'My friend Jen' shows love to Jamaicans living with sickle cell

All Woman

WHEN Jenica Gregory decided to take a quick trip to Jamaica to visit her relatives before the Christmas holidays last year she did not anticipate that she would still be here in February with no idea when she will be able to travel back to England. But, instead of waiting idly for the worst of the pandemic to pass in England, the award-winning children's book author decided to use her platform to show some love to sickle cell patients in Jamaica.

“I really believe that everything has happened for a reason, and that I am in the right place at the right time to bring more awareness and support to the sickle cell community in Jamaica,” Gregory, whose pen name is Jenica Leah, told All Woman.

“I was due to go back to the UK in December, but since my flight was cancelled, and the pandemic is worse in the UK, it seemed like the best option for me to stay — especially for my health, as I also have sickle cell.

“My family is from Temple Hall, St Andrew, and I have been staying there with my grandmother since November,” she shared.

Gregory launched a fund-raising project just a few weeks before Christmas so that she could ship books to children living with sickle cell with the support of the Sickle Cell Unit located at The University of the West Indies. Having hit the fund-raising target for the shipping of the books last week, she also plans to donate the remainder of the funds raised to the Sickle Cell Support Foundation of Jamaica to assist patients who can't afford medication or treatment.

“I have wanted to do this project in Jamaica for a while, and actually had to cancel my flights in 2018 and 2019 because my health was so bad,” the author shared.

“I didn't think it would be possible to do a fund-raising project during the pandemic; however, I now feel it's important to continue to try and move forward, even in this current world crisis. We don't know when it will be over, so we cannot just put life on hold.”

Gregory, who wrote the My Friend Jen children's book series about sickle cell disease, has also carried out her book donation project in The Gambia and Nigeria and has plans to do the same in other countries.

“The My Friend Jen Book Donation Project gives children and their families the opportunity to learn about sickle cell, and benefit from my educational books that they may not have had access to otherwise,” she said.

In addition to the donation of over 200 books and the funds she will hand over to the Sickle Cell Support Foundation, Jen has also received support from Birmingham business Masks4uonline, which has donated close to 100 reusable face masks to be given out with the books.

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