What started out as an inward look at what she could do to help get Bermuda’s public schools ready for the start of the new school year, has blossomed into a fully organized mission for a host of parents and volunteers determined to lend a helping hand.
Angela Young, a marketing strategist by trade, with over 16 years of experience, decided to spearhead the Work Rallies initiative in honour of her “father’s legacy”.
She is the daughter of the late Kenyetta “Burning Spear” Young, a long-time trade unionist and organiser at the Bermuda Industrial Union.
On hearing of the work-to-rule announced earlier this summer by the Bermuda Union of Teachers, Ms Young told Bermuda Real that deciding to be a part of the solution, was a ‘no brainer’.
“I spearheaded this initiative in honour of my father’s legacy,” she said. “He always taught me to have a heart for the people – and he lived his life as such, particularly with his work as one of the BIU’s highly referred Trade Unionists.
“I heard about the teachers’ work-to-rule and I knew I had to act – be a part of the solution. I’m very fortunate to have found others who share the same sentiments,” she added.
“The Work Rallies volunteers are awesome! We simply want all students to return to school in a clean, safe learning environment. After all, it is their basic human right.”
After hearing of the work-to-rule, and the limited time frame to mobilise support, Ms Young organised public meetings at St Paul Centinneal Hall, to rally parents and community volunteers for this initiative. And on that note, she extended a big thank you and expressed gratitude to the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, who allowed them to use the church hall free of charge to support and broaden their drive for support.
Meetings were also held with Education Minister Diallo Rabain and Public Works Minister Colonel David Burch, who had a mandate to hand the schools back over to the Education Ministry by August 16th, when the school custodians pick up from Public Works.
“They were both very supportive of the initiative,” said Ms Young. “This is truly a grassroots project for our children, because we are not affiliated with any political party with this.”
She also noted that the work-to-rule “takes effect when teachers return to school on September 1st – and not when the students return on September 11th.
“If and when they return, the classrooms are found to be inadequate then a decision will be made.” Either way, she said, there’s more than enough work to be done between now and then.
“A lot of the work projects are too big for the volunteer groups, in that they require construction, which is handled by the Ministry,” said Ms Young.
In some cases, she said school bathrooms are in need of new toilets and urinals, tile need to be removed and replaced, and some areas need the carpet removed altogether.
The teams of volunteers have been working daily at various schools on projects that include organizing school libraries, moving furniture, taking down old materials from bulletin boards and replacing it with new materials.
Since the project was revealed in another Bermuda Real exclusive interview with Col Burch, and a subsequent live chat on talk radio with Sherri Simmons, the Work Rallies project has garnered a positive response from members of the community who want to get on board with the “all hands on deck” concept.
Volunteers tackled the clean up needs at Southampton Pre-School last weekend, where one area resident, a senior citizen stepped up to tidy up the school’s garden area all by herself. Ms Young noted that the number one request is for help with landscaping at the various schools.
“Many administrators shared that the landscaping is never done in time for the first day of school,” said Ms Young. But the good news, she said: “The Department of Parks has agreed to partner with us so volunteers can assist us.
“Landscaping must be done at least twice before school resumes on September 11th. The grass is so high and the hedges are overgrown as well, to be honest. There’s a lot of work to do at all 36 schools,” she added.
To date, the group has a list of ten schools to work on, with more to go. Three separate teams of volunteers will be working this Saturday, starting at Somerset Primary School at 9:30am tomorrow morning, the Celarwater Middle School at 10:30am and the Warwick Pre-School at 11am. Other schools will be covered in the weeks ahead, including Prospect, Lagoon and St David’s Pre-Schools, Harrington Sound, Victor Scott, East End and St David’s Primary Schools, in addition to West End Primary.
Anyone who would like to pitch in by lending a helping hand is more than welcome to show up at one of the schools on tomorrow’s worksheet, as the clean up drive continues. The new work schedules are posted daily at 5pm on the Work Rallies Facebook page, for volunteers, who will be working flat out until the start of the new school year.
To answer the call for the donation of much needed school supplies that range from back packs, calculators, computer printers, paper and other essentials, email workrallies @gmail.com.
“The list of needs is endless,” said Ms Young. “This is our first year doing this and the response has been good, but we can still use all of the help we can get.”