As we celebrate Down Syndrome Day today I am reminded of how important it is to step out of our comfort zones and explore the world around us.
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Straight from the heart
When no one else dared to, for fear of getting caught in the middle of gang warfare in the Beetham Gardens, Wayne Patrick Jordan knew he had to stand firm and in his own words “rescue the children of the community,” who are often marginalised by society. He understands first-hand what abandonment and rejection feel like, having not been raised by his own parents. Instead he grew up in St Michael’s Home for boys in Diego Martin. Jordan, 55, who is a certified preschool teacher, told the T&T Guardian he just had to do something for the children. If you pass along the Priority Bus Route, you might have noticed a building labelled All In One Child Development Centre. The building looks pretty good now but in the 1980s, it was a galvanised shed with no toilet facilities—an abandoned government building in what was called Shanty Town.
That’s where Jordan began to build the lives of the children in the community and environs, whose parents could not afford to send them to school. With the help of some good samaritans and what he described as a “God-sent” win of US$10,000 in a competition hosted by British Gas, Jordan renovated the building and upgraded it to house 49 children in preschool and primary classes. He boasts now of some of his students moving on to themselves becoming teachers and high academic achievers. “All they needed was love and a chance,” he says with a smile.
Once the centre began to shine in the community and was accomplishing the job it was intended to do, it quickly became part of the Servol project of establishing preschool centres throughout the country. At this juncture, more help came from the Community Service Committee of the Rotary Club of Central Port-of-Spain. Rotarians such as Mayor of Port-of-Spain Raymond Tim Kee and Peter Aleong, then chairman of the club’s Community Service Committee, committed their assistance to the centre and Jordan’s vision, and are to this day praised by Jordan who says he is eternally grateful to them.
But All In One is not where Jordan wanted to stop. After a few years and with new management, he did it all over again with the Each One Teach One Child Development Centre. Twenty-three years later Jordan was at it again, starting a centre in another abandoned and vandalised building in 2007. In August of that year Jordan, who has lived in the Beetham Gardens since 1984, was appointed a Servol community outreach officer. Jordan received a national award for his long-standing dedication to education and community services in 1999. He started the first Each One Teach One vacation camp, where children in various age groups were exposed to programmes in sport, art, drama, cooking, etiquette training, music, spirit and team-building exercises and more. On June 5, Jordan launched a preschool. It now has a fully-tiled floor, three toilets, a daycare, spacious classroom and stationery supplies, and is embellished with the art and craft done by the preschoolers. He said the only thing that’s missing now is an air-conditioning unit, as it gets quite hot at times.
Just doing it from the heart
Parents are not charged monthly fees because Jordan dedicates all his time and services for free. In addition, breakfast and lunch for students are donated to the centre by Servol.
The father of one, Jordan said the centre, which also caters to older children—like 12-year-old Josiah Samuel, who receives remedial teaching—has 55 registered students, who hail from Morvant, Barataria, Gonzales and even Diego Martin. Unfortunately not all attend regularly. When we visited the centre on June 12, we met toddlers on their snack break, sitting quietly eating and interacting with each other. Some greeted us with smiles and hugs, while a very shy Jacob Samaroo, four, shed a few tears at the strangers who had entered the centre. He later calmed down and was quite the trouper. An excited Jordan also let us listen to some of the educational CDs on which you can hear him leading the children through phonics songs, nursery rhymes and even counting in Spanish. We witnessed the impact the CDs had on the children as they immediately began singing along.
But it was little Mariah Roberts, five, who is about to graduate, who left a lasting impression when she demonstrated her maths and writing skills on the blackboard without any coaxing from Jordan. “These children are very bright. When they come here their motor skills are already developed, as they tote water and take out the garbage regularly—a very normal practice around here,” said Jordan. He tries his best to expose the children to a better life through field trips, or entering them in competitions where they can learn to challenge themselves. “As a matter of fact they have an upcoming activity at Queen’s Hall,” he says. Drama, lots and lots of it, he says, is also one of his tools in making his teaching effective. “Children are very visual, they like to see performances or images that they can identify. That triggers the memory and encourages them to think, and that is what I do,” Jordan said. He is finalising preparations for the graduating class, which he says is a special undertaking as it will be the first class to graduate out of the new building. Asked if he ever gets weary of doing good, Jordan replied: “I do what I do from the heart.”
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