By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Their screams of joy must have been heard for several blocks in Port of Spain as the students of Nelson Street Girls’ RC saw their refurbished school for the first time. It was not just that the school got a facelift with painting, where there was only concrete now has a play space and greenery.
As they entered the school after a thanksgiving Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, there were many wide eyes, jaws dropping and smiles. “Oh my God!” was heard and spontaneous applause erupted. Many students immediately ran toward the play centre to try it out. The execution of this project May 24–26 was done so it would be a surprise at today’s (Monday) unveiling. Vicar General and Cathedral Administrator, Fr Martin Sirju was also present to bless the school.
The scope of work also included: creation of larger classrooms for Standards 4 and 5, relocation and redesign of offices for the principal and Social Service offices, relocation and redesign of the library, creation of an indoor assembly hall and enhanced staff room.
Parents were just as awed by what they saw and captured the scenes with their mobile phones.
“I am very excited. I love the ambiance, the colour scheme, wow!” said Kymesha St Louis, parent of a Standard One pupil. “Splendid, real beautiful,” said Michael Phillips, whose daughter is also in Standard One. Phillips has assisted the school with minor repairs and exclaimed, “Very nice, wayyy…hummm”.
The school staff were also seeing the changes for the first time. Second Year teacher Rachael-Ann Noel-Miller was speechless but managed to say “I am very, very grateful that we were able to be chosen and given this opportunity and to put smiles on our girls’ faces so that there is hope with the situations they have around home and their environment. It changes the whole atmosphere so it is more learning and conducive to learning. I am just so thankful.”
The transformation of Nelson Street Girls’ happened through the efforts of hundreds of volunteers over the weekend, May 25–26 and days prior, and the impetus of a core group of private citizens under the banner Project Care TT. Police officers of the Special Operations Response Team were on site Friday, May 24 painting, refurbishing desks and lockers and helping with some heavy lifting.
The project was linked to the United Way National Day of Caring May 26 www.facebook.com/UnitedWayTT/ and members of the public were asked via Project Care’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/projectcarett/ “Many hands. One Love. Join us”. An appeal was made for picnic benches, ceiling fans and whiteboard.
Nelson Street Girls’ has a population of 352 pupils, catering for a catchment area of Belmont, Sea Lots, East Port of Spain, Laventille, Morvant. The “oasis” which the school provided and efforts of principal Lisa Hinds-Lynch were noted during site visits when the school was being considered for attention. Project Care Coordinator Natasha Kelshall-Pantin said people agree with Project Care’s mandate and like what they are doing for schools.
“The upgrades benefit more than a small group,” she said. There is also a “feel-good factor” for those involved Kelshall-Pantin said.
Volunteer Chantal Dillon, an accountant with EY Trinidad and Tobago was doing her part last Saturday on her day off. “I feel great, I like to help and when I get the opportunity to help others,” she said.
University of the West Indies student, Taylor O’Connor said the project brought together people of different ages and races and it felt “like one big family helping together”, another student Jordan Warner was happy to do something “for the betterment of the community so kids will come to school and be happy.”
This year is Project Care’s ninth year. It has done work at Diego Martin Boys RC 2016, Cocorite Government Primary 2017 and Ascension Anglican 2018.
Photos: Renee Smith