United Way ignites fire of hope for children’s home restoration
It could not be any more fitting that a movement formed by three clergymen 132 years ago to help victims of a fire in Denver, Colorado, is spearheading a fund to restore the recently burnt Jamaica National Children’s Home.
At the launch of the United Way of Jamaica (UWJ) Jamaica National Children’s Home Restoration Fund yesterday, chairperson Dr Marcia Forbes said her heart was wrenched when she became aware of the fire.
“Children and all aspects of their well-being – whether physical, mental, [or] emotional – are many times top of mind for me,” said Forbes, a former paediatric ward sister.
She added that she was touched by the response from a board member who said, “We need to help”, when she enquired about the needs.
The fire, which blazed through one section of the Papine, St Andrew-based facility last Friday, affected just over 40 children, who have since been relocated to the newly renovated Homestead Place of Safety in Stony Hill, St Andrew.
The Jamaica Fire Brigade has estimated a loss of $150 million to the facility, which is managed by the Methodist Church District.
The UWJ yesterday handed over a cheque valued at $1 million to the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) and pledges totalling $2.8 million were presented by various corporations that have partnered Dr with the UWJ.
The Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association matched United Way’s donation while Windalco and Noranda Bauxite Company, who have been firm supporters of the UWJ, pledged $500,000 each.
Alliance Investments and Proven Wealth each pledged a contribution of $250,000 while BPM Financial, Dream Entertainment, and Phase 3 Productions each committed $100,000.
Sherwin-Williams Managing Director Ian Forbes pledged paint supplies towards the restoration project.
Individual pledges were also made by Devon Smith and a colleague of Scott Dunn, who are both UWJ board members.
Chief executive officer of the CPFSA Rosalee Gage-Gray, while expressing her thanks for contributions thus far, shared one wish.
“We really pray that we have no more fires. It really sets us back in terms of space for children,” she said, adding that there is 80 per cent occupancy across all homes.
Nadeen Waugh, director of the home, told The Gleaner that the children – some of whom experienced a similar disaster in January 2018 – have been traumatised.
“We had children who were in the previous Walker’s Place of Safety fire, so they have been traumatised twice, and they’re worried about losing their home ... . We were able to get all of them to stay in one location, and so that has really helped them to be able to encourage each other ... ,” she said.
“Public support has been really good in giving cash and kind, and so we want to say thanks to all the persons who have helped us,” Waugh said.