Regional

Curphey's water woes

Residence for army veterans hit hard by drought

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, February 24, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Administrators of Curphey Home for army veterans, close to Cross Keys in south Manchester, are struggling to adequately supply the facility with water.

Curphy Home was established by the Jamaica Legion — an organisation formed after World War II — to cater to needy ex-servicemen and women of the British Commonwealth.

Despite a tough economy and the inevitable challenges that come with caring for the elderly, the doors have been kept open since the first four residents occupied the facility in 1957.

However, former member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and Superintendent of the Home, Clifton Irwin, said that water shortage is a "sore point" especially in the traditionally dry first quarter of the year.

On Friday he told the Jamaica Observer Central that there is barely enough water to serve the residents. Only one of four rainwater catchment concrete tanks has a small amount of water, he said.

Irwin said the purchasing of water from private contractors is an option. However, the cost for a load of privately delivered water is $17, 500 — a cost the Home cannot consistently bear. Aditionally, he said, one load of water is never sufficient.

Irwin believes the Manchester Parish Council could do more to assist Curphey Home with water.

"If (they) give us two loads per month we would be able to survive," said Irwin.

He said that he has been in dialogue with Councillor Anthony Bryce (PNP- Newport Division) and was told that the water truck at the Council is down.

Bryce confirmed with Observer Central that the only water truck available to the Manchester Parish Council is down. A mechanical part for the truck is being sourced overseas, he said.

According to Bryce, once the truck is available, provision could be made for Curphey Home to get one load of water from the Manchester Parish Council every month.

Much of south Manchester, including Cross Keys, is without piped water from the National Water Commission (NWC). Residents rely on rainwater harvesting as well as trucked water.

Irwin, who has been superintendent since 1999, said that the now mothballed Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART) was of great help with water for many years.

The support ended with the closure of bauxite/alumina operations in 2009, he said.

Curphey Home is currently occupied by 13 residents —12 males and one female — eight ancillary staff and three administrative staff members.

According to Irwin, it is the only one of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean and stays afloat mainly through funding from the "Poppy Appeal".

Also, there is a subvention from the British and the Jamaican governments which is sent to the Jamaica Legion headquarters in Kingston and relayed to the Home.

Support has also come through fund-raising by parish custodes and from service clubs. The Red Cross ambulance in Manchester assists with transporting residents to hospital, he said.

The JDF provides ongoing infrastructural repairs at the aging facility.

When the Observer Central visited Curphey Home last month members of the JDF Engineering Regiment were carrying out a renovation project.

"We try to give the best care we can," said Irwin.

Eighty-nine-year-old former member of the Royal Air Force Kenneth Smith has been a resident at the home since last April.

He said he joined the Royal Air Force about 1941 and served all over Jamaica before he was "honourably discharged".

He appears a contented man despite being wheelchair-bound.

"There was nothing sad about war to (us). We (were) young and fresh and we ready for it. Life is a pleasure to me. Sometimes when you think (that) you can't move around it bring a sad moment to you... but you know you age and you respect you age," he told Observer Central.

Irwin said that the home, sited on 55 acres of land, was not "structured" for females originally.

However, 88-year-old Elaine Vermont, affectionately called "Miss Lue", became a resident after hurricane Ivan, which wreaked havoc on Jamaica in 2004, also destroyed her home in Waltham, Manchester, where she lived alone.

Vermont, a former Women's Royal Army Core pay clerk said that the experience at Curphey Home is "quite alright".

Irwin said that there are now plans to reconfigure an existing building into a female dormitory with up to six bed spaces.

Curphey Home is reportedly named after the late Colonel Sir Aldington Curphey, one of the founders of the Jamaica Legion.

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