Lee County program lets kids fleeing the Bahamas start school immediately

It is bad enough to get forced out of your home. Imagine being a child and having to go to another country without your parents. That is the reality some children from the Bahamas who had to evacuate from the horrors of Hurricane Dorian. Now, a program in Lee County is helping them find a home with extended family.

Jenamay Garland’s home went from a family of two to a family of five within a matter of days. She is originally from Abaco, so she stepped in to help her brother and his family, who lost everything during Dorian.

“He’s back in the Bahamas in a shelter also and the kids was devastated,” Garland said. “So he asked me if I could help them out by bringing them over here.”

Garland’s two nieces and nephew arrived a little over a week ago. They were nearly empty-handed, having lost everything. The kids started school on Monday, but with three mouths to feed, Garland is concerned about how she will pay for everything.

Garland registered her nieces and nephew with Lee County’s Homeless Education Program. She is not the first.

“Just over the course of the last school week,” homeless district liaison, Sheena Torres-Nunez, said, “we identified thirteen different students who are now living with relatives in the area.”

Torres-Nunez told WINK News students from the Bahamas can register for school immediately, without the required paperwork. They also receive free lunch, uniforms, school supplies and backpacks. She encourages anyone else with school-aged children to register, too.

“They came with nothing,” Garland said, “so they’ve been a great help because it’s not easy to shop for three kids.”

Also, the program is designed to help students like Shaylicha Pinder with her transition.

“It’s hard because like the classes are different,” Pinder said. “It’s bigger. Everything’s different.”

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