“My goal is to help to fill the gap where the Ministry of Education can’t”, said Erica Corlett in a SLEEK interview. Corlett, a Jamaican living in the USA for the past 15 years but who visits up to five times per year, has been reaching out to Jamaican students who do not have adequate devices to effectively participate in online schooling. She said that she was moved to action when she heard the stories of students having to use their parents’ cell phones to access classes. Sometimes the devices would not work well and sometimes parents had to go out and take the phones with them, thus disrupting the already limited educational interaction. As someone who works in the childcare industry, she was aware of the serious negative implications that this would have on children’s education.
According to Corlett,
“The reality struck a nerve, and this prompted me to start the Sponsor a Child Initiative.”
She launched a GOFUNDME account and made urgent appeals to friends, families and associates. Initially the response was slow because persons expressed concerns about their own economic realities in the face of the pandemic and some were concerned about the legitimacy of the venture. Still, she persisted asking persons to either donate cash or a tablet; her persistence paid off and she was able to bring 60 tablets to Jamaica to give to needy students.
Her focus is on grade four students as well as those who will be doing the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams. She believes that they are at a crucial point in their schooling and therefore need all the support they can get. However, Toni-Ann a student of Merl Grove High school who received one of the tablets has made a lasting impression of Corlett.
“She was so well spoken and was so grateful, she truly warmed my heart,”
To date, more than half of the 60 tablets have been distributed. Students from Kingston as well as rural areas will benefit from the initiative. Recipients are selected based on recommendations from Jamaican Dads, Barrel of Smiles and Nationwide. Corlett is heartened by the gratitude that has been displayed,
“there have been smiles, tears and different kinds of excitement,”
she said. The response has strengthened her resolve to continue the initiative.
“I take pictures and videos to show those who have contributed to the cause how grateful the students are for the gifts and to allay their fears about how their donations would go; this way I am hoping they will continue to give, and more people will come on board.”