SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — Just days before Christmas, Paulette Brown, three of her five children and her common-law husband watched helplessly as their home burned to the ground in the district of Brighton, North East St Elizabeth.
They were left with only a refrigerator and the clothes on their backs.
The family now shares living space with relatives, while Brown's brother — who allegedly committed the act because of a family dispute — is reportedly behind bars.
The report from the Santa Cruz fire station, Brown said, estimated the loss of the three-bedroom structure and their possessions at $700,000.
Prior to the start of the new school term last week, returned resident Arlington Myers gave the family some hope and a reason to smile. He presented Brown's 12-year-old daughter Racquel Stewart, who is preparing to sit her Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in March, with books valued at $7,460. Myers also covered the cost of two pairs of school uniform each for three of the children, in addition to regular clothing and toys.
Produce from Myers' farm was donated to the family at his home in Gazeland in the presence of the Jamaica Observer Central, and he took Brown and her children out for a meal to lift their spirits.
Myers said he made contact with the family two days after the December 15 incident, which he heard about on television.
"I went there to look at the scene. Only a sheet of zinc and the walls were left. I went there to get their names and a brief description of what the children need(ed) to go back to school. A neighbour gave me Paulette's number," he said.
He has committed to helping the family obtain legal rights to the property in a neighbouring community on which they already have a foundation for a house. Myers says he will also assist with the building.
"I have plans to assist her to rebuild. I am going to communicate with the Councillor (Donovan Pagon — PNP Braes River Division), the MP (Member of Parliament for North East St Elizabeth Raymond Pryce), Pre-Mix Limited, Tank-Weld, and Johnson's Hardware in Santa Cruz. I will make a substantial contribution in terms of material to build the house. I plan to put a team of builders together," he said.
Rebuilding should begin next month.
Brown said her three children, who came off the bed just minutes before it burst into flames, are still traumatised but are glad that their new home will be in a different area.
"When I saw the fire, it feel like a dream mi a dream. Mi feel good about the support," said Brown's 13-year-old son Ricardo Stewart, who reportedly alerted the people in the house that something was burning.
Myers has been contributing mainly to children in Jamaica since 2003 while still living in the United States of America. He returned to the parish of his birth two years ago and has continued the efforts.
"Wherever the passion leads me in Jamaica, I help. I have been blessed with a lot. I choose to give back to situations like these," he said.