Thériault students prepped to build homes for the poor in Jamaica as part of humanitarian effort

Timmins Daily Press

A group of students leaving on a humanitarian mission to Jamaica in two weeks practised their woodworking skills and engaged in a weekend-long bonding session at their school.

A group of students leaving on a humanitarian mission to Jamaica in two weeks practised their woodworking skills and engaged in a weekend-long bonding session at their school.

They fasted for 24 hours, slept overnight at the school did some packing and engaged in a series of workshops.

The students will be spending much of their time in an underprivileged area of Jamaica helping to construct homes for the poor. One of the exercises held in a workshop at École secondaire catholique Thériault this weekend was building picnic tables.

“A picnic table over there is huge for families so we always build some,” said Guy Chénier, lead organizer for Projet amour communautaire (PAC).

The bonding exercises gave the Grade 11 and 12 students going on this trip an opportunity to get to know each other a little better.

“We all know each other already but we’re going to spend 13 days over there in the heat, long days from 7 in the morning to 11 at night,” said Chénier.

The 21 Thériault students will be accompanied by seven adults – most of them faculty members at the school. They are leaving Feb. 13 and return on the 24th.

Chénier said this is an annually organized trip many students eagerly apply for – though it’s by no means a vacation. He said the school has been involved in this humanitarian initiative for about 25 years.

“We have a person over there (in Jamaica), Sister Grace, she helps with the poor, she’s our connection, she’s our go-to person,” he said. “Everything is organized … we’ve talked with the groups that we’re going to help with, and we know our projects ahead of time. We know the families we’re going to help; we know that they have kids and what age, so we know what clothing, etcetera to bring for them.”

They are bringing 50 suitcases filled with school supplies, hygiene products, clothing, small toys, sporting goods, adult diapers, tools and many other items to be distributed in the areas where the group will be building homes. Chénier said local businesses and residents in the community have been generous in donating items towards this cause.

The Thériault students spent a good portion of Saturday at the school packing those cases.

While in Jamaica, the students will also visit schools, an orphanage, an old age home and assist the Maroons, an aboriginal community native to Jamaica.

Chénier said the objectives of PAC are twofold.

The first part is to offer community services or support local charities. Since last spring, members of PAC have been volunteering with Project Love, the Yo! Mobile, the Lord’s Kitchen, and the Timmins Food Bank.

The students are now ready to embark on the second objective which is to participate in a humanitarian journey to the ghettos of Jamaica.

Chénier said months of fundraising and holding events like spaghetti suppers have been done to help cover the costs.

“Our budget for 21 kids and seven adults is around $80,000 for flights, meals, gas, everything,” he said. “Everyone has fundraised above and beyond this year. We’re a little over $3,500 to $4,000 per student.”

Chénier said this experience tends to have a lasting effect on the participating students.

“We do a lot of reflection here. We want the kids to think after they’re done this, what is their mission? What do they want to do? We want these kids to continue to help out in the community.”

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