"I will never forget my visits to Falmouth, Jamaica in 2001/2002. Falmouth was the old slave capital of Jamaica during the 18th and 19th century and poverty is still rife there today. The year previously, the news that the late Nelson Mandela had praised three of my Afro-Caribbean books as being 'wonderful stories' had been picked up and mentioned on 'News 24.' The Jamaicans regarded Nelson Mandela as an idol.
As a consequence, the Custos (Mayor) of Trelawny and the Jamaican Minister for Youth Culture and Education invited me to write and publish a book for the 32 schools in the area of Falmouth. Over the next three years, I wrote five books which were placed on the school curriculum in Falmouth, and which helped to raise from their sales, many tens of thousands of £s, from which much needed school supplies were bought. They were 'The Kilkenny Cat Trilogy,' 'The Valley of the Two Tall Oaks' and 'Bucket Bill;' the latter two which can now be bought in my 'Afro-Indian Dreams Trilogy.'
In conjunction with the Jamaican Minister, I also set up a trans-Atlantic pen-pal project where thousands of school children in Falmouth, exchanged regular letters with children from predominantly white populated schools in Yorkshire, England. The aim of this pen pal project was to reduce the prospect of racism between black and white pupils and to increase their understanding of different cultures; the very same aim of the five books that I wrote and were published for the school curriculum of Falmouth.
During my second visit to Jamaica, I visited all 32 schools in the Falmouth area. Some of the schools were on the edge of the beach, some were in the centre of woodland areas and a few were on the potholed roadside. All had bars on their outer doors and windows, and the floor upon which their pupils stood, was the earth itself. With regard to limited resources, pencils were cut in half, writing textbooks had to be written on both sides of the same sheet of paper and even between the lines of a previously written composition. Their libraries had fewer books than the average British home held and every family, rich or poor, had to pay educational fees to have their children schooled.
The thing I will remember most was the vast difference in behaviour between the children aged between 5-13 years and those between 13-16 years. The younger children at school wanted to learn. They were polite and attentive and dressed more smartly than any British school child I've ever seen. Once the children went to the older schools as teenagers, however, a vast change in many of them occurred.
With regard to the commission of murders, at the time, Jamaica had the distinction of being the crime capital of the world. Paradoxically, they were also the country with the most number of churches per 1000 population. There were many districts/parishes in the country which were 'no go areas' to the police and were run by drug barons who often paid protection to the police and other government employees; a situation that still exists today.
Falmouth had a higher rate of unemployment than any other parish in Jamaica, and apart from nurses, teachers, policemen and workers in banks and tourist hotels, few boys were able to find gainful employment unless they were involved with gangs and drugs. Often, the best that most nonuniversity educated girls could hope for, would be to find a man who would stand by her and their children. Hence, many of the young Jamaican women tended to become highly sexualised in their manner, dress and lifestyle. These females often viewed motherhood and partnership to a man as their only way forward. Too many Jamaican children grew up never knowing their absent father and it was the practice of many adult males to move from woman to woman as a matter of course!
And yet, the morale of the ordinary Jamaican was magnificent to behold. Despite the vast beauty of their sand, sea and mountains, they annually faced death and destruction through adverse weather forces. Over two-thirds of Jamaicans in the poorer parishes lived in accommodation that could be blown down in any large puff of wind. They had seasonal hurricanes, which at best knocked out the countries electricity supply for days on end, and at worst, destroyed humbly constructed living shacks of the poor, blocked off roads, blew bridges down and killed all those exposed to open land areas. And when the storm had passed, the Jamaicans simply got on with their lives again and rebuilt their living dwellings from whatever material they could find, beg, borrow or steal. All this they did as a matter of course; without complaint.
My second visit to Jamaica was something I will never forget. Almost overnight, because of Nelson Mandela's positive comments about my writing on global television, I effectively became 'famous' in Jamaican eyes and was mobbed in virtually every school I visited. That's me at the back who cannot get a look in.
The single thing that pleases me most of all, is the knowledge that when God allocated out the land and the scenery to the different peoples of the world, He gave the most beautiful places and the warmest of hearts to the poorest of people. He also endowed them with a love of song and made many of their singers, like the late Bob Marley, international troubadours of love and freedom. Long live Jamaica!" William Forde: October 25th, 2016.