More than 125 children from the surrounding communities participated in the Free Town Urban Renewal Centre’s Back-to-School Jamboree held Friday (September 25, 2020) at the Pilgrim Baptist Temple Community Centre, St. James Road. The jamboree, which was originally scheduled to be held at the Free Town Urban Renewal Centre, but was moved to the Church’s Community Centre due to weather, was attended by First Spouse, Mrs. Patricia Minnis, wife of Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis. Mrs. Minnis, representing the Office of the Spouse of the Prime Minister, presented the children with backpacks that were stocked with school supplies including books, pencils, crayons, geometry sets, pens, erasers, rulers, sharpeners, snacks, masks and drinks “everything the children needed.”
New shoes were also provided to those children in need of them. The children were also treated to a hot, nutritious lunch as part of the Urban Renewal Commission’s month-long Lunch Programme — held as a one-year replacement to the Commission’s month-long Summer Camp usually held in July — but rescheduled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Back-to-School Jamborees were held simultaneously in all ten Urban Renewal Centres in New Providence. Officials say more than 1,200 similarly stuffed backpacks were presented to children attending the events. Additional events have been scheduled for Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, which account for the remaining 13 of the 23 Centres that are located throughout the Commonwealth. Mrs. Minnis applauded the Urban Renewal Commission and staff at the Centres for their efforts. The First Spouse said the decision to stage the Back-to-School Jamborees was “significant” as it gave organizers, mentors, community sponsors and volunteers, the opportunity to meet with children across the communities in which Urban Renewal Centres are located and to show the children some additional love outside of the love they receive at home.
“I wanted to come and share with the kids because I wanted them to know that, in addition to the love they receive at home, that there are persons outside of their family circle who are also concerned about their welfare, that love them as well,” Mrs. Minnis said. “This time is very difficult for kids (as) usually they would have been in school with their friends and so we have to engage them. This was a wonderful opportunity to do just that.” Mrs. Minnis also took the opportunity to discuss with the children a
number of the safety measures designed to prevent and/or limit the community spread of COVID-19.
“We have to constantly remind them that it is important that they wear their masks in public spaces in order to protect themselves, and the importance wearing masks plays in helping to reduce the community spread of COCVID-19. We also have to constantly remind them of the proper way those masks should be worn which I think, is the hardest part for many of the children, and also to constantly remind them of the role physical distancing also plays in reducing/preventing community spread.” Mrs. Minnis also continued her message of the importance of education.
“I wanted to let them know that they can be anything in life that they choose to be, but that in order to do so, they must take advantage of every opportunity to get a good education. My passion is mentoring children and so I look forward to these kinds of opportunities to meet with them, to touch elbows with them, to remind them of the importance of a quality education and also of the importance of being obedient to their parents and teachers,” Mrs. Minnis added.
Mrs. Loretta Mackey, Centre Manager at the Free Town Urban Renewal Centre, said Friday’s event, and the three-week luncheon programme, were just two of the many programmes her Centre, and the other Centres throughout New Providence and the Family Islands, have staged prior to, and throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic to assist children, the elderly and families throughout the various communities in which Urban Renewal Centres are located.
“We feel that we are all family,” Mrs. Mackey said. “We have been able to build great relationships with the members of the communities we serve through our various programmes, and the people very much appreciate what we do for them.”