While agriculture remains the mainstay of Dominica’s economy, growth forecast remain slow partly due to a lack of investment in agricultural production and low perception among the young people of the island.
Food security remain paramount to meeting the growing needs of the island population, in a region where price instability, high production and transportation costs compounded with the vagaries of the weather, make agricultural production a huge challenge. At the local level, these challenges must be met by robust leadership and scientific know how for growing food crops with the understanding of utilizing locally available raw material to keep production cost low and providing good quality food, free from contaminants.
The Isaiah Thomas Secondary School Farm Development Program was conceptualize with this in mind as both a learning centre and model farm enterprise aimed at producing fresh fruits and vegetables for supply to the school community and major supermarket chains on the island. By harnessing components of the local environment blended with student skills, new opportunities have evolved over the last two years, where an array of production techniques are being refined and experimental designs are ongoing. The longer term goals are to refine these techniques with the aim of engaging the wider Dominican community in growing vegetable crops at low cost to meet their local needs and for supply of local markets. Despite the challenges that have retarded our progress, there has been a strong response from students and willingness to be connected to their food systems both as a leisure and pass time activity, but with the growing recognition that there are prospects for self employment and income generation.
Keys to Success
Success of the program will depend on the following –
- Ability to attract funding and technical support to grow the enterprise
- Ability to consistently produce high quality food crops for sale at affordable price
To make the Isaiah Thomas Secondary School Farm Development Program a leading centre and model farm for vegetable crop production and research on the island.
To produce healthy vegetable crops for local consumption and supply to local food stores across the island utilizing ecological responsible techniques in a way that foster creativity. Our approach is geared towards creating a strong knowledge base in sustainable food production technologies and developing a model centre of agricultural excellence.
OBJECTIVES OF THE PROGRAM
- To provide members of the school community with locally produced fresh vegetable for purchase
- To generate a viable income stream for the school
- To blend theories with practice in order to reinforce student learning and to get a firsthand knowledge of the science of food production.
- To establish a model farm as a learning centre to practice sustainable agriculture.
- To teach students how to practice sustainable agriculture e.g. converting organic waste from school kitchen into compost
This has been a very successful exercise overall. I was able however to preserve and contain some of the samples to use in teaching and demonstration labs to reinforce the theory component of the program.
In our present society, individuals support various causes. Some of these causes are democracy, religious liberty, saving the environment, stopping the abuse of animals and even funny ones such as forcing animal owners to put clothing on their pets in public or staging a campaign against individuals who sneeze in public places. Although some of these causes are commendable, oftentimes, individuals forget that many of these issues can be strengthened or resolved if persons were more literate or educated.
Former U.S President, Bill Clinton, stated and I quote, “Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and responsibility.” How clearly these words were resonated through the actions of “Hands Across the Sea.” For they were cognizant of the fact that without literacy development, causes may become commonplace and ignorance would thrive.
Consequently, through selfless sacrifice, dedication and hard work, they decided to stretch their hands of friendship and generosity across the seas. We at I.T.S.S became one of the blessed recipients of their generosity. And that’s why we are gathered here today to show our most sincere gratitude.
It was about four years ago when our former principal, Mr. Jerome Bardouille indicated to me that his wife, Mrs. Bardouille, had introduced him to a couple, who were co-founders of a non-profit organization which aided schools in the Eastern Caribbean to develop literacy levels through the refurbishment of libraries with various resources.
I must admit that when I heard Mr. Bardouille’s remarks I was skeptical and showed little enthusiasm since I had previously believed that such miracles did not occur at I.T.S.S. When I was formally introduced to Tom and Harriet it was a bit surprising because they sounded genuinely concerned about the miserable state of our past library. Still, I was not fully convinced that anything grand would result from our discussions. You can therefore imagine my surprise, when a few months afterwards that The Lindskeys returned to I.T. S.S with a few other friends as well. Painters we were told and Tom would be our architect.
