PORTLAND, JAMAICA – After delivering much-needed chairs, books, and laptops to children in the rural parts of Jamaica, Racquel Knight was moved to tears.
“I don’t tell everybody this, but after I interact with the children, I go home and I cry,” she said during a Zoom interview from Jamaica. Ms. Knight is the founder of One Child Foundation of Auburn, a former StartUp Worcester cohort member. When I spoke with her in April, she was in Jamaica for her One Chair 4 One Child crusade that has donated more than 600 chairs and desks to Jamaica’s schools since 2017.
“Yes, I will go and cry because for me it’s just …” she paused for a moment to collect herself, took a breath and smiled: “There is a lot that I’ve been through in my life as a person, and I’ve reached a place where I’m blessed enough to where I can give back to these kids. Just seeing the smiles on their faces and the way they get excited when they see these chairs or see the books and even just getting a laptop for them, it’s … it’s …” She paused again, but not to hold back tears—her eyes glowed as she thought about helping the kids. “It’s just like an amazing feeling. So, yes, I usually go home and cry, but I’m just thankful and grateful to help.”
Ms. Knight experienced these educational hardships first-hand. When she was a young Jamaican girl, she attended similar schools. She used to walk several miles to-and-from school each day just for the opportunity to learn. “By the time I got to school, the classroom was already full. There were no chairs. There was no place for me to sit … And I had to stay at the door to get my work done. I’d stand in the back of the class and put my book on the wall and press it there to work.”
In order to get an education in those days, she said, you had to fight for it. “When I talk to the kids about my experience, I try to be humorous and tell them sometimes I had to throw punches to just get a chair. They laugh, but you do what you got to do to learn.”
Not all students have the passion to walk miles to school like Ms. Knight did. “I did whatever it took to get that education,” she said. “If I have to walk for miles to get to school, I’m still gonna get there. Unfortunately, not everyone has that same mindset. Once they reach a certain age, the simple frustration of going to school and trying to find the basic needs to learn tends to steer a lot of kids to do something else.” She said many kids will go into agriculture or drive cars for work, but, “they won’t finish their education and this usually happens especially in the rural parts.”
As a result, Ms. Knight’s mission for the One Child Foundation is to provide comfortable learning environments for kids in Jamaica’s rural and remote schools. She started the program as part of a school project while a sophomore at Becker College in 2015. With the help of StartUp Worcester, a program of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce designed to incubate and accelerate startup companies in Central Mass, her organization has grown. However, her job is far from done. The problem of overcrowding and the lack of educational resources still persists, she said. “There are classrooms made for 30 students that are packed with double the children. These hardships on a child can hinder the learning process.”
To help the children, Ms. Knight welcomes volunteers for fundraisers and to work at the thrift store in Auburn. For more information, visit the For One Child website at www.foronechild.org; email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or call at (508) 963-5960.
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Kevin Saleeba is a correspondent for the Worcester Chamber.
This story was originally published in the May 2022 edition of Chamber Exchange: The Newspaper, a quarterly publication of the Chamber. All newspaper editions are archived here.