It’s hard to imagine a more humble beginning than that of Karl Hale, the founder of the Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation whose mission is to shape and create positive change in the Jamaican community. Born in Falmouth, Karl is a Jamaica native who grew up near Montego Bay playing tennis. He moved to Canada at age ten but always stayed close to his Jamaican roots and culture despite the distance. His love for Jamaica inspired him to find a way to give back to the community in a way that would create a lasting impact. Today, Karl’s Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation has snagged the attention of celebrities, collaborated with organizations and is giving back to the island in a big way.
Karl founded the Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation in 2006 with the help of Jamaican expatriates and friends of the island. At first, the foundation’s primary focus was on health care and education but three years down the line, the foundation’s focus shifted to include educational loans and the building of schools on the island. The foundation has partnered with organizations such as Food for the Poor, Toronto Maple Leafs, the Raptors and celebrities, including Serena Williams to aid in the building of schools. Today, the foundation has 20 to 40 volunteers from around Canada and the United States who have banded together to help buildup Jamaica. Currently, the foundation—together with its partners and volunteers--has built 12 schools in Jamaica.
The schools that have been constructed are approximately 2,000 square feet in size with about seven rooms. On average, the schools take about four days to build and all twelve of them have bathrooms, kitchens and libraries included. Four days may seem an unrealistic deadline for building a school, but the system employed by the foundation’s team and its partners is known as “the four-minute setter” and makes it possible to quickly get the building constructed. The foundation of the building is set first and everyday new elements are added to the building to help meet that four day turnaround time. Once construction is done, the foundation follows up to ensure that the schools are running properly; they also help teachers foot the cost of upgrading their certifications, which cost about $750 each. Karl will make it a point to occasionally visit the schools himself to oversee the progress and offer assistance when needed.
The work done by Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation has made waves throughout the community and has attracted the attention of celebrities such as Sean Paul, Shaggy, Lennox, Lewis, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir who have taken time out of their schedules to help build the schools. Lending their star power to such projects both brings exposure to the good work the foundation has done but also excites and inspires the community to make the most of their new schools.
While Karl’s foundation continues to make strides for Jamaica, it faces the same obstacle that any other volunteer organization does: fundraising. With a target goal of building over 1,000 schools in Jamaica--in conjunction with the Food for the Poor organization---you can help the Helping Hand Jamaica Foundation make a lasting difference on the island. Whether inspired to donate, volunteer or simply spread the word; you can learn more about helping the cause on the foundation’s website: www.helpinghandsjamaica.com.
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