Young Man with Piano

Young man, old piano, big smile

IRN and Food For The Poor (FFP) have partnered for more than ten years.  Working together, FFP and IRN have placed more than 34 million pounds of surplus – more than 2,600 tractor trailers filled with usable goods – in schools, homes, orphanages, clinics and hospitals.

In January 2013, IRN got a call from the Berlin-Boylston School District in Massachusetts.  The District was ready to move students into a new Tahanto Middle/High School.  Much of the old furniture would be transferred, but there would be much left over.  Could IRN make a match with a needy recipient?

Young men at new desks from the Tahanto School, Berlin/Boylston (MA) School District

St. Georges College students at their new desks from the Berlin/Boylston School District

IRN reached out immediately to Food For The Poor.  Five days later, IRN was filling four trailers with furniture, equipment and supplies from the old Tahanto school. These items, more than 1,200 pieces, were provided to St. Georges College, a Kindergarten through 12th Grade school in Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica.  Founded in 1850, St. Georges College fills a critical need in providing educational opportunities to nearly 1,500 children in the disadvantaged communities it serves.

The furnishings included nearly everything to furnish a school:  student desks and chairs, teachers’ desks, shelving, magazine racks, blackboards and whiteboards.  And two pianos – particularly welcome, because music is one of the best alternatives to the lure of street life.

Here’s the report we got back from FFP after the furnishings arrived at the St. Georges School:

Click here for a PDF of this feedback report

Overall Impact

Unloading a shipping container at St. Georges College

Unloading a shipping container at St. Georges College

When they learned that St. Georges College was selected to receive assistance through the Berlin-Boylston District, IRN, and Food For The Poor, administrators eagerly waited for the day of its arrival.  The school had recently completed a new wing, which remained almost entirely unfurnished.  In existing classrooms, much of the furniture was damaged and barely suitable for use.  However much it was needed, government assistance to purchase new furniture was not available.

As soon as the containers arrived, St. Georges and FFP staff started to offload and place Tahanto’s furniture in its new setting.  Unloading and assessing the items and realizing the overall impact on St. Georges, administration and staff recognized that the value of Tahanto’s furnishings and equipment far exceeded their expectations.

Classrooms Are The First Priority

Before desks and chairs arrived from IRN and FFP, classrooms were filled with broken furniture.

Before desks and chairs arrived from IRN and FFP, classrooms were filled with broken furniture.

The first priority was to outfit classrooms that were either empty or had only broken chairs and desks.  Some classrooms lacked even a proper teacher’s desk.  Anecia Creary, Maintenance Supervisor at St. Georges, said, “Of all the items received from Tahanto School, the desks and chairs are the most valuable, for both teachers and students.  The previously used desks and chairs have deteriorated over the years and now many are in unusable conditions. As a result, some classrooms had only a few suitable desks and chairs, and some teachers had no desk at all. Without the proper tools, learning and teaching become difficult.”

No Other Way to Acquire Furniture

Food For The Poor staff bring new furnishings into St. Georges College

Food For The Poor staff bring new furnishings into St. Georges College

Ms. Creary explained that without the furnishings from IRN and Food For The Poor, St. Georges would have placed a request for furnishings with Jamaica’s Ministry of Education. “Due to the large demand from hundreds of schools, the Ministry is unable to assist everyone on a timely basis.  This means that we would have to find the funds to purchase furniture and supplies, or go without.”  By providing furnishings, Tahanto has saved St. Georges tens of thousands of dollars in purchases.  These savings can be applied to other much needed aspects of school operation.  And the impact is further leveraged, because St. Georges’ savings mean that government funds can be directed to other needy schools.

The Library Benefits

After, Showing off Computer Concepts Book

Librarian Andrea Smith

The school’s Library has also benefitted tremendously. Every day students are using the hundreds of books, plus bookshelves and newspaper/magazine racks received from the Tahanto school. Ms. Andrea Smith, Librarian, reported, “The computer and physics books have been used by the most students so far. Also, we are now able to clearly display books and newspaper and magazine articles in a more organized manner. . Our Library is now more useful and much better equipped.”

“We are really appreciative and grateful for all the items received,” said Ms. Creary.  “They mean a lot to us as we were desperately in need and you have rendered your valuable assistance.  It was one of our future plans to have the new school wing furnished. This is now a reality as we have been able to outfit the classrooms from Tahanto’s contribution.  Thanks to Tahanto we no longer have to contend with a shortage of chairs and desks and that is so important.  Once again I express thanks on behalf of our entire school family for helping to upgrade