Homeless people in Clarendon treated on Easter SundayMonday, April 05, 2021
CLARENDON, Jamaica — Homeless and street people in May Pen, Clarendon were happy and relieved to see a familiar face on Easter Sunday, as they were sure they would receive a treat — bun and cheese, compliments of the James and Friends Education Programme (JFEP).
Founder of the non-profit charity based in Clarendon Otis James and his daughter Ashanti ventured onto the streets in the capital and donated the Easter special to just over 100 people, including the homeless, disabled and indigent and another 100 shut-ins and elderly in neighbouring communities.
Each year the foundation, with the aid of all its sponsors, treats over 2000 people, including children and the elderly, but has had to downsize this major activity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with strict curfew orders.
“For 17 years persons have become accustomed to the treat but we had to draw the line this year. However, that doesn't mean the street persons who are the most vulnerable among us are not hungry so we had to find a way to reach out to them,” James explained.
He added that he received an unlikely phone call that prompted him to take action.
“I was at home and my phone rang, to my surprise it was Stephen Liao calling me from his sick bed saying I should remember its Easter and I must go to his wholesale and gather bun and cheese to give to the homeless. I was in shock because while this man should be focusing on getting better, he found the time to call me from his hospital bed thousands of miles away worrying about the homeless and indigent.”
James said he went and sought permission from the May Pen police before gathering bread and bun from National Wholesale, JC and Whitfield Bakeries, who are also sponsors of the initiative, and went about the distribution process.
Deputy Superintendent and Officer in Charge of Community Safety and Security for the parish Owen Brown said granting permission for them to be on the street during lockdown was not an issue.
“We endorse the foundation and the work they are doing in the parish because students, homeless, street people and so many others benefit from this noble organisation,” said Brown.
Those on the receiving end were extremely happy because the other organisations and agencies who usually engage in feeding programmes at this time of year are restricted because of the pandemic. Others who would have loved to donate simply do not have the means to do so because their businesses have been impacted significantly in one way or another because of COVID-19.
A man, who gives his name only as Shemar, has been living on the streets of May Pen for several years. He said he would love to get a chance to turn his life around and reintegrate into society.
“I don't want to be a street youth forever, so if I should get a chance and make it inna life I would reach out to others and try fi help them and grant them a chance at opportunity. We appreciate this (donation) and if others could play a part like this and show they care we can have a stronger Jamaica,” he said as he clutched his bun and cheese and drink.
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