Maverley Health Fair eases back-to-school burden

Thursday, August 15, 2019

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WITH back-to-school preparations in high gear, many parents are busy purchasing books, uniforms, shoes, and bags, as well as honouring school fee obligations.

For some, taking their child to see a doctor to have a medical report completed, along with a dentist and optician, are part and parcel of the back-to-school activities. However, with the high cost associated with seeing doctors in private practice, for those who depend only on the public health care system, accessing services ahead of the new school year is not always easy.

“I tell you say it's always hard, you know,” Craig Brown said as he pointed across the street from Maverley Park in St Andrew in the direction of Drewsland — a community that has had its fair share of gang conflict with cliques in Maverley.

“Over Drewsland [health centre], them (his children) always do it, but true war over there so, me cyaa get fi go. Sometimes me have to try go way down to Duhaney Park because of the war sometimes, so me really feel good that me can just come right here so,” Brown is quoted as saying in a release from the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights.

Brown was referring to the eighth staging of the Maverley Health Fair, organised by the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights with support from the not-for-profit group, Voices for Jamaica, where he had taken his three children — all under the age of 10 — to get their medicals done by doctors who were volunteering their services.

The release said the children also had their teeth cleaned by a team of six dentists and hygienists, who were also volunteers, and had their eyes examined by a team from the FISH Clinic.

Additionally, residents could also access blood pressure checks, cholesterol and blood sugar tests as well as general health information from the National Health Fund (NHF), which was on location with its mobile unit.

“It take a whole lot off of me,” the relieved construction worker said. “When you at Duhaney Park you spend hours man, because you going down there go see thousands of people.”

For Kadian Reid and her four girls, the fact that the health fair is hosted annually on a Saturday makes it even more meaningful, as she can find the time to take her children to see the doctor. The cost also makes a huge difference.

“It's not that it's difficult [to access health services], it's the money or the time. When you go to other places you looking at about $4,000 or $5,000 (per child). So when you keep it here a year time, I very much appreciate it. The people them in the community like the idea because you can pay basically a donation and you get all these services done in the same place,” Reid said.

According to the release, the patrons contribute $100 per service, although individuals are not denied if they do not have the money.

“Persons look forward to the annual fair because it's cost effective in regards to those doing school medicals and also bring professionals closer to participants, who are unable to leave the community,” said Alecia Jones, executive director of Voices for Jamaica, which operates in Maverley.

“Especially the dental services offered, that is the only time some persons ever visit a dentist. Plus with the existing crime and violence issues in the community, it is one of the few events that allows for social activities,” she added.

Through donations and sponsorships, the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights raises in excess of $1 million annually to mount the health fair, however, President Jhanelle Wagstaffe explained that the value is far greater when one considers the impact on the community.

“Sustaining this project is very important to us because of the genuine needs that it caters to every year,” said Whagstaffe. “And when you see, especially the children and elderly persons who benefit from it, and listen to the stories of the parents, who couldn't afford the time or money to access these services, you know that it's more than worth the effort every year.”

She also expressed gratitude to the sponsors and partners, including the Rotaract Club of Kingston, who made mounting the fair for an eighth year possible.

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