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It all started with a simple piece of wire.
Most days, Sheena Cole is a devoted employee for Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall, working as a server at the on-property Bitez Deli & Cafe. But, day in and day out, Cole holds another important job: She’s the doting mother of two — a 12-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son — and both are students at Granville All-Ages School, located about a 35-minute drive from the Montego Bay, Jamaica, resort.
Though Granville All-Ages School is the primary pre-K and elementary education facility serving the community it’s named for, the school had fallen into an alarming state of disarray. The negligence was attributed not to a lack of care from its staff, but to a deficiency of resources. And near the top of the school’s wish list was a proper fence to stand between where the kids played and where the adjacent volatile neighborhood of Granville began.
With one small but momentous act, Cole took matters into her own hands. In October 2015, she penned a letter to Diego Concha, general manager for Hyatt Ziva and sister property Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall, humbly asking the resort for a donation of wire, which would be used to build a more secure barrier around the school’s perimeter.
As fate would have it, Concha — a longtime Hyatt employee who, only a month prior, had been appointed general manager of the Rose Hall properties — was in pursuit of a meaningful project for the hotel that could benefit the community at large.
What ensued from this serendipity was a visit by Concha, joined by Rose Hall’s executives, to Granville All-Ages School as well as a meeting with its principal. The verdict was swift: The team decided that their actions needed to go far beyond just supplying some wire.
Our connection is through the soul — it’s getting to know the kids. We’re at the school, helping with math, science and physical education; we’re reading to students. Our approach is real: We want to be a part of the school’s curriculum.
Instead, the “Granville 404 Project” would flourish as an ongoing partnership — one strengthened not only by Rose Hall’s executive team but also by staff across all departments and job hierarchy. Uniting these cohorts would be the shared goal of enacting enduring positive impact to the school’s structure and, most importantly, fostering the educational and physical development of its students, both present and future.
Officially launched in January 2016, a detailed two-year plan charted where and how Rose Hall could offer the most impact, from a soccer field that saw cast-off, mucky soda bottles used as makeshift balls to a considerable chunk of school grounds serving no purpose other than amassing garbage.
Less than two years later, in late May 2017, I saw firsthand the incredible extent of Granville’s transformation.
“Our connection is through the soul — it’s getting to know the kids,” Concha told me. “We’re at the school, helping with math, science and physical education; we’re reading to students. Our approach is real: We want to be a part of the school’s curriculum.
Indeed, on the day of my visit, more than a dozen Rose Hall employees were hard at work in the garden and greenhouse behind the school’s modest buildings. Formerly a refuse heap, the expanse now blooms with life — especially of the edible variety. Outside are corn, sweet peppers, plantains, corn, carrots, bell peppers, pak choi (similar to kale) and pumpkin, while lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes and cauliflower grow in the greenhouse. Donated by Rose Hall, a water filtration and irrigation system leverages rainwater to feed the crops.
Once harvested, the produce is used for Granville’s cafeteria lunch program — helping to subsidize the meals of less-privileged students — as well as brought to the resort, where students can visit to get a grasp of the farm-to-table business cycle.
“The students learn about our food production and how we service our guests,” Concha said. “They begin to sense what a basic economy is all about — they see beyond the school and see that there is opportunity.”
The “Granville 404 Project” began with a simple request for wire from one of Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall’s employees. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
It has since evolved into an ongoing project focused on improving Granville All-Ages School’s structure as well as fostering the educational and physical development of the school’s students. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
A space formerly used for dumping garbage has become a garden planted by the staff of Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall; it thrives with a variety of vegetable and fruit crops. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
Growing in the greenhouse are lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower and more. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
An employee holds a freshly harvested tomato. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
The crops are used for Granville All-Ages School’s cafeteria lunch program as well as brought to the resort so that students can learn about the farm-to-table business cycle. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
Granville All-Ages School is the primary pre-K and elementary education facility serving the community it’s named for. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
Rose Hall employees offer impact in the classroom, too, by creating and effecting lesson plans for students of all levels. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
Students during recess // © 2017 Valerie Chen
The writer with a group of students // © 2017 Valerie Chen
We walked over to a second-grade classroom, where a group of adorable, pint-size students exuberantly greeted us by exclaiming, “Buenos dias (good morning)!”
According to Concha, one of the many curriculum goals is to ensure that students learn a second language, which can help them better integrate into society. Other manager-level Rose Hall employees are also lending a hand by sharing their knowledge of the sciences, math and even the importance of an eco-friendly lifestyle. For example, in addition to establishing a recycling program at the school, the resort’s environmental manager has led ecosystem lessons, too.
All work — from the physical labor in the garden to the time spent with children in the classroom — is 100-percent volunteer-based.
Today, even Rose Hall guests, travel agents, meeting planners and more can show support, which might entail donating items to the school or stopping by the school to help with the garden and greenhouse. For example, Beach Bum Cares, the philanthropic leg of the Brownsburg, Indiana-based travel agency Beach Bum Vacation, is sponsoring Granville’s future computer lab and chicken coop. Both are currently in progress.
To get involved, such as by setting up a group visit to Granville, agents can contact Dedra Brown ([email protected]), the HR coordinator on property, or their regional BDM. Also, on property, guests can request more information or set up a visit simply by asking the resort concierge.
When asked about his proudest moment of the project so far, Concha broke into a wide smile while recalling the school’s first official soccer game held in late 2016.
“The kids were laughing, their parents were proud, and we had a great time — they played against Rose Hall’s managers, and they beat us,” Concha said. “It was a simple moment, but we all knew what was behind it: a lot of sweat, dedication and commitment from our team.”
To get involved, such as by setting up a group visit to Granville All-Ages School, agents can contact Dedra Brown ([email protected]), the HR coordinator on property, or their regional BDM. Also, on property, guests can request more information or set up a visit by asking the resort concierge.