Keeping the faith

Keeping the faith

Thalidomine victim hosts treat for disabled today

Observer senior reporter

Saturday, September 26, 2020

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Faith Russell, the charitable diasporan who comes home annually to embrace other Jamaicans with disabilities, says all COVID-19 protocols will be fully observed at her treat today at Sts Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church on Old Hope Road, St Andrew.

For this 11th staging, which starts at 9:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm, there will be no entertainment for her disabled guests, “because as soon as they come in, they are given whatever we have to give them and they leave immediately”.

Russell, a survivor of the dreaded Thalidomine drug, which deformed thousands of babies worldwide in the early 1960s, suffered from her mother's use of the drug for relief from “morning sickness” during her pregnancy.

She has been staging the event for the past 10 years and it has featured leading performers, including Ninja Man, Bugle, Carol Gonzalez, Faith D' Aguilar as well as the Magnificent Troopers marching band.

She expressed disappointment that she will not be able to entertain her guests like in the past, but insists that the event will be worthwhile attending.

“We are going to be very strict, because we have to observe the social distancing and sanitising conditions, as well as the wearing of masks, but, they will be happy with it. We urge those who wish to attend to call us, so that we can spread out the arrival and departure times and they can just pick up whatever we have for them and leave,” she remarked.

“If they want, they can ask for me to send it to them, and we will do that, if it is possible and, if necessary, we will continue into the following day to accommodate everybody,” she added.

Russell has been single-handedly staging the “Pandemic Relief for the Disabled” in the Mona area for the past 10 years, through her own charity, Changing One Person's Life At A Time (COPLAAT), with funding from life-time damages paid for the effect of the Thalidomine drug.

She was born without legs but, with assistance from Professor John Golding and his team at the Mona Rehabilitation Centre and the Cheshire Village, she learnt to use prosthetic legs and a wheelchair to move around. After she joined her parents in the United States at age 17, she settled there and now lives in Sacramento, California, where she owns her own business.

But, she has never forgotten nor forsaken fellow Jamaicans with disabilities, and started offering whatever assistance she could for the past 10 year, including staging the annual stage show and treat for people from the Cheshire Village and other homes for the disabled persons.

The treat is for the disabled community, including people who are either mentally or physically disabled, and will continue as long as she can afford it, she says. However, she says that she would welcome support which could help to expand it beyond its current limitations.

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