Meeting the health, education needs of children in Jamaica

A doctor gives a student an eye exam during the mobile health clinic. Photo courtesy Liguanea Plains Rotary Club.

By Carolyn Graham, a member of the Rotary Club of Liguanea Plains, Jamaica

For the 2012-13 Rotary year, the Rotary Club of Liguanea Plains, Jamaica, is focusing on “Peace Through Literacy.” We see literacy as important in strengthening all other areas of life, as it provides the mental acuity needed to acquire life skills and coping strategies.

On 12-14 September, we sponsored a mobile health clinic to New Providence Primary School. More than 150 children from first through sixth grade were given eye screenings and a general checkup by a doctor. The club follows up with teachers and parents to see that children with vision problems receive correction through additional screening or eye glasses. Correcting these problems helps remove impediments to the student’s learning.

Students arrive for the mobile health clinic. Photo courtesy Liguanea Plains Rotary Club.

The clinic is part of our club’s pursuit of both the literacy and child and maternal health areas of focus. The two have converged rather nicely for us. When our club was chartered in 2005, members wanted to do something to help the many neglected children in Jamaica. As the years passed, we began to look beyond just addressing infrastructure needs at schools — fixing bathrooms, providing proper areas for drinking water, supplying computers and reading resources — to attending to the health and mental needs of students as well.

Since 2005, the Liguanea Plains club has partnered with the Shipping Association of Jamaica to host wellness tours across several communities in urban Jamaica. To date the tour has delivered health screening services to approximately 2,500 Jamaicans in 12 communities and three schools, including screening for diabetes, blood pressure, and eye diseases.

Most of the services have been provided free of cost or at very modest cost. Follow up services are at times provided via prescription drugs, eye glasses, or further screening based on support received from partner Rotary clubs, corporate donors, and other charitable organizations like Food For the Poor.

Our literacy program has expanded as well. We conduct bi-weekly classroom readings and have an ongoing book and dictionary drive. Last year, first-grade students received a book a month for the first four months. We have also held seminars for parents and teachers to help them play more effective roles in the children’s education. We have conducted student outings to book stores, and a Saturday remedial reading class for third-graders, led by a specialist paid for by the club.

Working in the area of literacy has been the most gratifying part of my Rotary experience.

Source: Rotary Voices

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