Why’d They Do That?

Children growing up in the Riverton area, located near Jamaica’s capital of Kingston, have the double whammy of being poor and the stigma of living and working near a garbage dump. I grew up in Riverton, too. My own dad never had the opportunity to finish primary school because his single mom needed him to help pay bills by working at the dump.

When I graduated from kindergarten, my teacher used her home address on my application to grade school. Kids from Riverton were discriminated against by school admissions, and she wanted me to have an equal shot at getting in. It was only because of this woman’s thoughtfulness that I was accepted into a good school. I earned good grades over the next eight years and received a scholarship from one of the most prestigious high schools in the country. Most people in my community did not even finish grade school, while I graduated from a great high school with honors. 

Walking home from school in Riverton.

After getting accepted to a university, I had no role models, financial support, or clue on how to take the next step. A complete stranger who worked as an administrator at the university saw potential in me and helped me get a paid internship at the university so I could pay my tuition. 

Eventually, I graduated, married, and we had a son and a daughter. I wanted to give back to my community but didn’t know how. As God works, Junior Rowe, who is considered a monarch in the community and the founder and principal of Riverton Meadows Primary School, introduced me to IntSam Vice President, Andrew Pawuk, because Junior knew about my passion for community development. International Samaritan hired me to start our mission in Jamaica four years ago.  Now I am the one helping others. 

Our scholars in Jamaica—all 76—are moving from a place without help or hope to the opportunity to dream bigger. In partnership with you, we are renewing Riverton! We have helped young people from Riverton become dieticians and hospitality management and tourism professionals—and we even have a doctor!

A student from Riverton Meadows stands with her medal for finishing the year at the top of her class.

I wouldn’t be here to do this if not for a teacher, a stranger, and a friend who helped me overcome a barrier at a critical stage in my life. Why did they do this? I can’t help but think it’s because “He will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

Thank you for giving me the ability to do the same for our scholars through your support of International Samaritan. It is a blessing and an honor to serve this mission with you.

Tavian in 2019, with the mother of two of our scholars and the recipient of an IntSam house, left; Tavian with a 2022 IntSam graduate right.

Tavian Jones, Project Coordinator

Tavian has been working in non-profit for the past 10 years, specifically focusing on the unique issues around youth education and community development in Riverton, Jamaica. He has been recognized for his dedication to service and received the Youth in Service Award from the Social Development Commission in 2017.

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International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.

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