Farming and fundraising to keep children in school

For the past several months, something momentous has been growing in Beersheba, a small community tucked away in the sprawling valleys of St. Elizabeth.

The parish is no stranger to farm lands, but this one – sprouting on the grounds of Beersheba Primary school – is being nurtured for a special purpose.

Every Tuesday, a group of parents tend to the farm – cultivating the land to produce crops like cucumber, pak choy, corn and sweet potato.

Ensuring children don’t miss school

Most of them are women, who are either single mothers or part of families who are struggling without regular employment and the resources they need to send their children to school routinely.

They work on the farm to raise money that goes into ensuring students don’t miss school. Most of the produce is sold to the school canteen, and the rest to community members.

The effort is guided by Gloria Meredith and her team at Children of Faith, an NGO that provides income-generating opportunities for caregivers in rural communities to help reduce the prevalent challenge of truancy.

Parents joining together to farm

“Miss Gloria said there are some students who need help, so we said let’s form a group and see what we can do for them,” says Marilyn, one of the group’s most active members. “We weed, we plough, we plant… we do everything!”

Since it started, the parent group has mushroomed to over 30 members. They now generate their own ideas for raising money, hosting most events on the school grounds. They recently staged a successful fish fry fundraiser.

Children of Faith has helped some of the parents to start up their own individual farms.

Supplementing meagre incomes

Julian Beadle travels every other day to her plot of land dotted with rows of tomatoes. Julian has two children, one of them with multiple and severe disabilities who can’t go to school.

She takes care of her son full time, and earns a meagre income.

“It’s difficult to send my other child to school because I do a little washing of clothes for people in the community, but not every day. Sometimes only one or two times a month,” she says.

Julian started working with the parent group this year. “I got some seeds from Miss Gloria – tomato, sweet pepper and cabbage. I started the tomato farm about a month ago. It is a good move and I am happy about it, because the benefits can help my children.”

Next up for the group – a Valentines fundraiser, filled with love.

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