJF founding member, the late entertainment promoter Denise Jones.
In 2023, HHJF celebrated the completion of the Orange Bay Infant School.
The foundation wants to raise at least $50,000 with this year’s event on May 25, said Hale. The money will support construction of the Dumfries Infant/Primary School in Jamaica’s St. James Parish.
HHJF volunteers are planning a trip to Jamaica in July to work on the school, which they expect to be ready for the start of fall semester.
“We want Jamaicans, friends of Jamaica, and Caribbean-Canadians to come out and support us and support education in Jamaica at the Jam-Walk 5k walk and brunch,” Hale said.
HHJF, whose mission is to enhance “the lives of the next generation of children, young adults and their communities”, is encouraging would-be walkathon participants to register online.
The foundation will host another fundraiser on Friday, October 18 titled the Jamrock Gala.
HHJF says it has “set its sights on raising significant funds to construct schools that will transform the education level, and increase education access, for children living in Jamaica’s under-resourced communities. These schools will be equipped with classrooms furnished with age-appropriate student furniture and essential facilities, including kitchens, staff and student bathrooms, sickbays, fencing, playgrounds, and water-harvesting systems”.
More information about HHJF is available by calling 416-988-9898; and at Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation.

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