The Rockhouse Foundation
The Rockhouse Foundation transforms the places where Jamaica’s children learn and supports the people who teach them. The Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that its contributions to education are meaningful and long-lasting, through ongoing facility maintenance and on-site support. It employs early childhood specialists who deliver technical assistance and professional development for the faculty and staff of the Foundation’s early childhood schools. Since its inception, the Foundation has completely transformed and modernized five schools: Moreland Hill Primary and Infant Schools, Negril All Age School, Negril Basic School, Little Bay All Age and Infant Schools, Bunch of Stars E.C.I., in addition to the complete renovation and expansion of the Negril Community Library. Through these projects the Rockhouse Foundation directly impacts the lives of thousands of young people and their families.
The Rockhouse Hotel and its owners underwrite all of the administrative expenses of the Rockhouse Foundation, allowing every cent of every donation to directly support its projects. The Rockhouse Foundation is a New York State-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In 2014, the Rockhouse Foundation celebrated its 10th Anniversary, and has invested over $3 million to help improve education for Negril’s young people. Latest projects encompass:
1. Inclusion Model Special Needs Early Childhood School In Jamaica, like most developing countries, children with physical and developmental special needs are frequently deprived of treatment by health and education systems that are unable to offer facilities, adequately trained professional care, affordability, or simple proximity. Rockhouse Foundation, in close partnership with Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, is establishing a comprehensive early childhood inclusion model school for students across the full spectrum of special needs and regular education students. It will cooperate with a special needs center in Kingston, employing similar practices, collaborating with its staff and leadership, and working jointly to encourage the establishment of a network of similar quality centers throughout the island. Because the unmet demand is so significant, it will also be designed as a center to train teachers and parents in the western region of Jamaica to detect and work with children with developmental delays and physical disabilities.
2. Moreland Hill Primary and Pre-K School In January 2013, after decades of neglect, the Moreland Hill Primary School had an enrollment of just 32 students and was slated for closure by Jamaica’s Ministry of education. In September 2013, the Foundation completed a total transformation of the school, welcoming a dynamic new principal and 120 pre-K-6th grade students who had previously traveled long distances in search of a better education - something that all children deserve.
3. Bunch of Stars Pre-K School The Foundation’s 2012 project centered on Bunch of Stars Pre-K School in Old Hope, Westmoreland, located approximately 15 miles east of Negril. For 20 years, Bunch of Stars was a community fixture, initially located on the veranda of its founder, and then for 13 years in a small, two room rudimentary structure without the most basic childhood supplies and amenities. Bunch of Stars now welcomes a burgeoning student population everyday in a brand new compound abundant with supplies, new furniture, a vegetable garden for sustainable school nutrition, and a rejuvenated spirit.
4. Little Bay All Age and Pre-K School Little Bay often feels like a forgotten community. It remains largely unchanged from the time, more than 30 years ago, when Bob Marley used to journey to the small fishing village for peace and quiet and to roast little fish on the beach. The All Age School, like the community, was full of promise but had seen better days. A complete renovation and expansion in 2010 ushered in a sense of pride and possibility, embedded in the school community today. Technology and teachers feed the minds, an organic garden feeds the bodies, and a revitalized facility feeds the community spirit.
5. Negril Public Library For decades, Negril’s students’ and community’s only option was a 500 square-foot library with minimal resources and no technology. In 2009, after extensive consultation, and with the Jamaica Library Service and the “Friends of the Library” committee, the Rockhouse Foundation modernized and expanded the landmark structure, creating Negril’s first new civic building in more than 40 years. Its award winning design by Kingston architects, Chris Stone and David Douglas, seamlessly blends classic Caribbean feel and colors with contemporary function and beauty. It houses Negril’s only free access to computers and the Internet, as well as thousands more books than the original structure could accommodate. Everyday, young and old alike cross its threshold in search of information, knowledge, homework help or just a good read.
6. Negril All Age School Negril’s only public elementary school was originally constructed for 100 students, many of them children of fishermen and farmers whose simple lifestyle had defined the community for generations. As Negril turned the page on a new millennium in 2000, its school held nearly 500 children in over-crowded, outdated buildings with leaking roofs that suffered from years of deferred maintenance. Negril All Age School was in desperate need of assistance. In 2004, shortly after it was established, Rockhouse Foundation launched its inaugural project, appropriately only ½ mile from the Rockhouse Hotel, whose owners had committed themselves to supporting the community more than ten years before when they purchased the property. Over the years, many hotel staff and their children had attended Negril All Age and, while often nostalgic about their time in school, were unanimously enthusiastic about the Foundation’s first renovation project.
7. Negril Basic and Pre-K School Negril Basic School is the primary feeder pre-K for the Negril All Age School and is located on the same compound. It suffered from decades of neglect and minimal funding and, not surprisingly, many of its graduates were not adequately prepared to enter their primary years with confidence. Rockhouse Foundation followed the transformation of Negril All Age with a similar makeover for its companion pre-K in 2006. Splashed with the same bright colors and filled with new early childhood furniture, educational supplies, games and toys, Negril Basic took on the same rejuvenated spirit as the “big school”. |P|