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Kiwanis clubs bring joy, better future to kids in Jamaica

Jennifer Morlan | Nov 19, 2019

Children in Jamaica enjoy a new playground built for them by local Kiwanis clubs.

A recent trip to the grocery store turned into a joyful moment for Kiwanis member Glenda Miller. As she did her shopping, she ran into the principal of a local early childhood center.  

“God bless you and Kiwanis, Miss Miller,” the principal gushed. “The kids are so happy.”

A few weeks later, she received a similar response when she saw a preschool teacher.  And Miller isn’t the only Kiwanian to receive accolades from early childhood educators in Jamaica.

Members of Division 25 of Eastern Canada and the Caribbean dedicated thousands of hours of service to a project called The Playground Effect. Through the help of the Kiwanis Children’s Fund and other partners and sponsors, Kiwanians built playgrounds at 16 early childhood centers.

When the project started, four of the centers had swing sets; 12 had no outdoor play space or equipment. “They had nothing,” Miller said.  

Thanks to Kiwanis, each center now has a fenced-in play area with a jungle gym, swings, seesaws and a pint-sized slide. All the playground equipment is brightly colored and landscaped for safety with pea gravel and sand.  

The playgrounds have allowed the centers to receive certification from Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission, which is working to make sure all children have access to quality care and education during the formative ages of 0 to 5.

Children in Jamaica enjoy a new playground built for them by local Kiwanis clubs.

Miller, Division 25 immediate-past lieutenant governor and a member of the Kiwanis Club of Providence, said the 16 clubs consulted with the Early Childhood Commission before starting the project. The Kiwanians were told that many children in Jamaica had delayed motor and cognitive skills.  

Playgrounds are essential as children develop gross motor skills, said Norda Seymour-Hall, director of sector support for the Early Childhood Commission.

“There are basic standards for childhood development, and one is the opportunity for children to exercise and play. Because this is how children experience the world.”

Seymour-Hall pointed out that many of the centers are in poor communities where violence is all too common. But thanks to the Early Childhood Commission and organizations like Kiwanis, significant changes are being made, she said.

In addition to building the playgrounds, about 1,000 adults have attended parenting workshops, and children have undergone wellness assessments. Numerous children were found to be in dangerous situations and are now getting appropriate care, Miller said.  

Best of all, the children are having fun.  

“They especially love the jungle gyms. You can’t get them down,” Miller said.

Children in Jamaica enjoy a new playground built for them by local Kiwanis clubs.  Miller recounted a party to open a playground. Ice cream was served, but the children didn’t care. They just wanted to play. At another playground opening, the principal was so elated, she climbed atop the jungle gym.

“I am delighted and proud to have been associated with this project,” Miller said. “It not only improves their cognitive ad motor skills, but it brings smiles and laughter. It allows children to execute their job of play.”

Go to kiwanischildrensfund.org/give to learn how you can support Kiwanis projects around the world or visit kiwanischildrensfund.org/clubgrants to learn how to apply for a grant.

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