2020 – what a year it was! At Seprod Foundation, we started 2020 with our plan of projects to be executed throughout the year and excitedly jumped right in! With the onset of the pandemic in March, things immediately changed, with many of our plans that were in process being postponed indefinitely or canceled. We had to pivot, revisit our plans and adjust our priorities while staying focused on the change we seek to make in the digital learning space, and in promoting food security in Jamaica. We knew we needed to stay true to our values as the pandemic exacerbated the already existing inequalities in education and access to food – the need was great, overwhelming really. The challenge was to continue to work toward reducing the inequalities, doing so safely. We asked ourselves – how can we continue to reach primary school children with coding workshops and other innovative learning experiences with schools closed and gathering restrictions in place? How do we ensure that no child is left behind as we turn to remote learning with a renewed focus on bridging the digital divide? How do we get food to those who need it the most in this time of crisis? How do we use this opportunity to promote sustainable food production in our communities?
We doubled down on private-public partnerships and donated over JMD 5,000,000 worth of product to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security who packed nutritionally balanced packages and led the distribution to communities and households that were most vulnerable. We redirected our regular funding to partner organizations such as the Salvation Army and the United Way to COVID-19 relief, and we did our part in volunteering to package food items. We visited the Tivoli Gardens High School, toured their gardens and donated much needed tools and equipment to their agricultural programme. They continue to work toward expanding their agricultural programme, with students coming in on a phased basis to tend to the gardens. We look forward to bolstering our support of their programme. We continued our scholarship programme, including granting scholarships to outstanding students at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) despite not being able to have a physical ceremony.
We were not able to do our coding workshops in schools which we would do twice a year for Scratch Month in May and the Hour of Code in December, nor were we able to have the World Robot Olympiad (WRO), a robotics competition where we were the sponsors for the under 13 league. This however, did not stop us from making an impact in the digital learning space. During the summer, recognizing that school was out, and children were at home without their usual summer camps and activities to occupy them, we made contact with the Code Games Challenge, launched by X-Prize, a global game design competition, and became an outreach partner. Being an outreach partner means that we were able to promote the competition and encourage the participation of Jamaican students in our own virtual ‘classroom.’ Students, aged 10 to 18 years could submit a playable game or a written game design competition to win cool prizes. We were happy to get participation across a wide cross section of interested and eager Jamaican students. Also, during the summer, we were happy to provide a week long ‘Summer Pod’ robotics camp experience to 4 primary school students from North Street Primary. The Summer Pods, which followed COVID-19 protocols, was offered by our partners, Halls of Learning. Lastly, through WRO, schools still received their robotics kits and students and teachers were still able to access the online training curriculum so that learning and capacity building could continue, despite not having the competition.
We also looked at how we could support the education system in what was also an education crisis with so many children at home, in their communities, cut off from communication with their schools and their teachers. Through a grant opportunity, we received support from the American Friends of Jamaica for the procurement of tablets to be distributed islandwide. Our coordinated effort, which also involved a gofundme fundraising campaign which resulted in bringing in donations to more than double our initial donation of 200 tablets, was in support of the Ministry of Education Youth and Information’s ‘A Device for Every Child’ initiative. During the launch of ‘A Device for Every Child,’ our chairperson, and the visionary behind the work of the Seprod Foundation, Mrs. Melanie Subratie, was publicly recognized by the Minister of Education, Youth and Information, the Honourable Fayval Williams, as being a thought leader in the area of STEAM Education in Jamaica. We are definitely looking forward to working with the Minister and her team in ensuring that all Jamaican students learn how to code so that they are prepared for modern careers.
After years of preparation and planning, setbacks and successes, 2020 saw the completion of the Freedom Skatepark in the community of Bull Bay. Seprod Foundation was proud to be the largest local sponsor of this project, not only providing funding, but providing expertise guiding the approval process, and the administration related to the procurement of the concrete and other key materials. This project was made possible through a tremendous collaboration between ourselves, the Bull Bay Football Club, Concrete Jungle Foundation, Sandals Foundation, Flipping Youth and the Tmrw.Tday Festival. So many other partners helped us along the way including suppliers such as Pre-Mix, Tankweld and Carib Cement. We are so grateful for all parties that came together to get the construction completed in the middle of the pandemic. It was a true testament to what you can get done through partnership and perseverance. Also importantly, the Concrete Jungle Foundation’s Edu-Skate Programme began, where many local young people learned important life skills through skateboarding. We are excited by the prospect of developing the sport to the point of having a Jamaican Skateboarding team complete in the Olympics one day!
In the midst of this turbulent year, we were reminded that despite ‘physical distancing’ we need each other – we can’t do it alone, we all have a role to play and partnerships are important. We are more effective, and get more done when we work together. We celebrate the Jamaican spirit, and know that together, we will get through this and we will continue toward a brighter future for our children.
Finally, we launched our website – www.seprodfoundation.org. We are glad you are here and hope that you take the time to get to know us, and join us along our journey. Happy New Year everyone! Stay safe, stay strong and stay positive!