On a hill in St. Anns Bay stands a building…a magnificent building, an example of old Jamaica architecture. Tourists, from around the world, once graced the arched doorways and magnificent vistas. Today, these doorways and vistas are still enjoyed, not by tourists…but by Barbara Black, her staff and “their girls”. This former hotel is now the Windsor Girls Home in St. Anns Bay.
On July 19 members of Jamaicans.com, who were in Ocho Rios for the 2004 annual bashment, visited Windsor Girls home. This year’s bashment charity of choice was the girls home and we collected needed items that were donated by our generous members. Collected items included books, office and school supplies, toiletries, clothing, games, radios/CD players, sewing supplies, cosmetology supplies and more.
Windsor Girls home, funded and operated by the Jamaican Government, is home to girls aged 12-18. During our visit there were approximately 34 girls living at the home with upwards of 60 living there during the school year. These girls come from all over the island and most have no other place to go. Some are fortunate enough to have family that they go stay with during the summer holiday months. Funding from the government is limited and donations such as ours help to make ends meet.
While living at the school, they not only learn the basic subjects like Math and English, but they are also prepared for life after Windsor. The home has programs for Cosmetology, Dressmaking/Sewing and Home Economics. Barbara Black and her staff have the task of preparing the girls for life outside the Windsor walls.
While talking with Barbara, who is the administrator, you can see the pride she takes in “her girls”. She was proud to show us their Kitchen lab where home ec. classes are taught, and where a recipe for Bulla on the chalk board caught my attention.
She also showed us their computer lab where the girls learn basic computer skills. Sadly of the 10 or so computers we saw in the room, only about half were functional.
With all the obstacles that Windsor has to over come, they do their best to provide a well-rounded education. Some of their students go on to college; one has even gone on to study at UWI. But there are obstacles, first there is the limited funding, next is trying to keep the girls from being tempted to run away. Windsor sits in the middle of a squatter community. The men of this community often try to entice the girls to leave the property with promises of a better life. Sadly, there are the occasions where these men are successful. Many of the girls are orphaned or have come from dysfunctional families. Some have been abused and/or abandoned and promises of love and freedom win out over education and rules.
In addition to those problems, we also learned that their building is slowly falling down. One unused section slid down the hill recently. Other parts are unsafe to use and have been closed off. As I looked around, I could see that at one time the property was a beautiful place. The views are spectacular and the grounds still show evidence of fountains and beautiful gardens.
Aside from the state of the property, there are the girls. One girl, whose face is still so clear to me, had a smile that she couldn’t hold back as our eyes met. She was shy unlike some of the other girls who were anxious to see what we had brought. She sat off to the side and watched. Her eyes were wide and sparkled, her skin was beautifully flawless and the color of chocolate. Several times while being given our tour I saw her and winked…she would giggle. As we drove off, I saw her watching again…I waved goodbye and so did she. I wanted to shout to her that I would see her again, because at that moment I hoped I would. But who knows, I know I will visit Windsor again, but will she be there? I hope so, and if not, I hope she has moved on to have a good and peaceful life. One that she so deserves.