Nelson and Novella Keith, our group leaders, headed down to Jamaica at the beginning of the month of June to make the necessary arrangements. The rest of the group met on Fri 6/11 at Temple University to share last minute information on the upcoming trip. Laptop computers were distributed. These would be utilized by students and eventually given to various key individuals who are working with us in Jamaica.
Tu 6/15. ARRIVING IN ST. THOMAS. Student arrival at Kingston's Norman Manley International Airport before 2:00 p.m. We traveled to St. Thomas in the East by van and SUV, finally arriving in Retreat's Whispering Bamboo Cove Resort, arriving around 3:00 p.m. I traveled in the Land Rover SUV, which afforded the opportunity to meet Philip Keith, nephew to Nelson and Novella Keith the group leaders. Philip was able to spend much of the week with us. Since he knew Jamaican roads and chaotic driving habits, he regularly took the wheel. Kingsley 'Dave' Keith drove the rest of the students in the van. After arriving and getting settles at the hotel, many of us enjoying a chance to take a dip in the Caribbean Sea. I was somewhat surprised to find out how warm the water was - it was also clouded this afternoon with silt and seaweed. In the evening we headed out to eat at Rover's, and enjoyed a lecture by local historian Devon Blake.
W 6/16. TOURING ST. THOMAS. In the morning several of us again enjoyed a dip in the ocean, Jamal Benin took the time to introduce me (Mike Dorn) to the discipline of Shotokan Karate before breakfast. The rest of the day was spent exploring some of the local sites. Turning inland at Bull Bay and heading uphill we found ourselves at Cane River Falls. Noted in my guide book as a favorite location for Bob Marley to wash out his locks, the walk under a bridge and down a well-maintained set of concrete steps deep into the narrow canyon of the Cane River was fittingly dramatic.
From there the van and suv headed back towards Morant Bay, turning inland again as we got closer to the parish capital city, and heading north along the Morant River north to the remote historical site called Stony Gut. This was the site of the community that the famous revolutionary leader Paul Bogle called 'home.' Recognized today as one of Jamaica's National Heroes, Bogle was a deacon in the Baptist Church in Stony Gut who saw his countrymen suffer after their emancipation in 1835, impoverished by an unreconstructed 'Planter's Parliament' that would not respond to requests for land redistribution. Bogle was a fiery orator who travelled the island preaching a gospel of black liberation and harbored a long set of grievances against the English colonial administrators in St. Thomas. After a cross-country march to petition the Governor in Spanish Town resulted in political inaction, on October 11, 1865, Bogle lead a group of his neighbors to engage in protest at the Courthouse in Morant Bay. They went to the Courthouse where a council meeting was going on and armed policemen and soldiers stood guard. A fight broke out and the guards fired. About 20 of Bogle's followers were killed or hurt. The others drove the guards back into the Courthouse and set fire to the building then killed fourteen Whites as they tried to run away. The rebellion continued into the following day as armed groups attacked plantations across the parish of St. Thomas and two additional planters were killed. The importance of the Morant Bay Rebellion, its origins, dimensions and implications have been documented in numerous books, the most complete being Gad J. Heuman's Killing Time (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1994). In retribution, Paul Bogle and parliament member George William Gordon were executed, along with over 400 'co-conspirators.' The village of Stony Gut was destroyed. Another article on the Jamaica National Historic Trust website notes that archaeologists have recently excavated the foundations for the original Baptist chapel, and that there is a proposal to rebuild the chapel as a memorial to the rebellion. During our visit to the site we found closed tourist hut and 'guide' pointed us to the a historical marker. Meanwhile, the 'bush' steadily reclaims the rest of the site.
Th 6/17. FIRST DAY OF GROUP PROJECTS - Nelson and Novella charged three groups with the responsibility of visiting basic schools (for children ages 4 - 6) and the Women's Clinic in Morant Bay. The schools had recently received donated computers from Edu-Tourism, and we were responsible for gathering information on the teaching staff and leadership of the school, as well as the physical state of the school and their needs, particularly regarding instructional technology.
As the group drove into parking lot for the Women's Clinic (housed in Morant Bay's old post office - photos), I noticed a sign on the corner post for 3D Projects, an Jamaican non-profit organization that provides community-based rehabilitation services, largely for children with disabilities.
Since Philip Keith managed to lock his keys in the SUV, M.J. Lovett, Germaine Edwards and I had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and learn a little bit more about the work of 3D Projects in St. Thomas. The conversion quickly progressed to finding ways that we could help with their work. The branch was receiving less and less material and financial support from the main Spanish Town office. The Community Rehabilitation Workers themselves had little scope for professional development. By the time we had to leave that morning, we had made arrangements to meet again the following week. From there, M.J. Lovett, Germaine Edwards and Mike Dorn traveled to the Duhaney Pen Basic School. While Mike did some computer instruction for the principal, MJ took some pictures of the young students. There were two other groups of students. The group of Jamal Benin, Emma Doyle, Jessica Passucci and Biany Perez spent the morning at the Women's Clinic and then from there walked to Christ Chapel Basic School. Both visits appeared to have gone well. Emma, Jessica and Biany led a discussion with the teens and young adults who had turned to the Center for support when the became pregant and were forced to leave school. These were tough women, and it took a good amount for them to open up to this group of Americans. The visit to Christ Chapel Basic School was interesting as well, because the amount of computer resources there were so much greater than what one found at the other basic schools in the region. The group of Daniel Savage, Jessica Lique and Brendan Hayes visited the school 'in the bush,' Officially, it is called Needham Pen Basic School. They found a very warm welcome there from the children who were so pleased to have visitors.
Fr 6/18. SECOND DAY OF GROUP PROJECTS: needs assessments and computer installations at the basic schools. This day the groups split up again. M.J., Germaine, Jamal and Mike were dropped off at Calvary Mission Basic School. This school was much different than the one that M.J., Germaine and Mike had visited the day before. Calvary was much larger - teacher informed us that they had approx. 300 students on the books. Discipline at a school of such size was much stricter. But when the students took a lunch break and Mike began to take pictures of them, they went wild with excitement. Safety concerns prevented the children from even getting out in the sun for lunch. We were at the school to install two computers in their brand new computer lab. Once the setup was complete, M.J. and Mike guided groups of five students through brief introductions to the keyboard, the mouse, and simple research or creative tasks.