A Bok Spot - Assisting with Virtual Learning

A Bok Spot - Assisting with Virtual Learning

childrens' drawings

The children who benefit from the Bok Spots express their gratitude.

Super Father Jim!

Several years ago, I had an idea to open a learning center—a place where kids could go to access the internet before and after school, use devices to assist them in their work, and have someone there who could help them. A grant request through the Rotary Club of Negril got off the ground, but unfortunately it did not materialize. Several years passed, and Cornerstone Jamaica contacted me with interest in resurrecting the learning center. A "big-up" they would name it The Bok Learning Center. That learning center did not come to fruition either. At around the same time COVID-19 struck, and with it came virtual learning.

priest and woman

Fr. Jim Bok and Joan Cooney at St. Anthony's Kitchen where the students receive breakfast and lunch.

With 50% of the school children in the country unable to access the internet and/or a device, my response to virtual learning was, “it ain’t gonna work.” But sitting around and doing nothing was, well, unacceptable. After consultation with Joan Cooney (who oversees our Get Kids to School program), Fr. Colin (who lives with me and ministers in our Franciscan mission), and Cornerstone, our immediate thought was to try and get internet hot spots in various places around the community. And thus, the Bok Spot was born.

The first effort was at St. Anthony’s Kitchen, using a little MiFi device that allowed 15 kids access to the internet. At the same time, Fr. Colin opened a Bok Spot at his church in Revival. The situation at The Kitchen was not conducive to learning, so now the kids get some breakfast at The Kitchen, board our bus, and head to our church hall where the internet, tablets, and some volunteers are waiting. In midmorning there is recess. Drinks and cookies are served, football (soccer) is played, and thanks to volunteer Rochelle, yoga was introduced and received with great enthusiasm. The kids even had me join in! When classes end at noon, the kids board the bus again and head back to The Kitchen where lunch awaits them.


Teachers and students at a Bok Spot in Revival, Jamaica.

Operating a Bok Spot is not an easy thing. Keeping kids in different grade levels and schools “on task” is a real challenge, especially with the younger children. Virtual learning continues to be an uphill struggle here and across the country. But the kids using Bok Spots are getting into a daily routine of going to class again and not just wasting their days doing nothing constructive. And the importance of their education is before them every day.

I have never forgotten a slogan I heard when growing up: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste" (UNCF, the United Negro College Fund). It’s as true today as it was when I was younger. How many Bok Spots will open—who knows! But in our little part of the world, the Franciscans are providing internet access and devices to students, thanks to our benefactors and our collaboration with Cornerstone Jamaica.

Click here to read letters to Fr. Jim written by the grateful kids benefiting from the Bok Spots.

Learn more about Bok Spots in this video with Fr. Colin King.

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