Groundbreaking Ceremony – An American Retiree in Jamaica

In August of 2007, I wrote an article entitled “Pomp and Circumstances”, about the graduation exercises of Jamaica Christian School For The Deaf (JCSD). This was my first experience of the “differently-abled” children from the countryside of Jamaica. This heart-touching experience prompted me to become more involved with this special school, whether it be financially or otherwise.

One of the visions of Miss Sophia Reid, longtime principal of the school, was to build a vocational center at the school. Each time a student graduates there is nothing they are able to do to be a productive member of society because of their disability. The vocational center will be able to train students in a profession to give themselves a feeling of self worth and to contribute to society.

Groundbreaking was held on March 13, 2008 with about a hundred students, staff, Friends of JCSD, and invited guests. It was overcast that day providing for a cooler than normal afternoon. As with many things in Jamaica, it was late starting, another good reason to have overcast skies. The proceedings started with everyone singing or signing the national anthem led by student, Romario Anderson. This was followed by a prayer, a welcome, and the school report. Next the school dance group performed a very rousing dance in perfect timing to the CD that I could hear playing but of course they couldn’t. It continues to amaze me how these children can perform both singing and dancing without hearing any music. I have difficulty in both of these areas and my hearing is normal. The audience’s appreciation was shown by applause or, in sign language, a rapid waving of the hands from left to right or the arms are extended in the air.

Following a fund raising report and short messages from noted dignitaries, it was time to break ground. The three men invited to do the actual groundbreaking were Dr. Robinson, one of the guest speakers, Mr. Bonesteel, a missionary from South Carolina, and, to my surprise, me. It was a good thing this was only a groundbreaking because we were all huffing and puffing trying to break the hard ground beneath our feet, not to mention the weight of the ceremonial pick, fork, and shovel.

Mr. Bonesteel was the next speaker followed by my being invited to come forward again. This time, instead of a heavy tool, I was asked to sit facing the audience. Pastor Campbell, who was the MC for the program, announced that not only was the day special because of the groundbreaking but it was also my birthday. I quickly asked if I was going to be a victim of the Jamaican custom of being “floured.” Traditionally, the birthday boy has an egg broken on his head followed by a bottle of Red Stripe beer and then, lots of flour! My fears were short-lived as one of the teachers sang “Happy Birthday” to me followed by another teacher presenting me with a birthday cake.

It was about that time when a few drops of rain started to fall but that didn’t deter the school choir from performing. Once again, they were right with the music. After one more message from one of the corporate sponsors the skies opened up. The timing was good as each person picked up their chair and brought it to where the refreshments were served thus saving the grounds people extra work.

For anyone who would like more information on this school and its programs, please see the website and follow the link for Jamaica School For The Deaf.