Kgn school celebrates victory over extortionists
When administrators at New Hope Preparatory School in downtown Kingston decided to construct a library and reading room, criminals from neighbouring areas made it known that they, too, wanted in on the project with extortion fees.
The school, which is located at 56 James Street, aligns with other roads such as Text Lane, which, in recent months, had seen cases of murders and arson.
However, the God-fearing administrators, many of whom worship at the North Street Seventh-day Adventist Church on the same property as the school, did not bow to the demands.
On Wednesday, they toasted their success as the new double facility was formally opened by Education and Youth Minister Fayval Williams and named in honour of two of their long-serving members, Audrey Sewell, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, and the now-deceased Elder Norris Crooks.
Speaking on behalf of the church, treasurer Lerick Gordon and Education Committee member Nicola Hickman reflected on the journey.
“The building did not go up without a fight. The enemy attacked in many ways as he saw the building going up,” Hickman said.
Gordon added: “The church and workers were threatened by persons who felt that they were entitled to a piece of the pie. The church contacted the Jamaica Defence Force, who promised to give security, but with the many demands of COVID was unable to.
“Again, the church went into prayer. A meeting was held with some community members and the message was sent to the would-be troublemakers that this is God’s work and that the armies of the Lord would fight for His church. We worked and we watched like Nehemiah and praised God. God kept the enemy in check,” she said.
In 2020, the school and the church had plans to stage a fundraiser to continue the legacy project that was started by Crooks 16 years ago. However, the very month they had planned to host the first event, COVID-19 was detected in the island and the work was delayed.
After the restrictions of the Disaster Risk Management Act were lifted, New Hope Preparatory School Chairman Duane Muirhead and his wife, Charmaine, got to work. They rallied other church members and supporters, including Sewell, who they knew could help with raising funds.
Now that the work is completed at a cost of $13 million, which was all donated or generated through fundraisers, Sewell said that she is pleased that as an instrument of God, she was able to assist her church family. She was also elated that the facilities were being named in her honour and that of a former church brother.
“I stand here very humbled and really feeling very privileged to be recognised, along with someone who was so very near and dear to me, Elder Norris Crooks, our longest-serving ever first elder in Jamaica [for SDA churches]. I attended the church, and he took me under his wings. I could not ask for a better friend, a brother, a spiritual leader, spiritual guide, [and] confidant,” Sewell said.
“When it comes to education, you will all know that I am very passionate about it, and I am motivated by Nelson Mandela’s view when he said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world’. It is the greatest engine of personal development. It is through education, that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor,” she added.
She commended the education leadership at the school and the church, especially Charmaine, who ensured the building went up.
Williams also commended the church for recognising Sewell in the naming of the building.
“Mrs Sewell is an ardent and involved member of this church, where she has been serving since 1982 when she got baptised,” the education minister said as she also recognised Crooks’ instrumental role in keeping the New Hope Preparatory School open.
“ ... Despite calls to close the school due to financial challenges ... he did this by using his personal resources. Both elders believe that things are truly possible once Christ is in the midst,” she said.