MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Over 120 special needs children from south-central Jamaica recently benefited from the philanthropic efforts of the Manchester-based Young Women/ Men of Purpose (YWOP/YMOP) at a Christmas treat.
Founder and executive director at YWOP/ YMOP Lanisia Rhoden told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday that the event was successful in bringing joy to the children, their teachers and parents.
"When the organisation [YMOP/YWOP] started 13 years ago, it was one of the first outreach activities that we did outside of the mentoring programme. We chose children with special needs because other organisations were having Christmas treats for children, but we never really saw the children with special needs being out with their parents having fun," she said.
The event, which was held at the Manchester Horticultural Society showground on Ward Avenue in Mandeville, saw the over 120 children being feted and entertained.
"We just wanted to bring them together where we could treat them. When we started [years ago] we used to bring them to Burger King where they could eat there and play, that was the kind of atmosphere that we wanted to give them — joy, treat them, feed them, give them toys," Rhoden said.
She said over the years the treat spread from Manchester to focusing also on schools that cater to children with special needs in neighbouring parishes.
"We started in Manchester with a few institutions and then we expanded the treat to include special needs children from the neighbouring parishes of St Elizabeth and Clarendon. Along with the over 120 children, we had teachers and their parents accompanying them. The treat was solely for special needs children. This was our 14th year of hosting the treat," she explained.
Rhoden, a former Miss Manchester festival queen, said her organisation, during the COVID-19 pandemic, had to deliver gifts to the schools.
"During COVID we didn't have them [the children] together. What we did was to package the gifts and we brought them to the institutions, so this is the first time that we were coming back together in one place," she said.
"We had bounceabout, ring games and a dancing competition. We also had entertainers for a concert and some of the children, like those from the Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf, they did their sign language song, so they also participated in the concert," she added.
She thanked the sponsors of the recently hosted treat.
The Barita Foundation, Power Services, First Heritage Co-operative Credit Union, Island Mist Spring Water, Caribbean Cream (Kremi), Restaurants of Jamaica, Tastee Patties, Rainforest Seafoods, JMMB, Progressive Grocers, CB Chicken, Manchester Co-operative Credit Union, and Juici Patties were among the sponsors.