The Praise Tabernacle Church in the mining town of Linden is striving to do more to assist less fortunate children in the bauxite mining town by simply assisting them with a meal.
Three years ago, the church started an ambitious programme to provide a lunch meal once per week to 40 children. It now provides two meals per week during the school term and is aiming to increase that number to three by the beginning of the new school year in September.
According to Pastor Selwyn Sills, the idea was born in the minds of the brethren of his church who wanted to do more to assist children in their community.
He said though the lunchtime feeding programme usually caters for 40 children per week, they would at most times ensure that there are 10 additional plates just in case others turn up.
The feeding programme is conducted from an old office building overlooking the Watooka Guest House in Linden. The church has reconstructed and refurbished most of the building, and has added a kitchen and an eating area.
The ladies of the church would be the ones preparing the meals on the two days that they are offered and the church depends on community minded persons and donations to keep the project going. Pastor Sills has said that if at anytime those donations fall short, the church is prepared to cover the full expenses through its own coffers. Already, the church has been providing much of the support for the project.
In addition to the feeding programme, the church and its members have also put together a remedial literacy and numeracy programme that caters for the children and even some adults. Children would be accommodated on specific days while adults who attend their classes on other days.
Pastor Sills is already looking ahead and is talking about setting up computer classes for the children within the near future. He said his church is committed to the projects and wants to develop all of them.
Retired teachers who attend the Praise Tabernacle would conduct the remedial classes.
Pastor Sills explained to News Source that the church is grateful to companies like Grace Kennedy Remittance Services, which has been lending support to the programme through its Western Union and Bill Express brands. Last week, the company travelled to the bauxite community to donate a quantity of food items to assist in the feeding programme.
Additionally, the GKRS company has announced that it will provide a $10,000 book voucher to each to the two students who gained the highest score at the Grade Six Assessment examination and attend the feeding programme.
The company will also be providing five pairs of school uniform for them. GKRS Marketing Manager Natheeah Mendonca said when the company learnt of the programme, it wanted to play a role. In the past, GKRS has donated a gas stove to the programme to ensure the meals being provided are well cooked.
She encouraged other companies and citizens to join in their support of the programme.
And it goes way beyond feeding on many days. On many days, Pastor Sills would find himself taking on an additional role of father for some of the students by either providing them with a ride home or back to school after the feeding programme or assisting them with transportation costs.
His wife Leah, and other church members would be there doing the same.
“I find everybody has bought into it. What we have done is that the church has co-sponsored part of this programme and the members have also supported. So from the church coffers, we give part of the money and then the membership has also bought into this and people appreciate it so much, that when some church members would celebrate their birthdays, they would decide against hosting parties and instead make donations to our feeding programme to ensure that these children who are all of our children, enjoy a hot meal during their lunch break from school”, Sills said.