The Banana Boat School Brigade

The Banana Boat School Brigade, an outreach project of BBP, is an effort to bring badly needed supplies to some very impoverished schools in Jamaica. A few years ago while I was visiting Mocho, a small town in the countryside of Jamaica, the country of my birth. I became acutely aware of the fact that some of the schools in Jamaica were very poorly subsidized. While we in the United States are typically used to having well-stocked and well-staffed school systems, the hard-pressed government in Jamaica often fails in this regard and tends to give inadequate support to even the neediest schools. Many of these schools must fend for themselves and depend on the kindness of charitable organizations and the use of very old, hand-me-down materials. The physical school conditions are often deteriorated, and the kids are frequently left with little or very substandard school supplies.

As in any society, the quality of a country's educational system has far-reaching effects on the ultimate social, economic, and political growth of that country. It has been seen, especially in economically depressed areas, that the better the schools are, the more incentive there is for parents to get their kids to school, given that attendance is such a pervasive problem. Equally important, however, is the joy that children experience in viewing school as a positive place where they are being adequately taken care of and where they have the means to develop skills that enhance their developing curiosity, their personal autonomy, and their self-esteem.

Below is a list of some of the supplies that are typically needed by our targeted schools. If you have other material that you think might be useful, please keep in mind that every donated item will be put to good use and is tax deductible. Thank you very much.

Suggested Items That Are Needed

  • crayons

  • markers

  • pencils

  • pens

  • all kinds of stationery

  • construction paper

  • notebooks

  • safety scissors

  • all kinds of arts and

  • crafts material

  • coloring books

  • reading books

  • educational books

  • toys

  • games

  • sports equipment

  • small musical instruments

  • such as flutes or percussion

  • small stuffed animals

  • classroom computers

  • digital educational devices

  • DVD players and monitors

  • DVD's and CD's for children

  • educational software

Sandy Park Basic School is located in a depressed area of Liguanea, Kingston. On an average there are about sixty children, ages 3-6. We visit this school about every three months developing theatrical, personal expression, and musical workshops. We also try to time our visits so that we may attend some of their special events, such as school pageants, soccer tournaments, and spelling bee contests. The particular donated supplies that we bring to this school result from an ongoing collaboration with school personnel. This school has three people on staff. 
The photos from this school were taken during various visits between 2006 & 2015.

School of Hope, located in May Pen, Clarendon, has over one hundred mentally challenged children, ages 6-18. This school endeavors to prepare its students for all the issues they currently face and will encounter as adults in the future. The overall goal is to help them grow up with pride and dignity. We visit this school twice a year taking supplies geared to their special needs. In October 2009, I (Merlina) was able to get a group of my co-workers (Caribbean Diversity Resource Group) from American Airlines to dedicate their yearly school mission to the needs of this school. The school gave us a wish list and the group collected all the items that were requested. This was done through individual donations and also through fundraising geared to collect money to purchase more costly items such as computers, televisions, fans, and other useful items. 

The St. Andrew Parish Church Care Center was brought to our attention in January of 2010. This centre caters to the needs of boys ages 10-18 who are classified as "at risk boys", mainly because they have dropped out of the formal school system because of a myriad of reasons such as, poor skills, inappropriate behavior, and mental disabilities. 

The Care Centre provides the following programs for their students: 

  • (a) Skills evaluation and employment possibilities.
  • (b) Psychological evaluation and counseling based on their social and emotional needs.
  • (c) A hostel for their living accommodations
  • (d) Regular classroom academic curriculum 

We did our first visit to this school September 2010 

Herrick Early Childhood Institution is another basic school in the Kingston area. It has around 160 children from ages 3-6, and it is located in a community called New Haven. The school is badly in need of computers along with the usual school supplies and necessities. Notes to the parents are currently written by hand. Despite the fact that the school gets very little assistance from the government, the 6 staff members who work there do very well with the children who attend.

School Brigade Photo Gallery

School Brigade Video Gallery

Items donated by Ivan Pharmacy
691 Columbus Ave, NYC

Items donated by Lisa Frances