Best gift ever

Fire victim thanks Usain Bolt for helping to rebuild house

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Senior staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 18, 2019

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FIRE victim Sean Sutherland's misfortunes were yesterday reversed when he was handed the keys to a two-bedroom house in Ellerslie Pen, Spanish Town, St Catherine.

It was the perfect gift for the father of two, who celebrated his 39th birthday on Monday.

Only months before, fire ravaged his two-bedroom house, forcing him, his children and spouse to live out of a “little” washroom at the back of a relative's home. The family has been sleeping on one bed since July.

Like others who have suffered a similar fate, Sutherland was devastated. All he worked diligently to acquire over eight years had gone up in smoke.

Yesterday, he was in tears when he recounted his ordeal in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.

“This is the best birthday gift, ever. Disaster struck [in July]. It was unfortunate because it was right before back-to-school. Mi buy everything fi mi children them and it burn up. We only had what we were wearing. Mi children never had on clothes. At the time, their mother was bathing them and I was working and they called me and tell mi seh mi house was on fire. When mi come mi could not save anything. So, mi give thanks fi God. God answer my prayer; Food For the Poor answered my prayer, because mi pray, mi pray and it came true,” Sutherland shared yesterday, as a team from Food For The Poor (FFP), RE/MAX Elite, and retired track star Usain Bolt partnered to rebuild his house.

Bolt's donation of US$3,800 was matched by FFP, while the construction was facilitated through RE/MAX.

Sutherland, who plies his wares just outside of FFP's Ellerslie Pen office, turned to the country's largest charity organisation when tragedy struck.

“I apply fi a house from them. I work there for eight years right beside it; you have to say practically I'm a Food For the Poor worker. The whole Jamaica a see mi and mi glad. Everybody can believe in Food For the Poor. I never thought I would be able to touch Usain Bolt or see Usain Bolt — words can't explain how mi feel,” Sutherland, who was now in tears, stated.

“The Bible tell yuh, yuh ask and you shall receive. Mi give thanks because nobody knows what mi feel inside. A the first mi ever cry inna mi life like this, because mi lose everything.

“Mi feel so special...who nuh believe inna God unuh believe now. There is a God. When it happen mi go down pon mi knees and seh, 'God, why me?' A vision came to me and seh, 'Stop murmur; you going get it back'. And it's coming together,” he added.

It wasn't the first time Bolt, world and Olympic champion, was coming to the rescue of individuals in need. For him, providing support to struggling families has become a lifestyle.

“It's something I've always done. If you follow my career, it's something I've always done. RE/MAX approached us when they started this project and they said, 'Usain, would you want to be a part of this?' I said, 'Of course!' The stories that a lot of these families have are big deals, so they organised with Food For the Poor and I was like, 'Let's do this'. So I jumped on board.

“I'm happy that [Sean] is getting somewhere to call his own again, somewhere that's much safer. For someone who worked so hard to provide for his family, to go through such an ordeal, it's a great opportunity to give and to help him to get back on his feet and to be comfortable...I'm happy to be here and to be a part of this,” Bolt told the Observer.

FFP's Chairman Andrew Mahfood, at the same time, commended Sutherland for his drive throughout the years, describing him as a man of initiative.

“We were lucky that RE/MAX, who have partnered with us to build homes, received a donation from Usain Bolt that we were able to match to build a home back for Sean. It was really a humbling experience to be able to be there building that home for Sean. Monday is our Heroes' Day and to have Usain Bolt visit Food For the Poor, see what we do, and just to be able to build a home with him for somebody like Sean or any other Jamaican is an absolute blessing. I want to really shout out Usain for his generosity and for what he has taught us as a nation. [He is] a great Jamaican and a mentor for all of us,” said Mahfood.

Meanwhile, RE/MAX, in celebration of its 10th anniversary, has committed to the construction of 10 houses. Two have so far been completed.


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