Armed with hoes, rakes, forks, shovels and paint brushes, the Senior Leadership Team from CIBC FirstCaribbean recently disembarked special charter buses at the St Elizabeth Primary School in St. Joseph with their mission of refurbishing key areas of the school in order to create a better space for the children’s learning.

Michelle Whitelaw, Director of Retail levels the soil as Legal Counsel Brian Clarke pours Soil Mix into one of the tyres

Michelle Whitelaw, Director of Retail levels the soil as Legal Counsel Brian Clarke pours Soil Mix into one of the tyres

One hundred and eight senior executives from the regional bank recently substituted their normal tools of pen and paper and descended on the rural school and in about one and a half hours, just short of the allocated two and half hours given to the various teams, it was mission accomplished!

The project was divided into areas where the members of the teams could best utilise their skills. One team tackled a tyre garden for the Nursery to Infants B classes, where they were given 129 seedlings of basil, lettuce, tomatoes, thyme, parsley, cabbage and sweet peppers to plant in the 43 tyres which the school already had but which had nothing growing in them. The team filled the tyres with soil mix and planted the seedlings in the various tyres.

Some people undertook to paint the corridor

Some people undertook to paint the corridor

The second group undertook the job of the vegetable garden for the junior school, classes one to four, where they had to level the soil mix in six 20-foot beds to ready them for the planting of cucumbers, okras, tomatoes, beans, cucumbers and marigolds -a natural pest control. Both of these areas are to be used by the school in their Agricultural Science programme. The area was also fenced after the group left, in order to prevent animals which encroach onto the school compound from getting to the young plants.

Yet a third group headed for the play park where the bank had already purchased and had the National Conservation Commission install some equipment which included another swing set for the children, a see-saw and monkey bars. Some members of the team painted this equipment in the bright primary colours while others in the team created a sand pit which the school never had before. Prior to the arrival of the executives, the area was excavated, but the team had to remove some rocks and lay the weed block in the dug out to prevent weeds from growing in the pit and then they had to shovel in and level a quantity of sand to create the pit.

There was also another group that did some painting along a well-used corridor at the school creating a bright area for the children and the ten teachers on staff there.

The largest and most ambitious group, however, undertook the task of developing a reading park for the 88 students enrolled at the school. Situated on a slope at the front of the school, the park was part of the vison of the Principal Maria Benn and Senior Teacher Richard Brome who wanted an area where the children could go during the day, under the guidance and supervision of their teachers to read.

The team fulfilled this dream by creating a path of some 65 paving stones which will eventually be painted with the phonic symbols by the pupils of the various classes.

The vegetable garden team as they plant the young seedlings

The vegetable garden team as they plant the young seedlings

The group also painted some picnic benches where the children can sit and read under a set of large umbrellas they donated to the school. Two of the benches were given to the school on this occasion, the other three which were weather worn, were given a fresh coat of paint. Under the watchful eyes of a team from Nature Care Ltd, the members of this team also planted ten shade trees and installed shrubs to camouflage an unsightly water tank, and planted feather grass on the slope to prevent soil slippage. The team also painted a large outcropping of rocks in white, where a rock garden will be created by the school with cacti and other succulents.

Other work contributed by the bank to the school was the concrete base for the installation of an existing water tank to collect water from the roof of the school for watering the gardens. Guttering along the side of the roof to the tank was also installed.

The preparation of the areas for the gardens was done by Russell Corrie and his team from Nature Care ltd who also contributed some of their services to the project.

Principal Maria Benn was overwhelmed at the transformation of her school and the speed with which it was done. She said her staff and students were truly grateful to the bank for the wonderful work they did.

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