Cacoon Castle Community Unites for Mandela Day
HANOVER, July 18, 2013 – Between thick curtains of tall, tangled weeds and towering breadfruit trees, a winding dirt road, wide enough for only one vehicle, leads a packed bus away from the busy town center, off the main road and deep into the mountains of Hanover.
After about an hour of driving through deep, muddy trenches the path suddenly slopes down to a large, low-lying paddock, peppered with small houses and farms, and surrounded by heavily forested hills that rise like stadium seats in every direction. Here, the bustle and noise of neighbouring towns are traded for the cool and quiet community of Cacoon Castle.
Today the community has come out in their numbers for a long-awaited day of service activities to commemorate Nelson Mandela Day with UNICEF, the Social Development Commission (SDC) and South Africa’s High Commissioner to Jamaica. There is an excited energy as everyone gets ready to give Cacoon Castle Primary and Mount Ebenezer Basic School a well-needed upgrade with a fresh coat of paint and overdue repairs.
As the older citizens work, the cultural education group Sankofa Village leads scores of children through the story of Mandela’s life and the importance of their African heritage with interactive art and craft, dance, story-telling and drumming. Dozens of children in hand-painted tribal masks awaken Mandela’s spirit as they shout in chorus, “I was born free!” – the words of a black hero whose life began in a rural community not unlike this one.
Cacoon Castle is one of many remote communities where children often lack the educational opportunities and healthcare they need. It is one of five communities in Western Jamaica where UNICEF and the SDC are investing in a long-term ‘CHOICE’ community development programme, led by communities themselves.
CHOICE is designed to help children and their families in rural under-served communities achieve improved learning outcomes, protect children from abuse and neglect, and build resilience among adolescents.
Today, Cacoon Castle is beaming with pride as their hard work transforms the schools in the community. With the final touches in place, a new photo donated by UNICEF makes its way to the walls of the library. Inscribed on it are Nelson Mandela’s famous words, which will inspire the students for years to come: “Education is the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the world.”