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FFP — Jamaicans are living in horrible conditions

BY FALON FOLKES
Staff reporter
folkesf@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, April 22, 2018

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WITH the annual Food For The Poor (FFP) 5k run almost here, the non-profit organisation is seeking to remind Jamaicans that their contributions can improve the impoverished living of thousands of Jamaicans.

When FFP employees sieve through the 5,000 applicantions on their waiting list, the conditions they come across are tear-jerking, according to staff who spoke to the Jamaica Observer last week.

Manager of FFP's Housing Unit, Rosannie Hewitt recalled her first moments when she joined the charity group.

“I remember when I just came. You used to have a team that did shut-ins back then. So I would go with the outreach team and they would visit persons in the community and look at housing situations as well,” Hewitt told the Sunday Observer.

The places these people had as their home were the worst conditions she had ever seen, she revealed.

“It was so heart-rending. I didn't know what to do with myself. When you saw poor, when you saw tarpaulin, when you saw mud houses, and persons who live in it and have to handle it every day. It was hard at one point. But then I grew to, in some way, separate my feelings and see how best I can do my job better,” she said.

It was a real culture shock for the young woman who had outreach experience prior to her employment at FFP. Initially, the experience was overwhelming, but after successfully stopping herself from drowning in emotions, Hewitt told the Sunday Observer that her belief in FFP's mission gives her the drive to continue her work.

Although many of the applicants are destitute, they find the time to consider others. Hewitt proved this while working with an applicant some years ago who resided in St Thomas.

“His documents were incomplete and we were guiding him through the process. I remember a day when I was having one of my lowest days he called, and he called in to ask me how I was doing. It brought tears to my eyes because I knew his situation,” she said.

“When the officers went to review the case, what the gentleman was living in was terrible. One officer went; the officer had a food that he was eating and he was asking for the food he was eating.”

It is terrible situations like this and worse why persons bombard FFP's office, website, mail and social media pages pleading for help, to get a chance at better living. The organisation's Development and Marketing Manager Marsha Burrell, who mans the company's social media pages, said the messages are moving.

“When you see the requests, the letters that come in, the messages, within yourself you're saying how can you help them. Persons want to give up on life. Right there and then you have to write words to say to them — we're talking about hundreds of messages that come in daily to our Facebook page,” Burrell said.

“The demand is great, and it's hard when you hear the stories and you're not in the position to help. We can't help everyone and believe me, I know that we as a people can come together and make a difference,” she implored.

Many of these individuals who Burrell interacts with on social media are fed up to the point where they disclose that they are contemplating suicide because of the impoverishment. In these moments, her role switches from marketing to counselling.

“They're desperate and they're thinking that okay, this is the way of just speaking to somebody, so we have to reach out to them. It's hard. Sometimes you come in and you're tired. They see my name and they start sending me private messages on my personal page, and I cannot ignore it. I have to say something,” Burrell stressed.

“Even if we can't help them right away, we have to say listen, you have to trust God. So we have to deal with the spiritual aspect of it. We have to ensure and let them know that God is with them. Then, we send them through the process of applying. We have to reach to them mentally first before we can even go straight to the requirements, because they're not even hearing what you're saying. They're desperate, they have kids that are hungry. That's the reality of what we have to face daily,” she expressed.

The 5k run, which will be held on May 12, is the only time that FFP asks the public to assist with funds to build houses. The target this year is 100 houses.

After the target is met, Burrell said that the remaining money will be used to fund FFP's agricultural projects.

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