In November 2011, Deika Morrison, the founder of Do Good Jamaica, conceptualized Crayons Count when she heard that basic school children across Jamaica did not have crayons. ‘Count’ stands for the fact that we are collecting a LOT of crayons and also for the fact that crayons do ‘count’, they matter.
From November until December, Deika Morrison refined the campaign and set two objectives:
OBJECTIVE 1: Increase awareness of the importance of early childhood education and good early childhood practices.
OBJECTIVE 2: Provide recommended learning resources for basic schools across Jamaica.
On December 6, 2011, the final logo was agreed to. This logo would be something that children think they wrote when they saw it. It would also include two recycle symbols as the ‘o’s to indicate that we were recycling crayon bits donated by children – good for the environment and a great way to get children involved in the campaign.
The Official Crayons Count Logo
In December 2011, Crayons Count was soft launched at the Annual All-Ivy Christmas Get Together. Jamaican Ivy Leaguers donated crayons and colouring books for the cause.
On February 13 2012, Crayons Count was officially launched at the Knustford Court Hotel. It was announced that the major sponsors were National Baking Co. Ltd. and The Gleaner Co. Ltd. At this event, the two objectives were shared, as well as how the campaign would work.
We announced that there would curriculum-appropriate content for children in the Gleaner – the first time ever in a national newspaper in the main newspaper.
We also unveiled the kit configuration recommended by the ECC with 13 categories of recommended learning resources: 240 crayons, 10 books, 2 blocks, 2 balls, 4 packs of paper 4 puzzles, 4 manipulatives, 4 kids scissors, 4 puppets, 4 tubs of playdough, 4 tubs of kids paint, 8 paint brushes and 8 glue-sticks.
The target was set: to get Jamaican talking about the importance of early-childhood education and to collect and distribute a kit to every basic school – some 2,700 – that had applied for registration with the ECC. And it had never been done before.
At this event, many companies and organizations pledged their support such as The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica who presented a cheque for J$200,000, Digicel Jamaica Foundation who announced that they would have a staff drive among its support, Book Industry Association of Jamaica whose members provided discounts for purchase as well as donated books. A number of drop-off points were announced as well.
The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica makes the 1st cash donation to Crayons Count.
L to R: Karen McDonald-Gayle, Executive Director of The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica and Deika Morrison, Founder of Do Good Jamaica. The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica is a founding sponsor of Do Good Jamaica.
On February 18, 2012, a full page of content for children appeared in The Saturday Gleaner. This initiative was the first time that content appropriate for children – and content that was based on the curriculum – was made available in a main newspaper and not in a children’s section. The page was inspired by the need to ensure that basic school teachers had access to curriculum-appropriate material which was severely lacking at the time. It was also meant for parents and caregivers to do with their children. The Crayons Count Saturday Gleaner Page has appeared every single Saturday since then thanks to the partnership between The Gleaner and National Baking Co. with content provided by Jackmandora.
In the weeks and months after the launch, we were busy with radio and tv appearances explaining to Jamaicans about the campaign, why early childhood education was so very important and what people could do to help. Soon Crayons Count was passing people in traffic on cars and trailers thanks to National Bakery Co..
In March 17 2012, Do Good Jamaica co-hosted it’s first festival with the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. The Do Good Jamaica/Kingston Book Festival was an incredible success with the participation of several foundations and members of the book industry – publishers, authors, distributors etc. The event was a collection and awareness event for Crayons Count. In-kind donations received that day were from Sandals Foundation, Sangster’s/Crayola and from members of the public.
A critical part of the awareness campaign is our events. We provide fun but educational activities for children in the early childhood age group not just for the children to have fun and learn, but for their teachers and parents to see how the recommended learning resources help children. With lots of activities for children, the Do Good Jamaica/Kingston Book Festival was a memorable day with colouring, painting, robotics and more. Even Sesame Street Characters made an appearance thanks to Sandals Foundation!
On March 21, 2012, Deika Morrison dedicated her 40th birthday to having a Crayons Count fundraiser at Bin 26 Winebar. In lieu of gifts, guests brought crayons and other donations for the basic school children. All guests had to sign in with crayons and participate in colouring activities. And because of this unusual event, Crayons Count was in the social pages – another place to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood education.
