It has been two years since Omari Tucker entered the classroom. The 16-year-old, like thousands of other students, said that her education has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He did not attend online classes due to the absence of devices, and has not gone back to school since the resumption of face-to-face classes.
Despite the ills, the youngster has found a passion in farming. Tucker spends most of his days at Hannah Town’s Eco-village tilling the soil.
“From the corona, I couldn’t get access to the tablets or no other gadgets. … But instead of being on the corner, you can come put the farm and weed out the grass or you can plant something. This is something positive,” he said.
Tucker is one of 15 men from the community who were handpicked by the St Anne’s Catholic Church to receive training and mentorship from the Making an Impact All-together Foundation (MAIA Foundation).
The foundation spearheads the farming project in the crime-stricken community, aimed at reducing instances of criminal activity as well as being a food source for residents.
tucker awning THE STAR that the project came at an opportune time.
“It has helped me to get food on the table in my house because many of us are not financially stable. It tek we off the corner, now we have something to do. It occupy our time because I am not doing anything right now. This is something good for the community,” Tucker related.
The teen’s grand-uncle, Mark McKenzie, explained that due to violence within the West Kingston community, young men like Tucker ventured outside the community at their own risk.
“He needs to get back into school, but for right now, this is a good opportunity,” McKenzie said.
MAIA Foundation’s 100-ft x 50-ft eco-garden was established last December and was expanded in April. It boasts 2,500 assorted vegetable seedlings in raised bed gardens and four 12-ft tall fruit trees.
when THE STAR visited the community on Monday, Oniel Patterson, the farmer of the group, was seen providing guidance to Tucker about how to go about caring for a crop of tomato that has been planted. In addition to the tomatoes, the foundation has invested in the cultivation of plantain, jackfruit, apple, pak choi, sweet corn and hot peppers. Patterson said that the group intends to expand the farm to incorporate other crops such as sorrel, scallion and callaloo.
Marvin Campbell, founder and CEO of MAIA Foundation, said that the Hannah Town eco-garden as well as one that has been established in Golden Heights, Denham Town, are expected to help reduce instances of criminal activities within the communities. Campbell said that produce from Hannah Town’s eco-village will be provided to the surrounding schools.
Sonia Stewart, principal of St Anne’s Infant, said that the produce will be instrumental in the school’s breakfast programme. She shared that it is a daily occurrence that most toddlers arrive at school, without eating a meal.
“Right now we don’t have any breakfast programme, but this program will be good. Children coming to school without breakfast, that is the culture here. So yes, it will absolutely help. It will be very helpful,” Stewart said.