'Give what you can to rebuild children's home'

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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JAMAICANS are being urged to give whatever they can afford towards the Jamaica National Children's Home Restoration Fund, which will be opened over the next two months and already has approximately $4 million in donations and pledges.

The Papine, St Andrew-based children's home was damaged by fire last Friday, displacing 41 wards.

Yesterday, United Way of Jamaica (UWJ) officially launched the restoration fund at a press conference at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel and kicked-started the donations with $1 million.

Several other corporate companies, groups and individuals followed suit and made pledges and donations. The Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) donated $1 million and West Indies Alumina Company and Noranda Bauxite company, both donated $500,000.

Painting giant Sherwin Williams also stepped in and pledged to donate fire resistant paints and also offered technical expertise, while Devon Smith, director of projects at The University of the West Indies, in addition to his personal pledge of $50,000, also offered to provide engineering expertise.

Dr Marcia Forbes, chair of UWJ, was heartened by the early donations and pledges. She told the Jamaica Observer that the organisation has not really set a target for the fund but is hoping to raise at least $12 million. She also hopes that the unfortunate situation will tug at people's heart and move them to contribute.

“We know people give for various things, so hopefully it tugs at your heart and you feel like you can give something because we don't want regular Jamaican to feel like that they can give so much; we want anybody who can give to give what they can give, if you can give $10,000, if you can give $ 100,000 you give whatever.

Earlier in the press conference, Forbes, emphasising that the organisation's mission is to “mobilise efforts to transform lives”, said that UWJ, after seeing the devastation, immediately started mobilising efforts to assist, as the group felt that it had to act.

However, she said, “We must thank God and the very quick actions of those at the home who ensured that no lives at the home was lost”.

“We can appreciate how traumatic this post-fire period must be for the children, the manager and the staff of the home and we pray for their well-being,” Dr Forbes added.

Camille Needham, JHTA executive director, said children's homes play a vital role in society in meeting the needs of vulnerable children and that the JHTA was very disheartened by the fire.

“We know in Jamaica what the children's homes have done for Jamaican children and, by extension, our nation, because children grow up to be elders, and children's homes have provided children with love, nurturing first of all, care, protection, guidance, everything that will be provided by a child's natural parents and they have done an outstanding job with very limited resources,” Needham said.

Rosalee Gage-Grey, chief executive officer of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), expressed gratitude to the contributors and to UWJ for starting the fund, as well as its donation and that of the other organisations and individuals.

She said some of the children, including some who would have experienced a fire at the Walker's Place of Safety, were very traumatised but they have been comfortably relocated at another children's home that was recently renovated.

In the meantime, Gage-Grey said the CPFSA is awaiting the report of the Jamaica Fire Brigade and as soon as it is available assessments would be undertaken at the home.

She stressed that the agency has taken disaster management seriously, noting that it was the training that was provided to staff and wards that helped to prevent loss of lives.

She, meanwhile, announced that Supreme Ventures has committed funds to retrofit 30 children's homes. Work will be done on 15 of the homes this year.

– Tanesha Mundle

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