Strong friendship forged through Jamaica school build project

Strong friendship forged through Jamaica school build project

October 29, 2018

Since 2015, Natasha Borota has helped construct five basic schools in Jamaica that has enriched lives.

Her most satisfying build, however, is the relationship with a young girl she met on her first visit with Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation (HHJF) which, with support from nationals and friends of Jamaica, has erected 19 kindergarten schools in partnership with Food for the Poor Canada which has built 30 schools on the island.

While the volunteers were busy building three years ago, about 150 students from seven grades were confined to a nearby classroom which had a washroom and running water that the builders utilized.

Before the task was complete, Shyan Brown reached out to Borota and gave her a big hug.

“This little girl was very quiet and shy unlike her classmates who were jumping on me and trying to grab my attention,” she recalled.

On the penultimate day of the build, Brown presented Borota with a picture of a butterfly she drew.

“She told me Jesus loves me and asked if I would be her new friend,” said Borota who is the president and chief operating officer of ‘The It Factor Ltd.’ which is a full-service boutique agency specializing in event planning, marketing and sports celebrity management. “That was so touching and I accepted her request without any hesitation.”

They have been close ever since.

When Borota is in Jamaica on vacation or volunteering, she spends time with Brown and her family who have become an integral part of HHJF which they assisted with the last build in July at Mount Pleasant Basic School in Port Antonio.

Last month, Brown and her mother – Francine Brown – were in Toronto for the HHJF fundraising gala at the Donalda Club.

The eight-year-old thanked donors and volunteers on behalf of every child that has benefited from their generosity.

“We got new schools which are beautiful,” the Grade Three student said.

Brown, who wants to be a nurse, said her love for Borota – whose parents migrated from Serbia and Ukraine -- is everlasting.

“I love Natasha because she loves me,” said the little girl who celebrated her birthday on September 1. “She makes sacrifices and builds schools for us. I know she will always look out for me.”

During the brief visit, Brown visited Niagara Falls and several tourist attractions in the city.

“Shyan was the one that kept me going back to build schools,” said Borota who, in 2006, co-founded the Michael ‘Pinball’ Clemons Foundation. “She’s so positive and such a shining star who could be anything she wants to be. I don’t have kids, but I treat her as my own and will do anything I could to help her achieve her goals.”

Borota completed an animal science degree after five years split between Louisiana State University and Grambling State University.

Shyan Brown with her mom Francine Brown (l) & Natasha Borota

Shyan Brown with her mom Francine Brown (l) & Natasha Borota

Brown’s mother isn’t surprised her daughter acts beyond her years.

“Inside my womb, I could feel her energy before she came out,” mom pointed out. “It was as if she had a mission and she just couldn’t wait to get out and start. She’s well loved, a child of God and someone who seem to touch anyone she comes in contact with in a special way.”

In 2005, former Jamaica Davis Cup tennis player Karl Hale, who is the Rogers Cup tournament director, initiated a meeting with then Jamaica consul general Anne-Marie Bonner to explore ways in which he could contribute to his birth country.

With the consulate’s support, the HHJF emerged with a mandate to create a world-class education system in Jamaica.

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