MANDEVILLE, Manchester — The property on which the former home of long-standing Manchester business people, the Lyn Kee Chows, stands in Spur Tree, Manchester, is now the 13th Mustard Seed Community in Jamaica.
Originally a gift by the family to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mandeville, it was recently officially opened as the Gift of Hope Children's Home, through a partnership between the Diocese and Mustard Seed.
Mustard Seed Communities is a charitable non-governmental organisation charged with providing for society's most vulnerable -- children affected with HIV/AIDS, children who are physically and mentally challenged, as well as pregnant teens.
Founded by Reverend Gregory Ramkissoon in 1978, the organisation has reportedly grown to serve persons in and outside of Jamaica.
"...Over 400 children (are) housed in 12 different apostolates across Jamaica. The organisation also provides similar acts of mercy in Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic," a fact sheet distributed at the opening ceremony said.
Reverend Ronald Hamilton of the Catholic Pastoral Centre in Mandeville told the Jamaica Observer that the roughly six acres of property, including the former family home, was donated to the Diocese by now deceased Lyn Kee Chow family matriarch Katherine, more than a decade ago.
He said that previously, there was a home at the site for orphaned and abandoned children who are now in the care of St John Bosco Boys' Home in Manchester, and other residential facilities for children.
Hamilton said that there was a need in central Jamaica for the services that Mustard Seed Communities provide for special-needs children.
The Spur Tree facility can accommodate approximately 30 children, administrators say.
Mayor of Mandeville Brenda Ramsay said the work of Mustard Seed Communities and the gift from the Lyn Kee Chow family were "manifestations of love in action".
She suggested, however, that the service could extend to include a day-care facility, which families with loved ones with special needs living at home could use.
Executive director of Jamaicans for Justice and paediatrician Dr Carolyn Gomes, in her keynote address, said the State needed to do more for children with special needs.
"The Government is failing. It's failing to see those (special-needs) children, it's failing to see the possibilities, it's failing to see the hope. We are deploying our resources in all [the] wrong directions. We are not providing the different levels of care, the support for the different levels of care that different levels of children need. Clearly Mustard Seed Communities need much more from the Government...," she said.