By NICO SCAVELLA
TWO families in need of school preparation relief received free notebooks, textbooks, and even uniforms yesterday from the Urban Renewal Commission’s Back to School Programme yesterday.
The Johnson and Thompson families were the first of many inner-city families in New Providence to receive school supplies from Urban Renewal for the 2014-2015 school year.
Yesterday’s donations took place at Evangelistic Temple during the announcement of the Urban Renewal Foundation’s sponsorship of the Urban Renewal Commission’s Back to School Programme.
Alicetine Johnson, a married mother with ten children, said the free supplies have taken a load off her shoulders.
“I’m grateful and I feel that this is really nice what they’re doing because it’s difficult out there, especially if you’re not working,” she said. “It’s really difficult because sometimes you go out there and you look for jobs, but it’s very frustrating. When your kids say ‘Mommy, we don’t have this’ and ‘we don’t have that’ and they constantly remind you because they want to go to school, but you don’t know where the supplies coming from.
“I thank God for programmes like this and God touching people heart to know that there are people out there in need. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for the assistance I get from this programme, Social Services and any assistance I can get.”
Children in both the Thompson and Johnson families each received a backpack filled with three notebooks, pencils and pencil sharpeners, geometry sets, a ruler, glue, crayons, and uniforms (if needed).
According to Peter Bates, URF council member, the foundation is “cognisant that school preparation is taxing and stressful for many parents and guardians.”
He said it was a “personal honour as a Bahamian” to give back to the community through the foundation.
“Come Monday, all across the Bahamas, thousands of children will be going to public and private schools,” he said. “All agree that getting children ready for school can be an expensive and stressful exercise.
“For unemployed parents and guardians, getting children ready for school is a real challenge, and they need assistance.”
“The Urban Renewal Foundation is pleased to have sponsored the Urban Renewal Commission Back to School Programme, donating school supplies to needy children at this time of school opening for the 2014/2015 school year.”
Mr Bates said each Urban Renewal Centre will on Friday distribute more school supplies to each of the nine Urban Renewal centres in New Providence that will help “some 400” needy children in their respective communities.
Additionally, he said the foundation would also invite the Minister of Grand Bahama Michael Darville to accept its donation for Family Islands that house Urban Renewal centres, such as Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Cat Island, and Eleuthera.
The one exception would be Andros, in which he said Urban Renewal co-chairs Algernon Allen and Cynthia “Mother” Pratt would distribute the supplies.
Mrs Pratt, in thanking the foundation, acknowledged the current task for Urban Renewal is “difficult and the needs are real”.
She said she felt “qualified” to speak on behalf of the struggling mothers and families because she “knows what it feels like,” and failing to conduct initiatives like the Back to School Programme would result in more crime in the country.
“I believe I qualify to talk about this because I lived it,” Mrs Pratt said. “My mother had 16 children and I know the many days when I didn’t even know if I would have a uniform because she just didn’t have it. And so today, there are thousands of teen mothers, single mothers, who have four, five, six children going to school, unemployed.
“There’s scores of them out there like that, and as much as we say ‘Why are you having those amount of children?’ the children are here.
“There’s no need to complain about ‘why’ now. They’re here, and therefore we have to help them.
“If we don’t, that’s what leads to criminality, because if they don’t get an education that’s where they’ll end up, nine times out of ten.”