What would we do without good friends?
British High Commissioner to Kingston David Fitton presented a $4-million cheque last Monday to the Homestead Place of Safety, to be used in the financing of renovations to a cottage at the home to accommodate girls who reached the age of 18.
What a relief that must be to the home's manager Ms Sofia Walters, Ms Rosalee Gage-Grey, acting chief executive officer, and her team at the Child Development Agency, and to Ms Lisa Hanna's Ministry of Youth and Culture under whose portfolio the home falls.
It is not that $4 million is the biggest cheque that a Jamaican State agency has ever received, and certainly not from the British. The significance of the contribution lies in its origin and purpose.
According to the high commissioner, last year, in celebration of the first anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic Games, embassies and high commissions around the world were tasked with observing the event by raising funds for a local cause, "focusing on community development and support through sports, and volunteerism".
The High Commission in Kingston chose to partner with the Rotary Club of St Andrew on a project to renovate a cottage at the Homestead Home as a transitional place to accommodate girls who reached the age of 18. Together they held a series of fund-raising events, including a charity football match played at the Barbican football field, where a High Commission team played against the Reggae Boyz.
Additionally, a charity auction was held at the High Commission where items donated by Jamaican sporting personalities, hotels, airlines, and others were put up for sale to benefit the girls. Approximately $2.2 million was raised from these events, we are told.
The High Commission is also providing grant funding of £10,000 or approximately J$1.7 million to the girls' home under a project to expand the vocational training and other educational opportunities offered there. The project supports expansion of a computer lab to facilitate homework and IT training, as well as the home economics and sewing centres, among other activities.
Anyone who has even a passing acquaintance with the crisis that obtains at these homes when the girls reach 18 years, the age at which they are supposed to leave the institutions, will understand how important the donation is, especially because the Government just does not have the money needed for all such critical things.
Many, if not most, of these girls have absolutely no place to go after spending years at the homes. Frequently they end up on the streets or in situations in which they have to offer transactional sex to survive. What is especially painful is to how the huge benefits they gain from institutionalisation go to waste because of the situations they sometimes find themselves in after leaving.
A transitional home in which they can pursue their education and seek a job, until they are able to find proper accommodation, is an absolute necessity. Of course, there is need for several of these types of homes to meet this urgent need.
We heartily commend the British High Commission and the Rotary Club of St Andrew, and hope others in a position to will join this most noble cause.