Simone St. Fort is a former principal and teacher. She started teaching at an early age and although she wanted to pursue nursing, realized she was right where she was meant to be. St Fort loved teaching and knew she had to make a difference in the lives of her students and make every moment count.
“My mother had 12 children so I was always around children and that’s one of the reasons why I love them. I loved helping my students. Just seeing a child going to a secondary school is gratifying,” she explained.
Although she loved her job, St. Fort knew she would have to do more if she planned on making a difference in the lives of young persons. Then, God blessed her with the perfect idea: she had to build a ‘Bridge of Hope’.
“I saw so many young and vulnerable people, especially girls. Some of them dropped out of school for various reasons, so I said as an educator and a Christian, I should be able to do something better for them, I got the idea through a vision. I was praying and God revealed it to me,” St. Fort added.
She started a “Bridge of Hope” in 2011 and has seen amazing results. The former principal of Aux Lyons Combined School said that the programme is “changing one life at a time” and for that she’s grateful.
“It’s a programme for young women with several facilitators. The girls are very excited when they come—we do a number of things. We teach them about financial freedom; some of them learned how to open an account with a Credit Union, for example, something they’d never done before. We also teach them about the importance of setting goals and planning. I try to help as much as I can,” St. Fort explained.
She continued: “If someone wants to be a seamstress, I try to get them a sewing machine. If persons dropped out of school, I let them know that they can still write the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination. I have success stories; children who received their CSEC (certificate) after dropping out. We also teach them about etiquette and self-esteem.”
The course is free of charge but the 64-year-old doesn’t mind. After all, her help goes a long way.
“Some persons ask me why (I do it); it gives me joy. We have persons (coming from) various parts of Dennery but most of them are coming from my community Dernière Rivière. We receive sponsorships which help tremendously. After they’ve completed the programme they receive a certificate,” she said.
“The girls have learnt a lot. We have done programmes with various institutions like the National Skills Development Centre, National Research and Development Foundation and National Enrichment and Learning Unit. Some learned how to do housekeeping; one class did cake making and decorating. Some of them are now working in the hotel industry; some are working on cruise ships. While I do not receive a salary my joy comes from seeing them succeed. To take somebody from the street, from unemployment, and see them go so far, it’s a blessing,” she said gratefully.
But young men shouldn’t feel left out, St. Fort said with a twinkle in her eye. According to her, “for the first time ever, there will be a male component.”
“We stopped the programme because of COVID but we’re going to resume in September of this year. We are going to the schools. We will begin with grade six students because we realize that when some leave primary school and go to secondary school they get lost. We want to capture them before they get to secondary school; we want to help them improve,” St. Fort stated.
“There is a bridge and if you are determined you can cross over that bridge and discover there’s hope on the other side,” she said, further adding “there are people who did the programme, who want to help others. These people are now facilitators.”
She continued: “I also work with a group from Barbados called Women of Excellence and they send me materials. They have been with us twice to help us with the programme because they have something similar in Barbados. I’ve also been to Barbados to see their programme. They’re giving us full support.”
St. Fort is the author of “Servanthood” and “A Fresh Sense of God.” She is also a pastor and founder of Hope for Marriage ministries.