The Bays United logo flies on the shoulders of kids in a rural Jamaica community as they run around chasing soccer balls dropped off there earlier this winter.
Every student in the Askenish All Age School in Hanover Parish, Jamaica owns a Bays United FC jersey among other things, thanks to a Greater Victoria family and soccer community.
Fairfield resident Regan McGrath has visited Askenish school many times. It’s a place her mother, Constance McAvoy of Oak Bay, forged a bond with decades ago. Now retired, McAvoy has good friends who are Jamaican teachers and has been supporting the school with supplies, technology, books, games and shoes for the children for most of McGrath’s life.
Trips there came to a halt with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tourism is the bread and butter for those living in the region, McAvoy said. Residents are primarily farmers, who grow produce for hotels and other tourism endeavours, all sectors decimated during the global health crisis.
With schools closed, many students missed out on breakfast and lunch programs that provided valuable nutrition.
So, once vaccinated, the family packed up the planned donations including two computers donated by Metrics Chartered Professional Accounting, a couple of gently used but updated android tablets and classroom supplies. They also put a last-minute call out to Bays United on the off chance there were some soccer balls available.
The club came through with Bays branded gear including 160 microfibre jerseys (enough for every student), 40 pairs of new shorts, 10 pairs of soccer cleats, three new soccer balls, five pairs of goalie gloves, and a full adult Adidas jacket and pant kit for the coach – an Askenish graduate pursuing a teaching degree.
The school previously had a computer but it’s been dead for more than a year so the two new ones will be allocated to the library and one for staff use.
“It’s so critical that those kids see computers and touch them,” McGrath said.
Out of caution and cognizant of the low vaccination rates in the rural community, the family met up with the school principal in Negril to hand off the donations.
The family also forged a new alliance – Bays United plans to maintain a partnership with Askenish.
“They’re very isolated so for them to think there’s somewhere in the world that takes an interest in them is lovely,” McAvoy said.