Start-up provides needed furniture for rural Jamaican schools

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A report by Alexandra Simon for Caribbean Life.

A Massachusetts-based organization is giving much needed furniture to schools in need in rural parts of Jamaica. The One Chair 4 One Child (OC4OC) group recently donated 75 desks and chairs to the Bellevue Primary School in Perth Town, Jamaica.

As a student who often encountered limited seating during her own early education, Racquel Knight wanted to change that and founded the organization in an effort to reduce the crisis.

“As a child growing up, I went through the struggle of having to find chair for school deal with waiting 30 minutes or more for a desk,” she said. “It was the way of life for me, and I didn’t pay attention that this was a problem until I went to school in Kingston or when I moved to the states.”

Formerly a student of the school some 20 years ago, Knight said the lack of desks was a constant problem, not only for her generation, but also for her father’s generation as well. And after a trip to her hometown three years ago, she witnessed that it remained an issue and her younger siblings were experiencing it.

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“While I was there I saw the same problem, and I’m 28 years old so why was it still happening,” said Knight.

She said a lack of seating in an educational facility forces students to decide between their comfort and learning, and is a test of patience because some students become so frustrated that they abandon studies or cut classes.

When Knight left Jamaica to complete her higher education in the U.S., she said she often thought about the desk problem, and was inspired to find a solution.

“When I came back to the states to live here, it kept bothering me, and while I was in school thinking of creating a project that can fix a social problem, the chair issue resurfaced in my mind.”

Last week, the organization delivered the desks to the school and every student in the class was seated, according to Knight. “The community was very excited and so were the kids — they were excited about the new chairs,” said Knight. “Even the principal said he was finally happy to see a past student do this, and that this was a great thing for these students and community because it makes his work easier. It was an amazing experience, not only for them, but for me and my team.”

In collaboration with Peters Field High School also in Jamaica, juniors and seniors registered in a carpentry course built all the desks for OC4OC and received a school credit and stipend, said Knight. She credits her philantrophic drive for the idea behind OC4OC, and said even though poverty somewhat normalized the custom of lack of chairs, she hopes to continue changing the narrative and aims to bring more furniture to other rural schools.

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