Kids went crazy for new playground

Richmond charity unveiled park; Jamaican teenagers now sporting donated local girls’ soccer jerseys

After months of anticipation and watching their dream being built in front of them, the kids’ eyes opened wide and they went wild when their new playground was unveiled.

The children of the impoverished Riverton community in Kingston, Jamaica finally got to play on the brand, spanking new adventure equipment at their community school — all thanks to the hard work and dedication of Richmond resident Ayako Turnbull and her team from Fundamentals for Change Society (FFC).

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Turnbull and FFC had been working on the playground project — raising funds locally and employing Jamaicans for its construction — for the last year or so, up until the unveiling a few weeks ago.

“The kids watched it being built for several months and were not allowed to play in it, so they were very excited,” said McMath secondary grad Turnbull, who traveled to Jamaica to open the playground and to deliver medical supplies along with FFC’s Jeff Kuzik, of Richmond, and Meaghan Kyte, of Ladner.

“In fact, they went wild when we officially opened it. They were all over it and loved it.

“Before, it was two old swings for about 150 students.”

It wasn’t all plain sailing though for Turnbull who spent a fair chunk of her three-week stint in Jamaica in and out of the government ministry offices trying to get them to release $4,000 worth of donated medical supplies — confiscated on arrival — to re-stock the Riverton medical centre, which was broken into recently.

“There is a chikungunya virus epidemic down there right now, which produced zombie-like symptoms,” explained Turnbull.

“It’s very painful and the only medication available is Tylenol down there and there is money to be made from it. That’s what was stolen during the break-in.

“I emailed Jamaican customs before heading down, to say what we were bringing, but they never replied.

“We had donations from Richmond doctors and from a local company called Organika, which gave us 1,000 tubs of children’s and adults’ multi-vitamins.”

FFC's Ayako Turnbull, right, hands over to the Riverton community vitamins supplied by Richmond-based Organika

There was talk of the government just keeping the supplies, said Turnbull, before common sense prevailed.

As well as the medical donations from the doctors, Richmond Girls Soccer Association (RGSA) handed FFC a ton of jerseys, shorts and soccer balls, all now proudly sported by members of the Riverton Youth Leadership Club — which helps around the homes of the elderly, with their meals and programs, with no funding at all.

FFC also gave the leadership club members a bunch of disposable cameras when they were down there, tasking them to go off into their community and take photos of everyday life.

“They brought back some amazing images, vivid, taken in places we would never have been able to get to; inside people’s homes and in the dump (Riverton sits adjacent to the city dump),” said Turnbull.

“We will show the best of these photos in a gallery of some sort; we will have ticket sales and liquor sales, we’re going to make it a black-tie event, with funds going back to the leadership club, along with prizes for them.”

Turnbull is the cofounder of non-profit FFC, which promotes “positive change in inner-city Jamaican communities through locally driven projects.”

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