JAMAICA – Abandoned children on the increase
KINGSTON – The number of abandoned children at the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP) apostolates in Kingston has seen a significant increase since its inception in 2004.
Father Hayden Augustine of the Bethlehem Home for Abandoned Children, which is operated by MOP, told the Jamaica Observer that the home, which started in 2004 with 20 children, now houses 65, who were either left at the doorsteps by their parents, abandoned on the street, or given to them by state agencies.
On top of that, Father Augustine said some other MOP homes house over 120 children, which means there has been a sixfold increase in ten years.
And, as the numbers rise, so does the needs of the home leaving the missionaries to double their efforts to make ends meet.
On visiting the home, one will see the missionaries washing clothes with their hands and cooking on a coal stove. This is as a result of their inability to afford basic amenities such as electricity and cooking gas, and has led to MOP formulating a wish list of things that would allow for ease of operations.
Some of the items include a washing machine, solar-powered system to cut electricity bills, wheelchairs and linen.
This year, the Sagicor Sigma Run will focus on raising funds to buy well-needed equipment for Bethlehem Home, the Spanish Town Hospital Special Care Unit, and the Mandeville Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
But vice-president of group marketing at Sagicor, Ingrid Card, said individuals should take a trip to the home and see what other ways they can assist.
“I always thought they had funding because they are in the public eye, but when you go there you see the infrastructure, the cribs, you see the need. Most of these kids can’t move, it’s just the eyes following you everywhere, it’s very hard not to feel bad,” she said.
These sentiments were echoed by Alfred ‘Frano’ Francis, managing director of Running Events Jamaica, who said once you visit there (Bethlehem Home) you have a different outlook on life.
He added that even if individuals can’t make it to the Sigma Run they can contact the home and see where they can donate.
Father Augustine, however, said that the community has been of great help as they often volunteer their services to MOP.
“We are seeing more children coming, more are in need, but the people from the area have become more humane. There are lots of volunteers who come in and help. Their hearts have been softened and there is more humanitarianism taking place,” he said.
He added: “When you see the brokenness of the children, you see their need, they’re human beings, not creatures, they speak to us and all of us have that emotional part to us where we reach out to care. Their lives are vulnerable and when the eyes look at you you see something more than the disability. You see their future.”