Trenchtown Reading Centre
was founded in December 1993 - a non-profit, secular, community
based, and developed initiative - from the roots up. Library, School,
and Community Cornerstone. A place where life is enriched by reading
and learning. Emphasizing the exchange of ideas, critical thinking,
literacy, education and life skills. Developed to encourage a broad
range of educational activities and provide a place for community activities.
The Centre continually adds to its collection
& programs to provide a broad scope of material and educational
experiences. The Centre provides countless children and adults with
more, current, and otherwise unobtainable material, in a relaxed, welcoming
and accessible environment. Laying a solid foundation to create the
potential for personal, familial, and community well-being and growth.
is a small area in the West Kingston ghetto enclave of Jamaicas
capital. Trench Town, like other ghetto areas, has been abandoned and
avoided by both the public and private sectors of society. It has been
isolated and threatened by the surrounding gang violence and marginalization.
Town has a dual identity
- a place whose reputation is as much story as it is reality -
Town has been synonymous with violence, fear, despair and other negative
attributes of ghetto life. While, at the same time, it is recognized
and respected worldwide as providing the Roots of Reggae Music
(Unity, One love, Knowledge..) and home to many accomplished and
world famous individuals.
Town is a neighbourhood struggling to be strong and safe, working together,
trying to move forward, away from violence and despair, towards opportunity.
The power of reasoning and constructive action is highly valued. Unfortunately
for the younger generation, crime has often proven, in the short term,
the only route to survival and any material gains. The leaders of the
are determined to change this.
is costly - books and supplies, uniforms and shoes must be purchased
and often extra school fees.
This places a great burden on struggling parents. Unable to attend when
financial resources cannot be found children's
education is often sporadic.
Jamaica's economy is suffering and the education system is under great
strain. There is serious overcrowding, lack of materials, and often
Trench Town, November 1993, a group of us sat in Bob Marley's old yard
reasoning, trying to find a path forward out of the cycle of violence,
poverty and exclusion.
How to strenghten a person, a family, a community's ability to
choose, plan and succeed in finding a better way?
How to stop the violence?
chose to focus on knowledge - it was time to improve literacy, learning,
information and opportunity.
It was crystal clear that the people of Trench Town would have to do
Out of the communitys strong roots and in response to this dialog
came the Trenchtown Reading Centre.
violence for the power of reasoning..
To think. To reason. To learn.
be able to make sense of oneself and one's surroundings - the first
step to being able to envision &
create a different reality. Through ideas & the community working
together other choices could be made.
The discussion then took a practical turn. Where would the books come
from? Where would they be put? What about the contents of the books?
As the questions continued, we came up with the concept for a community
based and controlled effort to promote literacy, learning and the exchange
Immediate action & community control were agreed
to be of the utmost importance
that waiting for those outside the community to accept and support the
project would take time, put community control in jeopardy, and perhaps
even prevent the Centre from developing, it was decided that we would
proceed on our own and solicit assistance as we progressed. The crucial
element was to begin!
community embraced the idea - it was agreed that The Reading Centre
was to be located in the small
and crumbling music rehearsal room on First Street. Music has traditionally
been one of the ways out of
the ghetto and it was decided that now was time for a fresh and inspired
approach.With its strong history
space would provide the perfect setting.
rehearsal room was a 15 x 20 ft. space in a vacant field on Lower First
Street. The structure was in
disrepair but could provide a separate, well-monitored and easily accessible
idea became a reality
weeks after the initial discussion, with great effort & conviction
by all roof, ceiling, windows and walls repaired, doors,
shelves and lights added, inside and out painted.
The Trenchtown Reading Centre opened,
on December, 1993
an official ribbon cutting at the Centre,
banana boxes of new books, a hundred balloons, a
community celebration of refreshments and music
Later that evening we held a concert in the park. Many visitors
and a band of well-known musicians celebrated, with Massive Dread
hosting as MC & DJ.
Dread (Denis James) and Chubby (Vincent Graham) both, sadly, lost along
the way, together with Michael Smith, Roslyn Ellison, Organs, Charmaine
and Veego created the model, organized and setup the Reading Centre.
The building upgrades, ongoing operations, books and materials funded
by R. Ellison.
support and develop the Centre R. Ellison in 1997 created the Registered
Non-Profit, " Friends of the Trenchtown Reading Centre (FTRC)"
The Centre also received some support from various professionals, organizations,
churches and individuals, inside and outside of Jamaica.
The struggle to keep the building functional, staffed, programs running
and continually grow the collection is difficult
and ongoing but well worth the effort ...
From 1994 until 2000, Ziggy (Devon Beckford) and R. Ellison ran the
Centre; organizing, co-ordinating
programs and working on program development. Ziggy kept all aspects
of running on a daily basis.
(a new building was putupin 2001, by 2005 however the Centre in disrepair.
with little use. R. Ellison returned in 2005,
together with FTRC and Carl Brown worked to refurbish, renew and expand
the physical space, book collection and programs. Centre reopened in
2006 ~see updates page).
Centre quickly became a full-time concern and a focus for the community.
A neutral place where everyone was welcome. Throughout the years of
violent instability in the area, when schools and transportation were
shut down the Centre remained open and growing, providing resources,
programs and, more importantly, continuity and hope to the entire community.
