Exactly a year after primary-school student Taysha Hughes was slain in her community by gunmen, two subsidiary companies and one of the foundations under the GraceKennedy Group have joined hands to complete a peace garden in her memory at Holy Family Infant and Primary School, Kingston.
The Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, along with team members from GK General Insurance and GK Capital Management, converged at Hughes’ former school on Labour Day last week Wednesday to assist with beautifying the parade gardens at the school and, more importantly, take steps to create a serene and safe place for students and the neighbouring community.
Christopher Wright, principal of Holy Family Infant and Primary School, said, “It was born out of an idea from our guidance department to remember the life of someone we cared about who passed away through an act of violence. We believe that children must understand that there is another way – and the other way is peace, especially with how we resolve our differences,” he said.
It was amid the busy end-of-year school period last June, just after the conclusion of the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy tests and with pupils preparing for the following week’s annual graduation ceremony, that 11-year-old Hughes was shot and killed.
Wright, who has headed the school since 2015, explained, “Violence [in our area] is not new. But this was my first experience as leader of the school.”
To this end, the three entities felt compelled to offer assistance to improve the students’ learning environment by also upgrading the lunch area and the grade-six block and painting the perimeter wall. GraceKennedy’s overall focus on early-childhood development further underscored the need to assist.
“We understand that communities, whether it’s the communities around our offices or across the island, always need support. Early-childhood education is critical to the future of Jamaica, so we must try to improve the surroundings for our young children,” said Andrew Leo-Rhynie, general manager of GK Insurance.
Steven Whittingham, managing director of GK Capital Management, shared similar sentiments, saying, “GraceKennedy has been downtown since 1922, and we have always and will continue to support downtown.”