My chest felt constricted because I was overwhelmed with emotions. For never in my years at I.T.S.S, could I remember that we had received such a quick response from any organization. Mr. Bardouille and the entire English Department were also thrilled because we saw that finally I.T.S.S was getting some badly needed assistance.
We were further informed that we would be receiving a Literacy Centre which would be furnished with new books since all the books we had in our possession were hopelessly out-dated and damaged. When we were told we had to get rid of all our present books and resources, we were reluctant because we remembered that old adage “Don’t Count Your Chickens before they were hatched.” In our case, it was throwing away our out-dated books and having absolutely nothing on our shelves. Although we were a bit skeptical, we decided to go out on a limb in faith. Consequently, we had a huge book sale which was quite successful and about four months later; our faith was rewarded with 14 boxes of new books. Fiction and Non-Fiction.
You can imagine the jubilation and excitement these gifts generated. Here we had unique bookshelves created by Tom and so many wonderful books to place on them. We were so thrilled, that all the department members were willing to sacrifice their Christmas and Easter vacations to create cards and pockets from Bristol board or Manila paper in preparation for our grand opening. Even students showed their enthusiasm and were willing to assist. Of course, Tom and Harriet were there with us at every step of the way. They sacrificed their vacations also.
Before the opening of the Literacy Centre, Mrs. Lindskey, Harriet, decided to present the books in a unique and appealing manner with the covers face up. This was a huge success with our students.
After the opening ceremony, Harriet said to me that she was so impressed with the dedication and support of the entire department that in an effort to reward our hard work, they were going to refurbish the library. My mouth dropped opened! I wanted to scream to the heavens but I was able to control myself and simply extend heart-felt gratitude and thanks to the Almighty Father for the wonderful blessings I.T.S.S was finally receiving.
Presently, our school’s readership has improved significantly. Weekly, we see a notable number of young men utilizing the resources in both rooms along with the girls. Surely, the efforts of this distinguished organization did not go in vain.
To this date, “Hands Across the Sea Organisation” and Harriet and Tom continue to be earthly angels to I.T.S.S. Although they are assisting several other schools across the Caribbean, they continue to provide our school with books, furniture and whatever resources that we have required over the years. Just last year, they rewarded us with a Literacy Award and the banner flies proudly in the library.
As Louis L’Amour, states in his book, Education of a Wandering Man, “Without books we should very likely be a still primitive people living in the shadow of tradition that faded with years until only a blur remains….. bearing this in mind, we want to express our deepest gratitude to “Hands Across the Sea,” the Board of Directors, sponsors and volunteers for removing us in the primitive era and introducing us to the wonderful world of current books and information.
Thank you for your timely and continuous support, love, dedication and generosity. Thank you for acknowledging Mr. and Mrs. Bardouille’s requests. Thank you for being part of the I.T.S.S family.
As I frequently mention to individuals who ask about the organisation, if you put your faith and trust in “Hands Across the Sea,” indeed you are in great hands.
And as I end, let me offer congratulations to “Hands Across the Sea,” on their selection as the top non-profit organization for 2014 in the United States. You deserved it!
The Isaiah Thomas Secondary School, located on the west central coast of Dominica came into being in the early 1980’s at which time it was referred to as the St.Joseph Campus of the Dominica Grammar School under the guidance of Principal Mrs. Jenifer Wallace Lafond.
In the early 90’s there was a name change to the institution making it now the St.Joseph Secondary School. The name was finally changed again to what is now the Isaiah Thomas Secondary School. This settled name took effect on June 15th1999 when it was named after one of the villages prominent sons, Isaiah Thomas. Mr. Thomas was a Lawyer and a Minister of government in the Labour Party government of the 1970’s.
Fine Foods earlier this month made a EC$19,500 contribution to the Agricultural program at the ITSS. The money will be used for the purchase of a green house to help boost agri production at the school.
EXCERPTS FROM THE HANDING OVER