Principal of Callaloo Mews Basic School in St Andrew, Angella Gordon-Black, is hoping to change the stigma of the institution through education.
Callaloo Mews, which is located close to Riverton dump, is a poverty-hit community of about 500 persons. The school caters to 56 students mainly from the communities of Waterhouse, Riverton, Ferry and Shanty Town. Narrow dirt roads with puddles of stagnant water, zinc fences, board houses in need of repair and tangles of illegal power line connections are prevalent in Callaloo Mews, but Gordon-Black has high hopes for the school.
"People would sometimes stereotype us as being ghetto so we try to make our facility be a role model school. A lot of people will think about garbage, roaches and rats, but there are none of those here. The health inspectors are always impressed with us," she said.
"People will see the garbage out there and the environment isn't necessarily the best but they really don't know what is happening. This is really the prep school in downtown settings. This is a place where children and parents feel love and may I say our children are excelling. If the PM should pass our school on any day he can stop for lunch and enjoy it because I prepare the best for my children and staff. We all eat from one pot," she added.
Gordon-Black has been moulding young minds for the past 17 years, and there is nowhere else she would rather be. Speaking with THE STAR yesterday, she stressed that she feels at home in the tough, inner-city community that some outsiders are afraid to venture in.
"Doing good to people makes me happy, so this is a good ground to sow seeds. This is what God wants for us, to be a voice for the voiceless. I run programmes to uplift parents, children and the entire community on a whole. I really like it here and the residents are really appreciative. If I should drop down in the community, there are loads of hands to catch mi, that's how it is, " Gordon-Black said. Yesterday, dozens of representatives from Mission Jamaica, an outreach ministry in the US, made one of its many stops at the institution to construct a much-needed playing field. Gordon-Black expressed appreciation for it, stating that it can only do good for her students.
"Mission Jamaica has been with us since 2007 and they have never really left us. Again, this is something that we welcome as we really cater for the less fortunate, so we really don't charge school fees and lunch money like other institutions. We have 56 students and maybe 15 out of the 56 may give a contribution. So basically I really depend on good Samaritans. We have had some really good sponsors including D&G, Malta and others. There are people who will just come and give a one-off donation and so on," she said.