News

Manchester home for 40 more HIV-infected children

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Sunday Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 13, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The seven acres of leased government land at Belretiro in Central Manchester is now a sprawling green space.

However, there is hope that the beginning of its transformation into a residential facility for children and women living with HIV/AIDS should be realised by year-end.

The flagship project of international volunteer organisation, Projects Abroad Jamaica and the BrigIT Water Foundation in Australia is slated to provide — in a family and home setting — health care and meet the social and psychological needs of 40 children without legal guardian and support, and 20 women who have been ostracised by their families.

"We want it to be a world- class facility," Projects Abroad Country Director Dr Bridgette Barrett told the gathering for an information session at the Northern Caribbean University's Rotaract Club last Wednesday.

She said that the idea came about for the facility, which bears the name Belle Haven Centre, as Projects Abroad works with different organisations primarily in Manchester, St Elizabeth and Montego Bay to find opportunities for the overseas volunteers to offer their services on a short-term basis.

"Through our volunteers at Projects Abroad we work in the different orphanages. There are children in these facilities who are HIV positive. They are not getting the proper nutrition, they are not getting their medication or not getting it on time and they are discriminated against," Barrett said.

The property which became available after a three-year search for appropriate land, will also have a halfway house that will facilitate the transition of the children into adulthood and a multi-purpose resource centre with computers, library and other amenities to benefit the residents in the area.

There is also the hope that there will be an economic spin-off where the local farmers and businesses will be supported and the women living with HIV at the home could be among the employees if they are well enough.

According to a Belle Haven Centre brochure, the initial estimate for the project is over J$100 million, with the primary partner being the BridgIT Water Foundation.

Also, the increasing network of volunteers from 36 that come to Jamaica, local fund-raisers and income-generating initiatives are being used to fund the project.

However, Barrett in her presentation to the service club said that the students "buy-in" as well as that of others, is important.

"We all have a stake in this. If each of us can give of our time, our expertise, our money we can make this happen. It's a worthwhile facility. It is very much needed and it will have a positive impact on Jamaica and a positive impact on our children living with HIV/AIDS who did not call this on them(selves)," she said.

One student expressed concern that the Belle Haven Centre was catering for only 40 children, after statistics were quoted suggesting that far more children were living with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica and would be in need of care.

"I know 40 sounds low but it is 40 more than is being taken care of right now," said the country director of the six-year-old Projects Abroad Jamaica.

Barrett said that with the land available it is also possible that more than the expected five houses can be built and more land space around the property could be negotiated for lease, if necessary.

While admitting that it is no "monkey money" to build and sustain the facility, she expects that it will be around for a long time.

"It makes no sense to build this big, fancy thing and then it (is) lock(ed) down. We are putting together the cost to

take care of each child," said Barrett.

In addition to the stakeholder engagements for financing and building a presence for the Belle Haven Centre in people's minds, sensitisation and public education for persons including the residents in the Belretiro community is also being done.

Projects Abroad operates in 29 developing countries worldwide, with Jamaica being the only one in the Caribbean.

The offices in Jamaica are located in Mandeville and Montego Bay.

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