“Ok! Alright!”

“Alright! Ok!”

This was a refrain heard quite often during the prize giving ceremony for the Schools Zika Poster Competition that was held by the Jamaica Red Cross Society on Friday 25th January, 2019. The ceremony, which was held in the Community Centre next to the JRC Headquarters, was not your typical staid affair with polite applause upon the announcement of winners.

Instead, Master of Ceremonies, Donna Thomas, Finance Manager of the JRC, made it a lively, interactive experience. She gave the school children in the audience leave to respond to her “Ok!” with “Alright!” and vice versa, an activity they embraced with unbridled enthusiasm. She invited them to loudly sing their school songs, which Fogah Road High School did with pride. She even made the audience stand up and sing Father Abraham, with all the accompanying actions, which saw JRC members in the audience, including Emergency Services Manager, Brandon McFarlane, turning all about.

The event was held to distribute prizes to the winners of the Zika Poster Competition which was open to both primary and high schools in Jamaica. The competition came about as a result of the JRC school intervention efforts where staff and volunteers went out to talk to students about Zika, the dangers of the Aedes Aegypti mosquito and the ways in which they could protect themselves and their families. Paulette Blake, Project Manager of the Zika Response and Prevention Project, said that as a mother, she realised that the best way to get the message about Zika to adults was through children and thus the idea for the poster competition was born.

The knowledge and creativity displayed by both the primary and high school students proved Mrs. Blake right, as their efforts revealed that they had absorbed the information and were well equipped to ‘fight the bite’. Port Antonio High School took the top spot among the older age group with a truly imaginative depiction of a WhatsApp group conversation that included Jamaican patois. Horace Clarke High placed second with a brightly coloured artistic rendition and Fogah Road High was third with an interesting perspective.

In the primary category Boundbrook Primary won with a neat, accurate advice panel. In second place was McAuley Primary School with an inventive twist on the mosquito coil and Four Paths Primary brought up the rear with a realistic portrayal of a neighbourhood clean-up. The students were well rewarded for their hard work as the winning schools won desktop computers while the students themselves received tablets and gift bags with Zika-branded notebooks and other goodies. All participating students also received certificates and plaques.

Dr. Dennis Edwards, President of the Jamaica Red Cross, was on hand to give out some of these prizes and congratulate the students. He also had a few words, exhorting the children to “try to outsmart the mosquitos” as until that can be done, “we have to try to protect ourselves”. Ms. Sobia Shaw, a representative from the Ministry of Health (MoH) indicated that she was please with the partnership between the two organisations and hoped that the competition could be done every year.

The afternoon was not complete without some entertainment by the JRC’s very School of Transformation. The five boys and one girl performed a dramatic piece that represented the adversities that come along with being bitten by a mosquito as it, “mek life harder an yu bawl fi yu moda” (makes life harder and you cry for your mother).