UWI students help the elderlyThursday, April 01, 2021
MONTEGO BAY, St James — When a team of 210 first-year medical and dental students from University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona's Class of 2025 set out to help residents in three nursing homes across the country, they had no idea the outpouring of support they would get from others who shared their vision. In one month they raised $50,000 more than their $100,000 goal, and last Friday they provided 14 residents of the Royalty Care Centre in Flanker, Montego Bay with care packages. Next they will help another 23 elderly residents of the St Vincent de Paul Ozanam Home for the Aged and the Harrison Memorial Home, both located in Kingston.
According to Atiya Magee, fund-raising chair of the group, they decided to help because they recognise the vulnerability of nursing homes residents, especially when the island is grappling with COVID-19.
“The elderly are really the most vulnerable [group] and we [realised] that they were not getting that type of attention [needed], in terms of donations. Most of the attention is on children's homes and primary schools. The elderly are living in the most fear because of COVID-19, so we really wanted to do something nice for them by lending a helping hand to the homes,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
She noted that from the $150,000 raised, the group purchased items which they included in care packages for 37 residents across the three homes.
“Our goal was $100,000 as we thought it would have been difficult to raise that money online because of the [pandemic]. But we raised $50,000 more than our goal,” Magee told Observer West.
The care packages, she explained, contained items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, lotion, and non-perishable food items.
Magee said they leveraged the group's Instagram account to raise funds.
“There was no big [lump sum of] sponsorship. It took us about a month to raise this money. We have approximately 210 students in our year group, so we all came together, created a Linktree account, sent the link to our friends and families and used our Instagram page to advertise it,” she said.
Linktree, a social media reference landing page, is often used to host multiple account links for viewers' convenience.
“We added different methods of payments to our Linktree, such as PayPal and banking information so donors could just click, and they would have had several options on how to give money. I think that method allowed more people to donate because not everyone is going to get up and go to the bank to send money. We even got donations from the United States of America,” Magee said.
“My team was exceptional, they [were] just broadcasting and reposting the link so people all over could see. We figured that we would not get official sponsorship from an organisation because we are first-year students, so we took it into our own hands. We knew that the goal was a bit ambitious, but we really just wanted to try,” she added.
Nickiesha Watson, Owner of Royalty Care Centre, expressed gratitude to the students for their donations.
“We are very appreciative of the packages they have given [to] us. Our clients are extremely grateful for this [donation] because most of them, due to the pandemic, their families are not working currently. We really want to thank the students for coming out and donating to our clients,” she said.
Though fewer funds are coming into the nursing home because of the economic fallout from COVID-19, Watson said her employees are still eager to care for each elderly person at the centre.
“We have not turned our back on them because we are not in this business for the money, we are in it because we care and are passionate about it,” she said.
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