The Sisters of Mercy established St. John Bosco in Hatfield, Mandeville in response to the Jamaican Juvenile Authority’s identification of a need for more homes to serve very challenged boys in the 1950s.A generous benefactor donated the funds to purchase the land.
The Sisters opened the doors of SJB on January 31, 1960 which is the feast of St. John Bosco, an Italian saint who dedicated his life to serving troubled youth. St. John Bosco Boys’ Home was initially an Approved School. In 1965 the Approved School Status was changed to a Children’s Home and the trades were introduced as a way of engaging the boys in meaningful activity and preparation for their futures.
70’S AND 80’S
The Christian Brothers from New York came to minister at SJB. It was at this time that Sister Susan Frazer and Sister Noreen Gray, newly assigned to Bosco, worked with Bro. Browne and, as a team, they re-energized the boys and the programme that was offered there. It was during this time that the livestock component for which Bosco is now well-known began with the purchase of two pigs from Bodles Research Farm. Such a small beginning!
In 1984, the Christian Brothers left Bosco and Sister Susan was appointed Superintendent. That year, the first biogas digester, employing modern technology to utilize animal refuse for methane gas, was built with the assistance of Projects for Peoples.
In 1985 another feasibility study conducted by a UWI research team re the possibilities of establishing formal butcher training as an area of study and training for the boys met with positive response. Applications were sent to many agencies for assistance with grants which proved fruitless at first. Then Hurricane Gilbert hit! Then in 1989,, a fire destroyed the Butcher Training Shop. It took almost two years before funding would be secured to launch the restoration program.
The buildings were beginning to show their age and through grant-writing, funds were donated to enable the complete renovation of one side of the existing dormitory that had been in a state of disrepair due to the pervasive onslaught of termites. So effective was this attempt at renovations that the boys labeled the renovated area, “The Pent House!” The closing years of the 20th Century witnessed tremendous growth and development at St. John Bosco.
As was intimated earlier, the years have not been without their challenges. In fact the 21st Century has not been kind so far to Bosco. Hurricanes Ivan, Dean, Mitch and Gustav have left the administration, staff and students reeling in the trail of their passage. Most vulnerable in the advent of Ivan, 2004 were the broiler chickens, for Bosco lost all 6,000 of them that year! Ivan nicknamed “the Terrible” after his historical counterpart, destroyed the roof of the clothing room, one of the staff residences and still another roof from one of the dormitories. Two years later, in 2006 Hurricane Dean struck and again took the roof from both the clothing room and one of the dormitories and completely destroyed the newly established greenhouse. In the wake of all this liability, it was decided to construct the greenhouse with steel uprights, etc. and when Hurricane Gustav hit in 2007, the steel structure withstood the onslaught but 800 fully fruited tomato plants were destroyed.
SJB continues to offer the best programme for boys who have been court ordered and in need of structure, care, and support for personal development.