Social workers bringing hope and comfort to Jamaica's most vulnerable

Social workers bringing hope and comfort to Jamaica's most vulnerable

Friday, September 25, 2020

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DESPITE being weary and afraid Jamaica's social workers continue to take to the streets everyday, on the front line of the fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The pandemic has made my job more challenging. Having to work during the quarantine period in my parish of [St Mary] was a bit scary for me. It made me very uncomfortable and the thought of being a victim of the virus made me feel as if I needed to stay home. However, I did not make these feelings and thoughts hinder me from fulfilling my commitment to the job and to the people I serve,” said Karen Smith-Byfield, a social worker based in St Mary.

I know someone had to do the job and that someone was me, so I proceeded by getting myself mentally prepared, followed the protocols of the Ministry of Health and, as the days progressed, I became more comfortable with the situation.

“Also seeing the appreciation and happy faces of the persons I serve helped me. I feel a sense of achievement as well as satisfaction, especially hearing a three-year-old saying thanks when the family was given a food package,” added Smith-Byfield.

She is one of the hundreds of social workers deployed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security on the COVID-19 front line.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was conformed in Jamaica in March and up to the end of August, the social workers had delivered more than 37,600 food packages, 6,873 hygiene packages, and 2,996 cases of water to Jamaicans most at risk.

They have also distributed 1,893 cases of juices, numerous assorted snacks and personal care items to families in quarantine and others affected by the pandemic across the island.

Thirty-five meat packages and Cal's food packages were also distributed by the social workers in sections of Clarendon which were placed under quarantine.

“For the most part, we were satisfied with the registration and distribution of the care packages, however, the highest level of satisfaction was felt when persons in the quarantined communities use the different social media platforms to highlight and thank our teams,” said one social worker based in St Thomas.

“The gratitude was well-received, giving us a sense of accomplishment and strengthened commitment. One social media user stated that the packages were well put together and thoughtful, while another user thanked the ministry for the timely response to their needs,” added the social worker, who asked not be named.

According to the social worker, the experiences of her colleagues are many and varied with them having to travel to some areas which are remote and intriguingly challenging to reach with the care packages.

In addition to the food packages, the social workers were tasked with distributing educational materials contributed by Food For the Poor and UNICEF in communities such as Nine Miles, Bull Bay, St Andrew; Corn Piece, Clarendon; and Annotto Bay, Dover and Enfield in St Mary.

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