For more about this fundraiser, read this article: Crayons Count for Deika’s 40th
On March 22, 2012, Deika Morrison made a presentation about the Crayons Count campaign at the Rotary Club of Kingston – increasing awareness of the importance of early childhood education and encouraging participation. Unplanned, she was joined in the presentation by Butch Hendrickson, Chairman of National Baking Co. In voicing his support, he informed the public that National had pledged $30 million to the campaign. For more about that announcement, read this article: $30 Million Makes Crayons Count
At the end of March 2012, The Gleaner kicked off an aggressive editorial campaign to support early childhood education. The editorials on March 25: Stop This Crime Against Children, March 26: Enough Of This Early Childhood Insanity and April 5, 2012: A Constitutional Obligation To Children (the latter two which specifically mentioned Crayons Count) spoke clearly on the subject. The Gleaner also had other articles about the topic as well as facts about the early childhood sector displayed prominently throughout the newspaper for weeks. Starting April 1, 2012, Deika Morrison wrote a weekly column in The Gleaner for 9 weeks addressing various issues in the early childhood sector. These articles were:
- Is Jamaica Fit For Children?
- Why Crayons Count
- Empower The Nation’s Children To Secure The Future
- Pressure For Primary School Students – Pupils Face Four Prime Tests In Six Years
- Jeopardizing Children’s Rights: More Needs To Be Done To Celebrate Our Children
- For The Love Of Our Children – National Children’s Day Now Official In Jamaica
- Collaborating For Change
- Where Are The Children In This Budget Debate?
- Children: The Voiceless Victims
In April 2012, we participated in The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica’s Earth Day event at the zoo. In our tent, we had the proposed recommended learning tools for the children to use. There were children that had never used these tools before, but quickly learned what to do. With the help of volunteers from RBC Jamaica, we engaged the children and encouraged them to explore their creativity and develop their skills. For all children – even those older than the early childhood agree group – the learning tools were great fun.
In Jamaica, May is Child Month. So we were very busy!
On May 1, 2012, we kicked off Child Month with our ‘Wear Primary Colours’ campaign. We got photos by Facebook, Twitter and email from here and abroad with people wearing primary colours for the children.
National Baking Co. unveiled Crayons Count branded bread bags that made their way into homes across the length and breadth of Jamaica in the month of May and beyond.
For Read Across Jamaica Day on May 8, 2012, the Crayons Count team visited with the children at Cecil Boswell Facey Basic School and read many stories with them.
On May 12, 2012, we participated in the annual Nestle School Wellness Fiesta providing a space for children in the early childhood age group to use our learning tools guided by volunteers for the Loving Arms Group.
On May 18, 2012, we co-hosted – with the National Child Month Committee – the national event for the first ever Children’s Day and unveiled the mobile learning concept. Held in the parking lot of The Gleaner, children from basic schools. Ministers Lisa Hanna and Damion Crawford were on hand engaging with the children. Singer Sezi took the children through the ABCs and Jana Bent provided a real treat for the kids with her very animated reading of her book, Shaggy Parrot.
On June 30 2012, we participated in Food For The Poor’s Family Fun Day at the zoo. Food For The Poor is a critical partner in the Crayons Count initiative as they import all the items we donate to schools as learning tools.
On July 18, 2012, we participated in Nelson Mandela Day. This international day of service was being recognized officially in Jamaica for the first time. We chose to organize events with children in a basic school – reading with kids in classrooms, playing with kids in the mobile unit and painting a mural on the wall of the school using the kids own art. Our volunteers had a great time and so did the kids! The day was shared with with the UN Resident Representative, Dr. Arun Kashyap and South African High Commissioner Mathu Joyini, Chairman of National Baking Co., Butch Hendrickson (and staff volunteers from National) and Managing Director of The Gleaner Co. Ltd. , Christopher Barnes (and staff volunteers from The Gleaner).
For incredible photos of the children at play and the mural, have a look at our Facebook album: Nelson Mandela Day and read this article: Jamaica House Basic School Benefits From Nelson Mandela International Day
In July 2012, the United States Embassy in Jamaica held training for 70 teachers in Jamaica – 5 in each of the 14 parishes. The training was focused on the importance of the Crayons Count learning recommended learning tools and ideas for engaging students with them to meet curriculum objectives. Workshops were lead by early childhood specialist Olivia Wilmot and American psychologists Professor Sandee McClowry and Dr Mark Spellman. For more about this training initiative, read this article: Crayons Do Count – US Embassy Supports Initiative To Improve Early Childhood Education
With the new school year in the distance, Crayons Count looked forward to even more learning, fun and laughter.