The RuJohn Foundation: Impact Investing That Educates Jamaica's Youth
Stories abound of foreign charity volunteers bearing gifts of T-shirts and basketballs earmarked for disadvantaged children in rural communities. Rarer however, are foundations whose volunteers return to their home countries replete with their own life lessons and equally impacted as the less fortunate they gifted. That's why the RuJohn Foundation is a gem among many. It's beyond charity. Call it impact investing that creates a brighter future for Jamaica's impoverished students. RuJohn is more than sneakers and basketball and beyond checking the annual charity giving box. In June of each year, the foundation holds its annual Celebrity Sports Camp, Acting and Self-Esteem Workshops, a highly anticipated, not-to-be-missed event that takes place in Kingston and Montego Bay. This year's Annual Jamaica Celebrity Sports Camp, held in June, again lived up to its mission and burgeoning reputation to assist students in need. In addition to the camps, RuJohn also provides school and athletic supplies, computer equipment and educational scholarships. Lessons culled from sports, stress the importance of hard work and perseverance through athletics. Ronald Moore, former says "We believe that by giving children the tools to succeed, they will rise up and overcome adversity, creating a better Jamaica and a better world."
Founded in 2003 by siblings Christina and Andrew Bachelor in honour of their Jamaican grandparents and run by their mother Ingrid Bachelor, the RuJohn Foundation provides much needed educational support and tools for disadvantaged children in schools throughout Jamaica and select U.S. cities. What began as a small, annual event in Montego Bay has blossomed into a four day, island wide program that hosts more than 750 underprivileged children and 200 adults through workshops, camps and donations. Andrew Bachelor explains, "I am truly blessed to be in Jamaica this year for our annual sports camps and actors workshops. The talented individuals ranging from athletics to entertainment never ceases to amaze me. I look forward to our planned activities and interacting with the youths throughout the week."
Hosted at the Kool Runnings Water Park in Negril, more than 120 youngsters from community schools benefited from the professional the experience of American NBA and NFL players at the fifth annual Rujohn Foundation Celebrity Sports Camp. Students from Sheffield All-Age, Little London Primary, Broughton Primary, Negril All-Age, and the Manning's High schools learned from and interacted with American sports including former Miami Heat NBA player Tim O'Connor James; NFL running back Rudi Johnson; wide receiver TJ Houshmandzadeh, Jr.; both of the Cincinnati Bengals, Omar Gaither, linebacker of the Philadelphia Eagles, and defensive tackler Shaun Smith of the Cleveland Browns. This year, the Foundation awarded scholarships valued between $200,000 and $500,000. Ronald Moore donated 60 pairs of shoes and students also received IPads and other educational equipment. Although, longstanding supported Prime Minister Portia Simpson was not in attendance this year, a meeting will be held on August 30 to honour scholars at Vale Royale, her official residence.
Coordinated by RuJohn organizers, visiting volunteers offer mentorship and guidance to the students, exemplifying resilience through adversity and putting a face that illustrates what success and perseverance look like. Held over a period of five days, students from schools including Kingston College, St. George's College and Glenmuir High attend camps for basketball, American football, cheerleading and acting. Workshops and programs are coached by notable internationally actors and athletes. Based on students' interest, the camp breaks out into different workshops: acting, self –esteem building; baseball; basketball; football and dancing. Students choose the camp or workshop in which they wish to participate and learn from. This year's line-up included Andray Blatche, Power Forward and Centre for the NBA's Brooklyn Net; Darius Butler Corner Back for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts; Lance Gross from Tyler Perry's Temptations and Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, and Grey's Anatomy actress Bresha Webb and Coach Carter's Robert Ri'Chard." With a passionate word-of-mouth following, RuJohn has attracted the participation of an admirable roster of U.S. celebrities from the world of sports and entertainment. Each year, the line-up expands every year with celebrities inviting their philanthropic friends to the activities. And although they can choose to spend their time and money anywhere in the world, after five years, Jamaica is the premier choice. And they're not coming for the beaches and jerk chicken. They choose the rural locales of Jamaica to teach, mentor and create indelible memories that inspire, encourage, providing impressionable children with living examples of what is possible in their own lives and what is required to achieve their dreams. They return home with life lessons as valuable as those they left behind, having received in equal measure what they've provided: encouraging a child's potential and the impetus toward success.
h/t: Denise Laidler is a travel and culture writer and Jamaica Tourist Board lead content contributor. She owns GoldenPen Ink Communication, a New York based firm specializing in communication and web content strategy and production.