Fri | Aug 14, 2020

Private-public sector partnership helps the poor

Published:Wednesday | May 27, 2020 | 12:16 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Saffrey Brown (left), chairman of the Council of Voluntary Social Services, and Deputy Superintendent Rory Martin deliver a care package to Joseph Heslop, who is unable to walk, in the community of Central Village, 
St Catherine, on Saturday. The distribution drive was part of the PSOJ’s COVID-19 relief programme.
Saffrey Brown (left), chairman of the Council of Voluntary Social Services, and Deputy Superintendent Rory Martin deliver a care package to Joseph Heslop, who is unable to walk, in the community of Central Village, St Catherine, on Saturday. The distribution drive was part of the PSOJ’s COVID-19 relief programme.

THE DELIVERY of care packages to several St Catherine communities on Saturday was the culmination of a well coordinated and supported private-public sector partnership aimed at providing relief to some vulnerable persons living below the poverty line.

Starting at the Central Village Police Station, the convoy made its way along Windsor Heights, Zambia, among other communities, stopping to deliver bags containing crackers, flour, cornmeal, rice, sugar, cooking oil, mackerel, corned beef, sausage, fruit drinks, toilet paper and soap. The assistance is provided through the PSOJ COVID-19 Jamaica Response Fund’s relief programme, and a lot of planning and groundwork had gone into the selection process, according to Saffrey Brown, chair of the Council of Voluntary Social Services, which is working with United Way of Jamaica and American Friends of Jamaica to execute the programme.

The planning had started some time ago when they partnered with Mona Geoinformatics, based at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus, which did risk profiling of communities right across Jamaica using 22 data sets, including health status, unemployment, crime and poverty, as well as the population density and community infrastructure. This information was supplemented by checks done by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and Ministry of Local Government, with the Social Development Commission and Community Development Committee doing a lot of the legwork, physically checking to verify the status of the beneficiaries, with strong support from the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Using this information, the project, based on its fundraising, is moving to provide relief over three months to at least 38 per cent of the vulnerable persons in 25 communities across Jamaica deemed to be living below the poverty line in selected communities in St Catherine, Kingston and St Andrew, Clarendon, St Ann and St James.

PACKAGE PRESENTATION

Packages will be presented to individuals every two weeks for the next three months to include Delacree Pen, east downtown Kingston, central downtown Kingston, and Denham Town. In St Catherine, the communities of Linstead, Gregory Park, Spanish Town, and Central Village will benefit, with Hayes and May Pen in Clarendon, Ocho Rios and St Ann’s Bay in St Ann, and for St James – downtown Montego Bay, Mount Salem and Glendevon.

In Zambia on Saturday, 72-year-old Carmen Heaven was a grateful recipient of one of the care packages, telling The Gleaner, “Me nuh open it yet, but I am giving them thanks because is just me alone live here.”

The former ‘days worker’ explained that she does not have a pension but benefits from the PATH programme, which is not enough to cover the cost of her electricity and water bills.

“I need much more help than this because at my age, nobody is gonna employ me anymore.”

Meanwhile, 83-year-old Irish Walker, who seemed overwhelmed by the occasion, told this newspaper that though a lady had written down her name, she had not anticipated the help so quickly.

She has four sons who help her when they can, but otherwise things are ‘pinky-panky’, the octogenarian explained, describing her gift package as “good, very good”.

The overall cost of delivering packages to these communities for the duration of the project is estimated to be $160 million. So persons looking to donate or find out more about the PSOJ COVID-19 Jamaica Respond Fund, please visit www.psopj.org/donate.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com