Foundation plans even more help for May Pen’s needy
MAY PEN, Clarendon — Even as he brightened the day of about 50 people who spend a lot of time on the streets by providing them with a delicious meal on Sunday, founder of James and Friends Education Programme (JFEP), Otis James is already looking to doing even more.
“Most of the people we see here are not mad; I talk to them and they reason with me like normal persons would. Some say they want a bed, others say their home want a window, or door, or a roof, or floor, or two sheet of zinc to go back home — so they have different needs. But when they are on the road they can hustle and get more attention and things [food] reach to them. Sometimes they are home and rain wet them or they have nothing to eat, so they come on the street. So the next project I am planning to take on in Easter is to undertake these minor repairs to some of these homes so they can go back home and feel comfortable being there,” James said.”
This, he added, will be done through JFEP and will give his sponsors an opportunity to assist through the 19-year-old initiative.
“These people you see here don’t fight against each other; instead, all of them come and sit together and eat, and some take for their friends,” he added with a tinge of pride.
For Sunday he had planned to feed 40 people and ended up stretching the resources to feed about 50, a combination of homeless and indigent. He also catered to about 10 shut-ins who were unable to make it but were part of previous treats, to mark the start of a new year.
“I always treat the street people monthly, and they always tell me it’s long time they don’t drink champagne and listen some music so I plan this treat for the new year. I got sparkling wine, and chicken and chips from KFC, and prepared care packages with toiletries and distributed it to them,” he said.
“I know what it is like to be in a situation like this because I grew up rough and tough,” James said of his single-mom household.
“I use to push carts in the market and sleep in there when I was small so I have a connection with these persons from the streets,” James added.
Determined to help as many people as he could have a great start to 2024, James said he scoured the streets for those he helps monthly. He found 10 people and asked them to tell the others he had planned a party for them all.
Among those who turned up was 54-year-old Courtney Roberts who said he is from Sandy Bay in the parish. “
“I been on the streets over 30 years. I have family but they don’t really check for me how they supposed to check. Every now and then they give me clothes, or whatever they have, but Rasta [James] check fi me,” he said.
Roberts told the Observer that he was forced onto the streets as his source of survival — construction work — wasn’t providing a steady income. “
“Me love fi hustle for my own. And I used to do construction work but it wasn’t a steady job so when that fall off me take to the streets, because I don’t like depend on people — me like fi hustle for my own things. So I pick ackee, coconut, oranges and other fruits off the trees and sell them for my own. I pick breadfruit and roast it and sell it, and nuff high-profile people check fi me and buy from me,” said Roberts.
He expressed his gratitude for Sunday’s treat.
“I feel very wonderful about this today. It is enjoyable, and I want to big up all the people who put on this for the poor people like we because it shows they care about us,” added Roberts.
Another beneficiary, 47-year-old Lennox Campbell who hails from the rural community of Victoria in north-west Clarendon, expressed similar sentiments.
“It feels good to get this treatment; and the food was prepared so wonderful[ly],” he said.
He explained that he once worked with a family in May Pen but when he lost that job he took to the streets.
“Where I live it not too comfortable so I’m out here. Me nuh really go back home although my family nuh like me out here. Me like how unno perform nice with we and we love everything that happen today; thank unno,” said Campbell.