By Rosemary Ganley
In a world that seems relentlessly torn and divided, one feels joy to hear of small but important achievements in bridge-building.
Last year at Stella Maris Prep School, on Shortwood Road, Rosalyn Robinson, the outstanding teacher of the Prep 2 class, set up an exchange correspondence with the children of Grade 4, Ridpath School, Lakefield, Ontario. Working through their Canadian teacher, Joyce Mackenzie, Mrs. Robinson arranged that her pupils send and receive several letters and gifts over the school term. To the delight of the children, many messages made their way from school to school.
The Jamaican children, (by common agreement the more accomplished in written expression!) sent news of Easter bun and cheese, of Independence Day celebrations, of their brothers, sisters, their football and their teacher. They mailed Jamaican pennies, coconut sweeties, school photos and many cordial invitations to "come and see me." The Canadian children, most of whom are Ojibway First Nation, sent stamps and snapshots of cold winter days when, muffled in toques and mitts, they had to move their desks to their new school building. In March, Mrs. Mackenzie came to Jamaica and spent a morning with Mrs. Robinson's class. There was lively conversation, children showing the way.
The second story in bridge-building involves sport.
The Jamaican National Women's Volleyball Team has a high-sounding name. It should. It is a group of seven young women, five who have jobs, and two students, all of whom love the game of volleyball, though they have played it only a short time.
Last spring they approached Geoff Taylor, who teaches, at C.A.S.T, our college, to help them. Geoff, who taught in Regina, also loves the game of volleyball. Anyone who has seen world-class play in this sport, like that of the Japanese women or the Hungarian men, is dazzled by the demands of fitness, quickness, concentration
and teamwork that characterize the game.
Would Geoff Taylor be their coach? He would. But, alas, no ball.
Vera Taylor, Geoff's wife, has a prize possession: a volleyball autographed by each member of the Olympic champion Japanese women's team. Knowing full well that a few practices on a concrete floor, will erase those signatures, Vera nonetheless donates the ball to the girls.
Now to practice. Nightly, four nights a week from six to nine at the National Arena. Then, an idea. Take the team to Regina for some games.
Fundraising will be needed: liquor from the Wray and Nephew Distillery is raffled as a good fund-raiser. Four hundred strands of Jamaican beads are made to be sold in Canada. Taylor's former women's team in Canada raises $800 to help bring the “Jamaica Nationals.” The Regina Kiwanis Club promises a luncheon. Offers of accommodation, camp style, and meals come in. Four colleges in the host country offer to play matches against our girls with guaranteed gate receipts of $100 each game. It becomes a possibility. Practices continue. Dr. Sangster of CAST gives his approval for Geoff Taylor to go. Jamaican friends in Toronto give accommodation overnight during the stopover there.
On September 20, 1976, the trip begins from Norman Manley Airport. The Jamaican National Women's Volleyball Team makes friends wherever it goes.
An early frost in Regina provides icicles to lick and ice to slide barefoot on.
Eighteen matches later, on September 29, the team leaves Regina in a farewell that Geoff Taylor describes as "awash in tears." He declines to say just how much out-of-pocket he is, but he says “it was worth every penny.”
The team plans to continue work in preparation for the Caribbean Games next September. Their Regina record, for those who follow such things, was sixteen wins and two losses.
This excerpt from Jamaica Journal illustrates Jamaica's love of sport, with a Canadian connection! This column originally appeared in the St. Anne’s Church Newsletter.