The 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.

: Trench Town is a small area in the West Kingston ghetto enclave of Jamaica’s 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.

Trench Town has a dual identity
- a place whose reputation is as much story as it is reality -

   Trench 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.

Trench 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, to be
the only route to survival and any material gains. The leaders of the community
are determined to change this.


School 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 inadequate facilities.

In 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?

We 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 this themselves.
Out of the community’s strong roots and in response to this dialog came the Trenchtown Reading Centre.

Exchange violence for the power of reasoning..
To think. To reason. To learn.
To grow.

To 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 of ideas.

Immediate action & community control were agreed to be of the utmost importance

Understanding 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!

The 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
this space would provide the perfect setting.

The 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 space.

The idea became a reality
ive 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
with an official ribbon cutting at the Centre, five 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.

Massive 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.

To support and develop the Centre R. Ellison in 1997 created the Registered Non-Profit, " Friends of the Trenchtown Reading Centre (FTRC)" in Canada.
The Centre also received some support from various professionals, organizations, churches and individuals, inside and outside of Jamaica.

1993-1999: 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).

The 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 .

Initially books remained on site, but the Centre had such a large and growing number of users it
quickly progressed to a fully functioning lending Library in 1994. With Children alone, numbering
50+ coming each day to exchange books !

Since 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.

The Centre addresses specific and identified needs within the community.....
growing programs as the years progress

  •  Library: Book Exchange / Storytelling / Langauge Arts / Read Aloud / Study support … 
  •  Literacy / Guided Reading
  •  Spoken word & Drama /Creative Arts /
  •  Community Spelling Bees / Youth performances
  •  Visting Authors, Artists, Performers
  •  Summer School
  •  Seminars; Jobs, Health, Education, Parenting...

below to view list

The 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 information.

The collections includes; Fiction, Non-fiction, Biographies, Nature, Health, Geography, Culture, History, Religion, Language, Sports, Music, Literature, Health and a large reference collection.

There is also a dedicated Early Literacy section and comprehensive collection of Afro-Centric titles in all catagories.

Current books are important, as the text often reflects a more diverse reality. Recent books reflect a more global and inclusive reality.

In children’s 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.

For 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.


Over the years we have struggled to improve and enlarge the Centre in order to provide for all its activities. The Centre’s
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 various activities.

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.

By 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.

In 1999 the TTDA, JSIF and MP Omar Davies were instrumental in getting the new library builing completed.





2005 Friends of the TrenchTown Reading Centre returned:
Unfortunately the new Library building, yard were in great need of repairs & refurbishment.
Book collection severley depleted. Library was in disrepair and programs in limbo.

The FTRC with it's sister NGO: FACE Jamaica & several partners ( ie: US Embassy, American Friends of Jamaica):
Spring of 2005 the
TRC facilities were repaired, upgraded and expanded and book collection totally rebuilt!
The adjacent Classroom Building was completed & the yard fenced and planted!



... no donation is too great or too small ..

The 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 ONE COCO FULL BASKET .. one step at at time / every bit counts.
Your help is essential ~ Please help make a difference!

Friends of the TrenchTown Reading Centre
FTRC • 202-1720 Balsam St. Vancouver BC. V6K 3M2 

In 1997, R. Ellison created, 'Friends of the Trenchtown Reading Centre' (FTRC).
A Registered Non-Profit Society, based in Vancouver, Canada ( international membership).

The FTRC was created to maintain & develop; educational programs, the book collection,
training, promotion, development, support and maintenance of all aspects of the Centre


Current events ... PHOTOS 2010 on ... Global Feedback.

Trench 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 work

PLEASE mark ALL contents: "Donation to TrenchTown Reading Centre"

- the positives of BOOKS cannot be overstated -

click on for ideas.

* Children: culturally friendly - Starter books, Storybooks, Big Books, Beginning Literacy & Nature series …
* Juvenile:
Chapter Books, Early Science / Biographies / History / Reference...
* Mature Readers:
Biographies, History, Nature, Fiction, Politics, Geography, Music, Sports, Culture,
Reference (Encyclopedias, Atlases, 'How To'), Health …

* Educational Games: 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

* The Basics: pencils, pens, pencil crayons, crayons, coloured paper (all types), art supplies, instruments.....