Igniting passion at Boys Town Infant and Primary School with the Jamaica Fire Brigade

Tiffany Bryan and Assistant Superintendent of the Jamaica Fire Brigade, Howard Thomas

An interest in the prevention of hazardous fires and the delivery of related emergency services has been ignited passion for Grade Six Believers club members. Boys Town Infant and Primary School was pleasantly surprised by Assistant Superintendent Howard Thomas of the Jamaica Fire Brigade. Mr Thomas was invited to meet with the students as a part of the ‘Straight Talk’ series organized by the Charles Hyatt Foundation. ‘Straight Talk’ provides the youngsters with interactive opportunities to explore different options for their economic future.  The purpose is also to have the students engage, on a consistent basis, with professionals who have experienced success and who can be influential in the development of each student’s passion.

The Believers greeted the senior firefighter brightly. Their club, comprised of the school’s entire grade six cohort, had been challenged during the last school term to list a number of career interests and passions they have. The Charles Hyatt Foundation then took up the mantle to find persons working in those specific areas to come and speak to the students about what it takes to be successful and make a living while enjoying what they do.

Assistant Superintendent Thomas, who is in charge of Kingston and St Andrew Fire Prevention, vividly described his work and why it is important to the nation and their community. His audience was captivated as he shared details about his experiences. One child in particular very pointedly asked, “Yuh eva see dead?” then promptly inquired, “How yuh feel?” Mr Thomas explained very simply that, unfortunately, yes he has and it that makes him sad when this happens.

On the more positive side, Mr Thomas reassured the group that the Jamaica Fire Brigade has an excellent track record of keeping their firefighters safe on the job, noting that in his 27 years of experience, by his recollection, no more than two have been lost in the line of duty. He recounted that one of those tragedies was in the 1997 fire that destroyed the interior of Carib Theatre.

It was an eye opening experience for everyone, including the adults. The students particularly enjoyed learning about the extent to which the Jamaica Fire Brigade goes to cater to its own. They roared with laughter when told that the first thing Mr Thomas got when he went to his residency training was a pillow, a sheet and a bed. Mr Thomas apprised his listeners of the various professional fields within the Brigade across their Operations (firefighting, rescue, nursing and emergency medical services, on both land and sea) and Administrative (education, accounting, management, etc.) arms. Those who were keen on other professions were enthused to learn they could do both – be a member of the Brigade and still follow their passions. All were intrigued by the fact that being a member of the Jamaica Fire Brigade involves so much more than fighting fires.

The Assistant Superintendent elaborated on the point that the Brigade is comprised of several areas of expertise and that any of them would be a great career path to choose because you can do your civic duty and still follow your dreams. He informed the youth about the advantages of being a member of the Jamaica Fire Brigade and how beneficial it has been to him in his life. Mr Thomas illustrated that the Brigade is an institution that assists and encourages the growth and development of its staff as global citizens, by providing incentives for furthering education and undergoing training programmes all over the world. Having made his case, he made sure to outline what was required to become a member.

Passion, check, enthusiasm, check

There could be no doubt in the presenter’s mind as to whether the students were paying keen attention. They were visibly enthralled. One set of boys declared that if they got into the Brigade they would provide for their family and make Jamaica a better place. When asked what was required to apply to the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Believers’ hands shot up with great speed as they recited all the requirements. When asked who wanted to join the Brigade, almost everyone (including the teacher) put their hand up.

Yet to meet the age requirement to apply for admission, the sixth graders were elated when they heard that they could try on the uniform at the end of the talk. They ran exuberantly to the pieces of official attire, filling their classroom with scenes of mirth as they played ‘dress up’.

It was enlightening and heart-warming to see the depth of fascination exhibited by the youth as soon as their previously hypothetical interest was spurred on by sparks of real world knowledge.