When a student displaced by Hurricane Dorian asked Allied Supply general manager Kwame Selver for “a couple dollars” to buy food, little could the twelfth grader imagine he would land a job for himself and three friends. “I thought, ‘I could give him some cash to get something to eat or I could give him some good money, something more substantial than a plate of food – the opportunity to work for us,’” said Mr Selver who operates the plumbing, electrical and hardware supply store on Carmichael Road. “I wanted to train them, not give them fish but teach them how to fish. That’s a lesson I learnt from my father [the late Mirza Selver]. When you work for what you want, you appreciate it more.” The store’s general manager placed Carlos Philip, Frednel Joseph, Wealthy Cherisme and Enrico Joseph to work carrying out various tasks around the property. Mr Selver also took time out of his schedule to speak with the youths about work ethics.
The four young men from Abaco are the newest students of Teleos Christian School where Mr Selver previously served as vice principal. The school is supported by New Testament Baptist, the church the Allied Supply boss attends. It was Agape Christian School’s senior boys’ basketball coach, Stephen Johnson who placed two of the teens on the church’s radar. Shortly after Hurricane Dorian made its deadly, destructive trek through much of Abaco, Coach Johnson reached out to his friend David Adams, New Testament’s Pastor and Teleos Administrator to see whether the school would accept two of his players. “I told him it wasn’t so much whether they could play.
I was just interested in helping people. Initially we accepted three of his boys, but word quickly spread. We ended up with 19 students from across Abaco, a mix of boys and girls,” said Pastor Adams. The small Christian school costs $680 per term but decided to tighten up its budget and waive tuition for evacuees who increased its student population by nearly 10 percent. Displaced students also received free uniforms, textbooks and free lunch from the school. “We’re a small school doing our little part. These are very good kids. They have the right spirit. Their characteristics have shown who they are. I feel like an investment in them is an investment in the future,” said Pastor Adams. “We want them to learn not to give up on life, that there are people out there who are concerned about them. There is still hope.” The message is sinking in, particularly for 17-year-old Carlos Philip formerly of Marsh Harbour.
“Without Pastor Adams we don’t know how we would feel today. I thank God for him, Brother Kwame and others,” said Philip whose parents have returned to Abaco with his little brother. He opted to remain behind to complete his senior year. Pastor Adams is feverishly working to obtain more permanent accommodations for Philip and fellow teammate, Cherisme. The latter is one of Coach Johnson’s basketball scholarship players from Agape. Both Philip and Cherisme resided in a shelter until recently, when they found an apartment to rent for a few months. “Everyone there [were] becoming used to it [the shelter]. They made that shelter home, but that’s not my home,” said Cherisme, the fourth of his mom’s eight children.
“Having a job can help me and my mother. God gave us second chances.” Cherisme has adjusted well at Teleos, a school reminiscent of his former one. Still, that doesn’t stop him from missing his friends and the head prefect position he anticipated holding his senior year. For Frednel Joseph of Treasure Cay, Abaco the school is vastly different from his old one, S C Bootle High. “It’s smaller but it’s better because it’s a Christian school and there isn’t all that drama,” said the honor roll student, whose mom was able to secure an apartment for the family of four. Joseph learnt about the school from his cousin, Enrico, one of Coach Johnson’s players. For the four teens life is slowly returning to normal. That includes being able to earn some money of their own, something they haven’t been able to do until now. “I come from hard times,” said Enrico Joseph. “I’m seeing better opportunities some guys wish they had.”