News

Mother of nine gets help, seeks a job

Vegetable garden marks positive start for 45-year-old

BY RENAE DIXON Sunday Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 23, 2014    

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THE mother of nine in Gibraltar, St Ann, who had been struggling to take care of her children, received some well needed assistance recently when St Ann Inter-Agency Network for Transforming Social Services (SAINTSS) secured the help of several other agencies in St Ann to start a vegetable garden for her.

However, Imogene Lawrence is appealing for help until her garden begins to yield fruits.

"It still hard on me," the mother who said she appreciated the effort of SAINTSS stated.

Imogene Lawrence's family situation was highlighted in the Sunday Observer on September 15, 2013.

The 45-year-old mother had been struggling to provide for her children, five of whom are still in school. Lawrence had been experiencing difficulty in sending her children to school, one of whom will sit the Grade Six Achievement Test next month.

The Gibraltar community united recently to assist her by creating a food garden. The family was identified by community members as needing assistance, due to economic hardship and nutritional challenges being faced.

The Call to Duty Project led by the Social Development Commission (SDC) was initiated to create a food garden that would satisfy the nutritional needs of her family with surplus to support the family economically.

Parish Manager of the SDC and chairman of SAINTSS, Richardo Aiken said that the vegetable garden is one component of the intervention for the family. He said that steps are being taken to address the challenges that the family face.

"The vegetable garden is a part of the overall focus of the SDC to implement Local Economic Development Projects to improve the economic reality of communities. Secondly, there is a drive also through Jamaica 4H clubs and SDC to increase the consumption of nutritious locally grown vegetable to further improve educational outcomes, through the school gardening programme. Therefore, it is expected that Miss Lawrence and her children can eat what was planted while further benefiting from the economic gains from sale of the items," Aiken stated.

The project was a collaborative effort of the Gibraltar Development Area Committee (DAC) that provided the ground provisions, AgroGrace Jamaica provided fertiliser and seeds, while the Rural Agriculture Development Agency (RADA) provided pepper seedlings and training on maintenance of the garden to the family.

The St Ann chapter of the Jamaica Agricultural Society also contributed.

Represented at the project were RADA, the Child Development Agency and the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education.

Member of Parliament for South West St Ann, Keith Walford also provided support to the project through donations of seeds and by providing a hoe to Lawrence to be used in the maintenance of the garden.

The mother said that she expects the vegetable garden to help her. However, while she waits for the crops to grow, the struggles continue.

Lawrence, who has worked as a domestic helper, said that she is willing to work and is appealing to anyone who can provide her with employment, to assist. However, she cannot work far from her home, as she has to tend to her young children.

"A job would be a big help to me now," she said.

Lawrence, who has been receiving assistance through PATH, said that some of the children have not received the benefits in recent times due to their frequent absence from school.

"Some of the children cut off true dem nah go school," she explained.

She pointed out that the children in high school were affected mostly as it was more expensive for them to go to school, travelling outside of their home community.

SAINTSS is a group comprising over 22 agencies in St Ann which has been in existence since September 2009.

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