Katherine O’Hearn and Niko Prouse say it was a life-changing experience.
The Mohawk College construction-engineering students were part of a team of 10 from the Stoney Creek campus who visited Jamaica in February to build a new library and renovate the kitchen at Bowden Hill Primary and Infant School in Stony Hill, just north of Kingston.
O’Hearn, a 19-year-old second-year student, said they built a series of open-faced boxes with book shelves that they attached to a concrete wall.
“We were able to make them a library in the Grade 1-2 backroom,” she noted.
O’Hearn said working at the school and seeing the conditions children there learn in gave her more appreciation for what she has.
“To see what they have and what they didn’t have was really eye-opening,” O’Hearn said.
Prouse, a 25-year-old first-year student, said he helped rip out the old kitchen which included removing rotted wood, mouldy tiles and a lot of cockroaches.
“It was in really rough shape,” said Prouse.
The students installed a new countertop and new cabinets around the existing sink.
Prouse said school officials and students watched the work being done and were “super surprised” at all the improvements.
“Seeing people with so little (that are) so happy is really amazing,” Prouse said. “It makes you come back home and appreciate the things that you have.”
The school renovations were part of Phase 2 of Project Jamaica that was started at Mohawk in 2016.
Phase 1 took place last November, 10 computer networking and software students visited the school to install 12 refurbished laptop computers, four projector screens and taught the students how to use them.
Many of the children had never touched a computer previously.
Project Jamaica is the creation of Rochelle Reid, director of student life and general manager of the David Braley Athletic and Recreation Centre, at the Fennell campus.
Reid, who has family in Jamaica, heard about the poor conditions at the school when she visited in 2017.
Upon her return she proposed Mohawk do something to help and college officials agreed.
The project was supported by funding from the province’s Career Ready Fund.