The response to the Centre from within the community was so positive
we could do nothing but give it our all.
Support from the society at large continues to be challenging....
throughout years of violent
instability in the area, when public schools and transportation
were shut down the Centre remained open ...
books remained on site, but the Centre had such a large and growing
quickly progressed to a fully functioning lending Library in 1994. With
Children alone, numbering
50+ coming each day to exchange books !
its inception, the Centre has focused strongly on youth, providing and
promoting a broad range of
educational and community activities and resources. The Centre continues
to provide not only a library,
butalso a place where a variety of educational, vocational and community
programs are facilitated.
Centre addresses specific and identified needs within the community.....
growing programs as the years progress
below to view list
primary goal of the Trenchtown Reading Centre is to provide
- in a welcoming & incluisve atmosphere -
a comprehensive Children, Juvenile and Adult book collection.
Providing for the diversity of the community's interests,
need and abilities. Emphasizing current, culturally relevant
materials as well as otherwise unavailable materials and
collections includes; Fiction, Non-fiction, Biographies,
Nature, Health, Geography, Culture, History, Religion, Language,
Sports, Music, Literature, Health and a large reference
There is also a dedicated Early Literacy section and comprehensive
collection of Afro-Centric titles in all catagories.
books are important, as the text often reflects a more diverse
reality. Recent books reflect a more global and inclusive
In childrens books the major impact is often the artwork
- once again, a more global perspective, with African, Caribbean,
Asian and Central American influences being well represented
in current books.
children who have so little, picking up a book - new &
nice - helps to instill a life long love for books and reading
- and all that can bring, as well as having a positive effect
on their self-esteem.
the years we have struggled to improve and enlarge the Centre in order
to provide for all its activities. The Centres
open courtyard was covered and a new roof added. New windows for the
Centre, doors, light and paint were provided
for small spaces, chairs and materials were constantly shuffled to accommodate
After much lobbying by the community, the government built a structure
beside the Centre in May 1998.
The building had a small enclosed space, which was used to provide hot
lunches. Unfortunately, the sides if the main
space was left open. The lack of walls made it difficult to use efficiently,
as neither materials, nor desks could be secured.
In 1993, following
the opening and successful operation of the Centre, the leaders of Trench
Town, armed with the
confidence they could improve the community's life, began to seriously
address the pressing issues of sanitation, security,
housing, health, and employment in the area. To further this aim, The
Trench Town Development Association (TTDA) was
formed in 1996. Advisors to the Board came from various sectors of the
Jamaican and International community.
1998 the Centre was full-up with books and much too small to accommodate
all the users, activities, materials and
programs. Despite ongoing repairs and maintenance, the tiny, old building
remained in rough shape and had to come
down. The books were put in storageand, for a time, the Centre was stalled
as the community struggled through various
ups, down to construct a new building.
1999 the TTDA, JSIF and MP Omar Davies were instrumental in getting
the new library builing completed.
of the TrenchTown Reading Centre returned:
Unfortunately the new Library building, yard were in great need of repairs
Book collection severley depleted. Library was in disrepair and programs
FTRC with it's sister NGO: FACE Jamaica & several partners ( ie:
US Embassy, American Friends of Jamaica):
Spring of 2005 the TRC
were repaired, upgraded and expanded and book collection
The adjacent Classroom Building was completed & the yard fenced
no donation is too great or too small ..
willingness of others to share
and to care about the education and future that the community is trying
to build for their children is heartwarming and encouraging...helping
to make a serious and lasting impact
ONE COCO FULL BASKET .. one step at at time / every bit counts.
help is essential ~ Please help make a difference!
of the TrenchTown Reading Centre
202-1720 Balsam St. Vancouver BC. V6K 3M2
1997, R. Ellison created, 'Friends of the Trenchtown Reading Centre'
A Registered Non-Profit Society, based in Vancouver, Canada ( international
FTRC was created to maintain & develop; educational programs, the
promotion, development, support and maintenance of all aspects of the
ENGLISH FACEBOOK GROUP : FRIENDS OF THE
Current events ... PHOTOS 2010 on ... Global Feedback.
Town has incredible energy, ideas and determination, despite realities
of day to day life.
It also has very limited resources and has greatly appreciated the assistance
that has come
The Trenchtown Reading Centre has been an inspiration. Concrete proof
that change is possible,
that the community is capable and that community based initiatives can
PLEASE mark ALL contents: "Donation
to TrenchTown Reading Centre"
the positives of BOOKS cannot be overstated -
* Children: culturally
friendly - Starter books, Storybooks, Big Books, Beginning Literacy
& Nature series
Chapter Books, Early Science / Biographies / History
* Mature Readers:
History, Nature, Fiction, Politics, Geography, Music, Sports, Culture,
Reference (Encyclopedias, Atlases, 'How To'),
math materials, learning puzzles, MAPS,
word games (crosswords ..)
* Learning cards:
math, alphabet, first words, colours,
shapes, animals, the body
* Curriculum books: particularily
science, geopgraphy, nature, and reference(atlas, dictionaries ...)
DVD's: educational, nature, childrens stories
pencils, pens, pencil crayons, crayons,
coloured paper (all types), art supplies, instruments.....